When talking about effective instructional strategies, I often hear myself describing them by saying “the power of this strategy is in its simplicity.”
And I think that is so apt, as the best instructional strategies aren’t about complicated, convoluted teacher moves, but rather simplicity and elegance.
The same can be said of a structure we use call Academic Conferences. I was reminded of this last week when I facilitated two days of conferences with a Sacramento high school.
Academic Conferences are teams of teachers coming together quarterly to reflect on their learning from the past nine weeks and articulate instructional goals for the next nine. They write to these prompts prior to the conference, come to the conference with copies of their written reflections and goals for distribution to their team (usually four teachers), and then speak for 15 or so minutes using their writing as a platform.
In addition we collect baseline data at the start, middle and end of year to further inform this conversation, but not commandeer it.
Simple, powerful, good ole’ professional dialogue. Real dialogue, not gimmicked and gizmoed up, not driven by agendas other than those of the teachers, with a focus on their classroom practice and student growth.
It is a structure that disciplines teacher practices we have long known are good, but seldom make time for. With each Academic Conference teachers bring more honesty and open dialogue to the table.
It’s striking how such a simple structure can create such inspiring and searching dialogue and conversation.
Below are some excerpts from teacher writing: