Lessons from Alice

“When Alice tried the little golden key in the lock, the door opened to reveal a passage into the loveliest garden she had ever seen.  But she was much too big to fit through the door.  In her tour of the room, she found on the table a little bottle with the words “Drink Me.”  Which she did and promptly shrank to being ten inches tall.  Unfortunately she now could not reach the little golden key, which was still on the table.  She tried her best to climb up one of the legs of the table, but it was too slippery. Then she discovered a little glass box with a small cake, on which the words “Eat Me” were written.  She ate a little bit and then all of the cake.  Now she was nine feet tall.  She quickly grabbed the key, nibbled on a second little cake and suddenly was only nine inches tall.   She opened the little door and entered into the lovely garden for the adventure of her life.” (Excerpt from Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland Grosset & Dunlap, Inc, 1946)

The type of professional development experienced by many has been very similar to Alice’s adventures in wonderland.  School districts rolled out a new strategy, a new program, a new way of doing business in hopes students’ achievement would miraculous happen. Only it didn’t and the next year something new would be tried.

Thankfully, we’ve experienced a positive is a shift in this tradition. I have been fortunate to utilize the Iowa Professional Development Model using scientifically based research strategies and data driven professional development to improve student learning in my work as a school improvement consultant. Schools are also deepening their understanding of collaborative teams and the power of collective efficacy. Goddard states, “Collective efficacy is the perception of teachers in a school that the efforts of the faculty as a whole will have a positive effect on student learning.” (Goddard, 2000)

Over the course of the last week I was fortunate to experience some powerful professional learning.  In both cases I was reminded of the need for ongoing support in the change process.  When attending an “event” one must also consider the “process” that will be needed to implement the new learning. This video sums up the event/process relationship.

First, I attended an Instructional Coaching Train the Trainers session facilitated by Jim Knight. The coaching process in itself is one means to assist in the change process. Coaches play a vital role in partnering with teachers to assist in the implementation of strategies being introduced in the professional development setting. Without the ongoing support, the transfers of these methods do not always occur. The same holds true even for the coaches themselves. During our training, we were able to start to apply our learning. The collegial dialogue was important for us to process our new learning in order to apply in our own settings. To extend the learning even more several of us who serve as instructional coaches are forming a learning community that will meet regularly to study, refine practices, share ideas and study our own implementation of the coaching process. We are looking forward to using Jim Knight’s new book Unmistakable Impact as one tool in this process.

I also recently attended an Iowa Staff Development Council board meeting. The primary focus of our meeting was to finalize plans for our Becoming a Learning School Conference with Joellen Killion. We were mindful to build in opportunities for participants to have focused dialogue with job-alike roles and school teams in order to begin to process the event’s content. This is vital so that school teams are able to continue developing collaborative professional learning back in their own schools.

Twitter has been a source of 24/7 professional learning for me over the last few months. Without careful reflection and the push to implement various Web 2.0 skills and tools in the classroom – Twitter would only be another “event.” Learning is one thing, applying is another.

We cannot afford to again fall down the rabbit hole with Alice. How do you apply your own professional learning? How do you ensure that professional learning in your school is supported so that collective efficacy is enhanced?

Goddard, R. D., Hoy, W. K., & Woolfolk Hoy, A. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479–507.


  • Aviva @grade1 19 Sep

    A very interesting blog post, Kathy! I think that I use Twitter as well as my professional dialogue at school to learn about different tools, and then I pick one and give it a try. I keep on adding and making changes as I see what happens and reflect on the experiences. Twitter provides a great opportunity for collective reflection! As I learn, I also share my learning with the staff through discussions and more focused PD. Then the staff shares their learning with others. I think that this continual circle of learning is so important. Thank you for helping me thinking about this!


    • kmp444 19 Sep

      Thanks so much for your comments. I agree, learning is a continual circle. It’s great to have a global means for collective reflection. Twitter has opened up so much new learning! It is an amazing resource.

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