Elmbrook teachers get new lessons in education through workshop
Stritch educator works with Elmbrook staff using model he helped create
For at least two days this week in the Elmbrook School District, teachers became students in an effort to become better teachers.
Elmbrook educators on Tuesday and Wednesday participated in a professional development workshop — led by Tony Frontier, director of teacher eduction at Cardinal Stritch University — as part of a larger effort to create a consistent level of instruction across all Elmbrook schools, said Dana Monogue, assistant superintendent for educational services.
A new teaching model
The workshop was an extension of The Art and Science of Teaching, a research-based educator effectiveness model, which Frontier helped develop and Elmbrook adopted. It will act as a guide for instruction in the classroom as teachers develop their lesson plans.
Last year, district administrators spent four days with Frontier, who taught them the ins and outs of the model. Over the summer, all elementary, middle and high school teachers were given a copy of "Effective Supervision: Supporting the Art and Science of Teaching," which Frontier co-authored, so they could begin to immerse themselves in the framework.
The workshop this week was held in preparation for the new school year, when teachers will begin to use the model in the classroom. Elementary teachers participated on Tuesday, followed by middle and high school teachers on Wednesday.
There is no prescribed way for teachers to educate their students. Rather, The Art of Teaching and Learning lists 10 design questions grounded in scientific research to help instructors bring best practices into the classroom to improve student performance.
"The more we improve our capacity to meet the needs of students, the more we'll realize there's another layer out there that we never knew existed," Frontier told the room full of teachers Tuesday morning.
For example, the model pushes teachers to think about ways to create engaging scenarios for students to apply their learning. It also helps teachers manage classroom and student behavior and communicate high expectations to students.
"It's more how teachers think about and design their lessons, so there's still some autonomy," Monogue said.
This framework fits into the district's overall curriculum goals, which are moving away from mere memorization of facts and instead are putting learning to practice — such as getting students to debate, have an open dialogue and develop their critical thinking skills, Monogue said.
Having teachers work together is a key component of the model.
Leslie Gray, a special education teacher at Fairview South, said one benefit to the workshop is that she is learning how to collaborate better with her fellow educators. That, in turn, will increase their effectiveness at all levels.
"We're constantly evolving as teachers and changing," Gray said. "If you want to succeed in teaching, you have to constantly be evolving and growing and collaborating."
During the school year, every teacher is going to be asked to observe three of their colleagues in the classroom using the Art and Science of Teaching to frame those interactions. The goal is to create cohesiveness in the district.
"When teachers are meeting, planning, building assessments, crafting lessons, working with one another to improve their practices, there's sort of this common framework that's the glue to all those interactions," Monogue said.
She said ultimately they want the school system to make sense to students. The Art of Teaching and Learning calls for commonality between teachers of all grade levels so students feel a natural progression in their learning from one school year to the next.
"If we're all in the same tune and using the same framework, student learning is going to be able to be deepened," she said.
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