Carmel High Choice Professional Learning

Professional learning is a top priority in Carmel Unified School District, which is evident in District Goal #3: Continuous Professional Learning - All staff engage in high quality professional learning to meet the district’s academic and social-emotional goals. Two full days and four half-days are designated for professional development each year, and a plan for how to utilize these days is created by the CHS Professional Learning Team, which includes the administrators, instructional coaches, and other teacher representatives. Teachers provide feedback on all professional development days, and that input is used to drive future decisions about the content, structure, and delivery of PD.

Prior to 2016, the administration, with input from the Common Core Instructional Coaches and Site Leadership Team, established a professional learning goal for the year, and all professional development days centered around that goal. During the implementation of the Common Core standards, these goals included the development of critical reading as well as writing in the content areas. In 2016-2017, however, the Professional Learning Team, in conjunction with the districtwide PL team, shifted toward a more teacher-directed professional learning model. The goal was to build an appetite as well as proficiency with collaborative teams and to allow for more teacher agency over their professional growth. Rather than one-size-fits-all, sit-and-get type of PD, teachers were able to determine their own instructional professional development goal and then form an interdisciplinary Topic Team with whom to explore the topic. In addition to the half-days, twelve of our weekly collaboration times were also devoted to this choice-style of professional learning, while one full PD day was reserved for district initiatives, such as technology.

In year one, Topic Team facilitators, as well as course-alike PLC facilitators, were given a six-day training on PLC facilitation in order to more effectively lead a cycle of inquiry around their chosen topic, and groups were supported by the instructional coaches. Topics included Social-emotional Learning, Project-based Learning, Makerspace, Senior Capstone Project, Providing Effective Feedback, and NGSS Implementation, among others. It is from these Topic Teams that several new new signature practices at Carmel High School have emerged, such as the Art Expo and junior Padre Talks (modeled after TED Talks). The groundwork laid by the SEL Topic Team was influential in forming the Challenge Success Team, which is now charged with addressing social-emotional learning and student wellness--an important goal of our LCAP / district goals and WASC action plan.

In year two of this new “choice” approach to professional learning, teachers had the option of continuing on with the same group in order to further deepen their understanding and work, or they could form or join a new team. Whereas the focus of year one had been on exploration and developing a collaborative team, the year two expectation was that the professional learning land in the classroom so that it would have tangible results on the student learning experience. Also, in an effort to share learning among the staff, the final staff development half-day in May of 2018 was devoted to a gallery walk, in which each Topic Team showcased its cycle of inquiry, findings, and products.

Building on the teacher-directed approach to professional learning, teachers also have access to our annual Summer Institute. This K-12 two-day paid workshop, held during the first week of summer, includes workshops on a variety of topics--determined by the participating teachers--as well as built-in time for lesson development and application. Some of the recent Summer Institute topics have been STEAM / Makerspace / Design Thinking, Intro to Collaboration with Google Drive, NGSS in Action, and Mindfulness, and members of the CHS Topic Teams were able to build on their professional learning by participating, or in some cases facilitating, these workshops. The district also pays teachers to collaborate on curriculum development during the summer, so teachers wanting to work together to design curriculum that integrates their Topic Team work into their lessons have the opportunity.

To build an appetite and proficiency with collaborate teams, and to deeply impact student learning: these priorities of the CHS administration and Professional Learning Team have been the drivers of this Choice Professional learning design. Teachers have largely provided very positive feedback about this new model, and it is making a significant difference in profound ways on the Carmel High campus. Said one teacher, “Thank you for the time to pursue creative, authentic and valuable sharing of tools and techniques with our peers to better support our students.” Another teacher commented, “Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Topic Teams at CHS. Our SEL group was successful in discovering and sharing numerous ideas that ‘landed’ in my classroom and greatly benefited both my students and myself. Wishing future TT the success I felt from being a part of the process.”

Images from the Topic Team showcase and quotes from teachers about their experience

"Well, as teachers, having a team of professional educators investigating in depth a single topic provided us with a support group for trying new things in our classrooms. It challenged some of our assumptions." - Mike Palshaw English teacher

Choice based professional learning has had a significant impact on my teaching practices and on student learning outcomes. After self-reflection, I was able to determine what practice would best fit my classroom needs. This ability to choose the best professional development opportunities has led to more desire to participate in professional development itself because I am able to control what needs to be accomplished to best meet my students' needs. - Suzanne Marden French teacher

Videos from the Topic Team Showcase at the end of the year