Proximal goals, timelines, and progress

Distal Goal: Using current research and internal expertise, collaboratively develop a definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school.

Here is my timeline of proximal goals, commentary, progress, and reflections:

Proximal Goal: Understand the need for a definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school and seek exemplars.

Further explanation: As Simon Sinek writes, start with the ‘why’ of the project

Progress and reflection: Completed, late September 2018

Proximal Goal 2: Seek input from colleagues and school leaders as to the desirability of this exercise for the School

Explanation: I needed to start building support for the project early in the process

Progress and reflection: This happened through late September. I spoke with multiple colleagues and school leaders and received support and encouragement from all; this told me I was on the right track! It is great when PME work aligns with one's workplace needs and responsibilities.

Proximal Goal 3: Draft the distal goal into a formal document to submit to my direct report as a part of my annual goals meeting

Explanation: Putting it on paper and saying a goal aloud has a galvanizing effect.

Progress and reflection: Completed on 28 September 2018. Committing to this as a goal with my direct report felt like 'sealing the deal'. I take my work seriously and meeting my professional goals and obligations, so now there is no turning back!

Proximal Goal 4: Research phase. Gather research into a ‘core compendium’ of sources to help direct the process. This includes pulling favourite past influences sources already explored and looking for trending sources.

Explanation: Be wary of exclusion bias. By choosing to leave a source out are we discounting a point of view?

Progress and reflection: An initial draft of the list was completed on October 27th and may be found here. This was an enjoyable part of the exercise as I dug back through my Twitter feed, office bookshelf, and conference notes to find and remind myself of resources I had used in the past. In each case for the included references, I was reminded of how each source helped to shape my understanding of teaching and educational leadership. It was a useful exercise and I will continue to add to the list.

Click the button to see a list of selected texts that help as research around excellence in teaching and learning

Proximal Goal 5: Share compendium of research with the department head committee at the School. This group of colleagues is characterized by long-serving, committed educators who are savvy enough to distinguish between authentic pathways and simply the next ‘edu-trend’. Brainstorm key tenets that people would want to see in the definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school.

Explanation: The challenge here is sharing a wealth of resources with people already swamped with their own work.

Progress and reflection: The meeting was scheduled for October 29 but was then cancelled. This is unfortunate as successive meetings were dominated by more pressing items. This sharing will take place in late January 2019.

Proximal Goal 6: Take the brainstorm and link like points together into themes. Summarize the themes, connect them with relevant research from the ‘core compendium’ research file, and share back with the department head committee.

Explanation: Be judicious in the research highlighted, being aware of people’s bandwidth for reaching research in a busy school.

Progress and reflection: The proposed proximal goals and the direction of the project start to change in earnest at this phase. I begin to see how this project actually aligns well with another project I am working on with another colleague. This other project involves working with faculty to articulate what we can do in the classroom to support each of the six learning skills articulated in Ontario's Growing Success assessment policy. Through conversations with my colleague, I realized how gathering this data from faculty, then triangulating what specific teacher actions support different learning skills, will also help articulate "a definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school" (my distal goal).

As a faculty, we gathered once in October and once in November and spent time in collegial brainstorming and small groups, recording our ideas of how best to support and develop the learning skills of responsibility and initiative.

What is interesting in this case is comparing where the data comes from. On one hand, I have scholarly sources from educational experts that I am pulling key ideas from. On the other hand I have the wisdom and collective experience of ~70 teachers, coming together to provide tried and true strategies for teaching and learning. Both are valid, though by my very nature I find lived experience more compelling.

As a faculty we have so far completed two of the six learning skills. The intention is to complete the same exercise for all six learning skills before March Break.

Click the button to see what are faculty view as key ways to support the learning skill of responsibility

Click the button to see what are faculty view as key ways to support the learning skill of initiative

Proximal Goal 7: Seek feedback in one-on-one meetings, both formal and in the hallway

Explanation: Get a sense of the mood of key stakeholders on the process and direction.

Progress and reflection: These meetings are ongoing and very helpful. They give me a pulse check as to the appetite for the exercise and help build wider understanding of the project at hand.

Proximal Goal 8: Draft a definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school.

Explanation: Ask trusted colleagues to give feedback

Progress and reflection: Proposed date November 15—21. I did not meet this proximal goal yet. In light of the busy nature of the School, meetings being cancelled, and the new approach shared in Proximal Goal above, I felt it too early to create a draft of the statement of what excellence in teaching and learning looks like. I have some ideas, but it will require significantly more conversation.

Proximal Goal 9: Share draft definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school with the department head committee. Discuss in small groups and the group as a whole.

Explanation: Divide the committee into small groups of 3 to review and discuss, with one person recording feedback.

Progress and reflection: See above. This stage is postponed until the first draft definition is written.

Proximal Goal 10: Take feedback from the meeting and rewrite, redraft, and seek additional feedback on the evolving definition of excellence in teaching and learning for our school.

Explanation: Remind oneself of the maxim from Blaise Pascal: “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Edit judiciously for length and clarity.

Progress and reflection: Proposed timeline: November 22—Dec 1. Actual timeline (revised date): Late January, 2019.

Proximal Goal 11: Share revised draft with School leadership for final feedback. Redraft with their feedback and seek approval for the revised statement.

Explanation: Avoid ‘writing by committee’, instead seek feedback and iterate and reiterate in private.

Progress and reflection: Proposed timeline: Dec 1—5. Actual timeline (revised date): February 2019

Proximal Goal 12: Once approved, share the definition of excellence in teaching and learning widely around the school, highlighting the collaborative process used to create the statement.

Explanation: Post and share!

Progress and reflection: While I originally wanted to complete this prior to Christmas holidays, we are now looking at a timeline toward March Break or after. I look forward to working through the challenges articulated above and coming up with a helpful project the School needs.