Monday, March 2, 2015

Collaborating to Learn: A New Twist on Peer Observation Groups

Posted by Linda Ashida

The Collab Lab is in its 4th year of facilitating Peer Observation Groups (POGs), and it is exciting to see the ways they continue to evolve depending on the needs of the staff participating. First semester we ran four POGs, involving nearly 40 staff members. Participants represented all departments, and included classroom teachers, student services staff, and special education personnel.  Each POG completed several two-week observation cycles, consisting of a classroom visit the first week, and a follow-up meeting the second week.  The follow-up meetings gave participants a chance to reflect on the practices they observed in their peer's classroom and to share strategies that they could apply in their own lessons. The POG meetings naturally evolved to meet the needs of the groups. Sometimes groups would suspend the two-week observation cycle to conduct a mini-workshop where participants would share or demonstrate specific teaching and learning strategies that they were most interested in.  For example, several groups conducted mini-workshops on our most commonly used LMS, Schoology.

The POGs continue to evolve second semester as we noticed that many staff wanted to participate, but they were unable to make the long-term commitment to join a POG.  Therefore, while we continue to facilitate Peer Observation Groups, our focus has shifted to offer more short-term collaborative learning opportunities in the form of Peer Learning Workshops.  These are informal workshops in which one or two teachers demonstrate a teaching strategy and other participants
share similar examples from their disciplines, or share ways they will apply their new learning. As we move closer to being a 100% 1:1 iPad school, we have found increasing interest in these kinds of workshops.

Some examples of our Peer Learning Workshops second semester:

February:

1) Personalizing Instruction with Schoology: 
2/17 5th Hour
Ami Heng and Colleen Mullaney shared strategies that they use with @Schoology to differentiate instruction and learn at their own pace.

2)  Learning Accomodations for Students with Special Needs
2/17/15 6th hour and 2/24/15 5th Hour
Drs. Karen Simon-Leff and Marla Carson conducted a session on strategies to meet the needs of students with autism, and students who exhibit learned helplessness.  Participants discusses specific strategies to encourage a growth-mindset in their students.

March:

3)  Student-Centered Learning with Notability and Flashcard apps 
3/4/15 8th Hour
Katie Owen will conduct a demonstration on student-centered activities that she has developed using Notability and Flashcard apps.  After a 15-minute demonstration, participants will have the chance to "play" with these apps and create applications of these activities for their classes.

4)  Making Student Learning Visible with Student-Created Videos
 3/11/15 8th hour
Cristina Barnum will conduct a demonstration of how her students demonstrate their learning for each unit using Educreation Videos.  After a 15-minute demonstration, participants will have the chance to "play" with this and create applications of these activities for their classes.

5) Formative Asssessment and Peer Learning in PE classes
3/11/15 5th hour
Anthony Furman will host a 15-minute observation of his Advanced Strength and Conditioning class.  Participants will observe the ways that students use technology with Train Heroic and Ubersense to do movement analysis, get immediate feedback and coach their peers.  After the observation, participants will return to the Collab Lab to discuss applications of this kind of formative assessment in their own classes.

We will offer even more Peer Learning Workshops in April and May.

Do you have ideas for other kinds of peer learning experiences? We'd love to hear from you!  Please leave us a comment below.




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