Melissa Levison

Melissa Levison

“I have a wonderful mentor that always says, “Positive pressure gracefully applied.” Push for what you want, be confident in your ability to reach the goals you set out to meet, but do so with positivity and grace.  Seek support as you need it and celebrate your small wins with those that support you and love the work. Be mindful of self and know that what you are doing is making a difference, even if in degrees of the greater goal. Continue to reference external sources of inspiration, like the Leadership Framework, to help you remain mindful of your areas of strength and areas of growth. See those areas of growth as an opportunity to connect with others and learn from them as well a learn from your trials. “

District: Camas School District

Award Amount: $5,000.00

Description: Melissa Levison, NBCT from Camas with my certification in EAELA. For nine years my work was the 7th grade language arts classroom. I now serve as full time teacher on special assignment (TOSA) supporting teachers in instruction, curriculum and assessment. My hope for this grant is to grow teacher leadership in our district around project based inquiry teaching and learning.

Alongside several NBCTs and teacher leaders we will utilize the CSTP grant to launch professional learning around STEM and project based inquiry learning. As we welcome NGSS standards into our classrooms and acknowledge necessary shifts in instruction, including project based/inquiry teaching, we need opportunities to invest in our own professional learning. We need to to invest in inquiry and project based teaching as a vehicle for better serving our students as they progress in their learning around new standards.

As we learn we will be applying our learning to develop STEM/project based inquiry projects for middle school students. These projects will then be utilized to offer summer learning opportunities for students and provide and intensive PD opportunity, with
coaching support, for teachers. As we move into the 2016-2017 year we have the great opportunity to utilize this learning and these projects to help launch a new middle school pilot program offer students a project based learning experience.

What was the problem you were trying to solve?

The Content Lens: Project Based Learning & Stem

This grant is attending to a gap in our professional learning opportunities regarding Project Based Learning.  Our district is committed to opening a project based middle school in the fall of 2016, and a PBL high school in two years, without a solid professional development plan for our teacher leadership. There is a gap in our knowledge of content and pedagogy regarding project based learning, the transition to Next Generation Science Standards and STEM related teaching and learning.

The Knowledge Skills and Dispositions Lens: Teacher Leadership and Professional Inquiry

Secondly, we have teacher leadership flourishing in our district and we needed an opportunity, or venue, for these teacher leaders to practice honing their knowledge, skills and dispositions while encouraging growth and supporting our newest group of educators in an authentic context. Our professional development and teacher leadership opportunities do not always result in transformative practice.  In order to see change, we must first see application and transference of skills into practice so that transformation occurs.  Our challenge is to ensure that protected, self-selected, embedded and supported collaborative inquiry time is available for teachers to flex their skills in both teacher leadership and grow their “toolbox” for project based/STEM teaching and learning.

Why was the work important to your context?
Camas has a unique opportunity right now to launch a PBL Middle School Pilot and following quickly on the heels of that endeavor will be the opening of a 600 capacity Project Based High School. This is such an exciting venture because it provides our students options for their learning pathway.

As a district we are in our infancy with really understanding and implementing project based teaching and learning program so this provides an opportunity for teachers to amplify their leadership.  This provides our teacher leaders the opportunity to grow and develop through professional inquiry into project based/STEM teaching and learning.

Further, launching this study of PBL with teacher leaders was imperative because it allows teacher leaders to be spearheading the Project Based Learning, NGSS transition and to develop/adapt curriculum and instructional strategies and be the ones closest to the work making decisions.

Finally, as teacher leaders learn and grow in their content expertise they also are developing their working knowledge of the teacher leadership framework. This provides them a toolkit for continuing their “reach” of leadership.

Briefly outline the ‘scope and sequence’ of your work

  • Brought together a team of fourteen teachers; grades 5-9, across disciplines for multiple professional inquiry workshops around project based learning (focus on integration of NGSS and STEM) and teacher leadership skills.
  • In teams, used a backward design process, to develop a project based unit.
  • Implemented pieces of those PBL units within current context to refine projects in order share learning to inform future PBL curriculum.
  • Brought team together to reflect on learning and articulate that learning forward for our district’s PBL middle school and high school launch.

As a result of the work, what are the significant impacts you are able to evidence? (What changed as a result of your work?) – Anticipated changes

  • Stronger working knowledge of the content and pedagogy surrounding project based learning for our core team, evidenced by the projects designed and reflections from learning and implementation.
  • Tenants or aspects of project based learning being implemented, and practiced through the projects, within multiple classrooms.
  • Processes learned during the PD being applied to the design and development of units to help launch a PBL summer school and middle school pilot in the fall of 2016-2017
  • An expanding interest from teachers to be involved with the project based learning inquiry community as evidenced by two teachers outside of our core group joining in upcoming learning opportunities to begin connecting to the PBL work.

What were your major learnings?  (successes and challenges)

SUCCESSES

  • As I worked with these adult learners I was able to utilize this as a way to frame PD experiences as models for collaborative inquiry, project based instruction and strategies for growing teacher leadership skills.
  • Bringing together a grades 5-9 team to collaborate around a self-selected passion allows us to amplify teacher voice in leading this work and brings great ownership and agency to the team.
  • Growth in teacher knowledge of content and pedagogy and the transition to project based teaching and learning. As well as growth within teacher knowledge, skills and dispositions for coaching and mentoring peers.
  • Bolstered our professional development library to support teacher leaders.
  • I was able to glean an enomouse amount of experience with, and learning around, systems thinking.

CHALLENGES

  • It takes time to attend to the conditions necessary for collaborative inquiry prior to jumping into the content work but without those conditions we can’t get to the level of authentic learning we need.
  • When trying to affect change there are many levels of complexity and many needs for messaging and advocacy.  It is nuanced work to determine what message which stakeholder needs to hear.  
  • When we launch a program we must think about all aspects including an intentional focus on professional development, teacher leadership skills and creating the conditions necessary for collaborative inquiry.
  • Not everyone follows through on things you would hope that they will follow through with.  I also discovered that we all have different levels of investment in this work and we must honor that and charge forward with the coalition of the willing.

What resources did you need to use or to create to support the work?
Professional Texts:
Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction,” by Buck Institute for Education, “Implementing Project-Based Learning (Solutions)” by Suzie Boss, “Creating Cultures of THinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools,” by Ron Ritchhart, “Differentiation Through Personality Types: A Framework for Instruction, Assessment, and Classroom Management” by Jane A.G. Kise, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas” by Warren Berger, “Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide” by Richard M. Felder, “Inquiry and Innovation in the Classroom: Using 20% Time, Genius Hour, and PBL to Drive Student Success (Eye on Education)” by A.J. Juliani

Websites:

Buck Institute for Education
High Tech High
Teach21

Professional Development Planning:

Professional Learning Standards to Support Planning for Quality Professional Development
Agenda for the Professional Development Time
Teacher Leadership Framework to help foster skills of working with adult learning, communication and collaboration.

As a result of your work, about how many teachers were directly impacted?  How do you know?
Fourteen teachers were directly impacted by this work.

  • Seventeen hours of professional development
  • Designed seven project based learning units to be used as seed projects for future PBL curriculum.
  • Protected time for reflection and opportunity to share our learning with others and the community.

As a result of your work, about how many teachers were indirectly impacted?  How do you know?

  • Various members of the team did go back to share with their learning communities their projects so another 10 teachers were able to hear about the project based work.
  • Two team members serve in science fellow or science liaison roles so they have woven their learning into professional development offerings they provide at all ten of our schools.

What words of wisdom do you have for the next teacher leader working to increase teacher leadership in their context?
I have a wonderful mentor that always says, “Positive pressure gracefully applied.” Push for what you want, be confident in your ability to reach the goals you set out to meet, but do so with positivity and grace.  Seek support as you need it and celebrate your small wins with those that support you and love the work. Be mindful of self and know that what you are doing is making a difference, even if in degrees of the greater goal. Continue to reference external sources of inspiration, like the Leadership Framework, to help you remain mindful of your areas of strength and areas of growth. See those areas of growth as an opportunity to connect with others and learn from them as well a learn from your trials.