John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” These two characteristics have played a key role in one of our districts participating in the Academic Literacy Project. It has been exciting to watch as teachers fine tune their craft with the instructional strategies they have learned through this project. However, this doesn’t happen without a strong commitment from the leadership in the building. In Jim Knight’s book, Unmistakable Impact, he talks about the importance of understanding the target. He states, “If professional learning is to have a positive impact, all leaders of professional learning must have a deep understanding of what everyone is learning. Impact requires deep knowledge.”
In the fall, the district revisited their school improvement goal and determined that the strategies they were learning through the project would benefit them as they infused reading and writing across all content areas. The leadership devoted time to revisiting the strategies during professional learning opportunities where a clear focus on writing instruction was defined and action plans were made for implementation.
During our recent learning walks, fifteen teachers were observed and there were seventy-six opportunities for feedback in the debriefing sessions. The administration and teachers have built a level of trust with one another and participate in a collaborative & supportive environment. They are providing each other with effective feedback that is concrete, specific, and useful and helps them to achieve their goals. This type of environment and the commitment to their school improvement goal also helps to generate results for students.
It was thrilling to watch as they incorporated sentence frames, writing frames and prompted their students to use academic language in structured discussions & writing. These specific strategies allow students to communicate their thinking and learning through collaborative conversations with their peers or in written form.
As I reflect upon the success of the district’s implementation of ALP, it truly boils down to their consistent, daily actions to build and reinforce a strong culture built on trust, commitment and focus. The leadership has nurtured this culture and it is making a positive impact on both teacher and student learning.
Knight, J. (2011).Unmistakable impact: a partnership approach for dramatically improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.