Guest post: Theory of action lays the foundation for best practice
Collaboration can be found at the heart of everything this blog stands for, which is why we encourage our colleagues to share their work and provide inspiration for their peers. This post from a team at the Western Quebec School Board does just that.
The team is in the middle of a project focused on developing non-qualified teachers, with the aim of enabling them to play a more substantive role in their schools.
Led by Mike Dubeau, Western Quebec School Board Director-General, the team includes Amy Curry, Poltimore Elementary School Principal and Teacher Induction Program Consultant, and Teacher Induction Program Consultants Jeff Harvey and Sylvie Pouliotte.
Included in their report is the part of the Board’s theory of action for school improvement that they are drawing upon. Their first report is below, and we will be updated on their progress over the next few months.
Responding to Change: New Approaches to Teacher Induction
The 2020-2021 school year has presented unprecedented challenges for education systems across the globe, and the Western Québec School Board is no exception. Outside of the issues Covid-19 has presented to the smooth running of our schools, a shortage of qualified teachers has intensified the situation. Most of the schools in our district employ at least one non-qualified teacher, with as many as five non-qualified teachers in one particular school.
Established in 2009, The Western Québec School Board’s (WQSB) innovative Teacher Induction Program (TIP) is the cornerstone of the teaching and learning culture in our district. The TIP has three guiding principles:
- To provide opportunities for ongoing professional learning for teachers and administrators.
- To support teachers through a structured Mentor-Coach fellowship rooted in meaningful feedback and professional conversations that encourage growth.
- To maintain a professional standard of high-quality teaching for retention in every region of the Western Québec School Board through a multi-faceted evaluation process.
In previous years, non-qualified teachers were excluded from the TIP because collective agreements prohibit them from gaining full-time permanent positions with our school board and, before this year, a very small number of non-qualified teachers worked in our schools.
With twenty-three teachers without formal training working in classrooms this year, the TIP team has a moral obligation to create new supports that address the unique needs of non-qualified teachers.
Underpinning all work at the WQSB is a continuous improvement model rooted in Knowledge, Moral, Organizational and Social capitals. Within the TIP context, the four capitals focus and shape teacher induction in the following ways:
A support plan to provide ongoing support to the group of non-qualified teachers to improve their knowledge, skill and engagement took shape by establishing the following objectives:
- Clarify the expectations of great teaching to non-qualified teachers through use of the 12 Teaching Competencies (a government document specific to our province).
- Explain and model best practices that align with the four directions of our school board, specifically Direction Three: A Focus on Pedagogy to Improve Teaching and Learning and Direction Four: Professional Learning, Feedback and Growth.
- Offer an ongoing training program that emphasises the importance of life-long learning for educators in a context that is meaningful and supportive during a pandemic.
- Develop our own teachers, with an aim on re-engaging top performers.
Collaboration and creativity has set a plan in motion to establish a comprehensive approach to professional learning for non-qualified teachers. This plan leverages effective and established structures within our school board: the TIP team and process, the Consultants’ Coaching and Mentoring Team (CCMT) at the Board level and a network of trained Mentor-Coaches at the school level.
Capitalising on the expertise of the CCMT, a series of one-hour professional learning sessions has been developed, taking place every Wednesday after school. To date, ten sessions have been offered and attendance is mandatory for non-qualified teachers. The will and engagement of the non-qualified teachers has been integral to the success and momentum of the training plan.
Each session is developed and facilitated by a pair of WQSB pedagogical consultants, providing engaging, interactive and informative learning opportunities for participants. By varying the presenters at each session, the CCMT has been able to develop relationships with the non-qualified group and increase the teachers’ awareness of expert support available to them. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, planning, classroom management, parent-teacher communication, differentiation and assessment. All sessions use a common framework:
- Clear learning intentions and success criteria are shared at the outset of sessions, and revisited at the end.
- Teaching strategies are ‘unpacked’ during each session, to encourage reflection and opportunities for teachers to consider how to apply strategies in personal contexts.
- Reflective questions from each session are shared with teachers’ Mentor-Coaches and Principals to encourage accountability, follow-up and dialogue.
Future blog posts will explore how upward convergence and the continuous improvement model has influenced the TIP team’s approach to supporting non-qualified teachers and highlight teacher and Mentor-Coach stories from within the non-qualified training program.