Working with purpose: The Capitals driving new approaches

The influx of non-qualified teachers into the school system in recent months led to the Western Quebec School Board to draw from the Capitals that anchor all work in their Teacher Induction Programme.

Dealing with staff shortages through the pandemic would have been immeasurably more difficult without non-qualified teachers. They also bring with them a level of enthusiasm that can energise us all. However their integration into the system does present its own challenges alongside the opportunities, something we touched upon in the previous post. 

For the  Western Quebec School Board (WQSB), a teacher shortage and the pressures of staffing during the Covid 19 pandemic has led to an influx of non-qualified teachers and with it innovation within the WQSB Teacher Induction Program (TIP). The goal of the TIP is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in WQSB classrooms through meaningful support to teachers. For non-qualified (NQ) teachers, additional goals are to ensure an understanding of the standards and expectations for WQSB teachers, and to provide learning opportunities that encourage efficacy and growth. The TIP team is currently mid-year in a training program for NQ teachers that is rooted in the twelve teaching competencies, research-based instructional strategies and the Quebec Education Program. 

The Moral, Knowledge, Social and Organisational capitals that anchor all work at WQSB have allowed the TIP team to respond quickly to the needs of the NQ group. This post explores the role each capital has played in informing the TIP’s response, with student and teacher success at its heart.

The training plan for NQ teachers emerged from the Moral Capital that underpins all work at the WQSB. The TIP team has an ethical responsibility to ensure that every teacher inducted into our school board is put in a position to succeed and reach his/her potential, in turn situating students for positive outcomes. The support and training plan for NQ teachers is fuelled by the desire to create optimal outcomes for all stakeholders in our system: supporting administrators as they staff their schools differently, supporting teachers who do not have qualifications, and supporting students who are learning from less experienced educators. Strategic and meaningful training sessions for NQ teachers are designed to have impact on all stakeholders by focusing on instructional strategies that will enhance and extend learning — leading to richer classroom experiences for students. Post session follow-up with mentor-coaches and administrators provide the opportunity for look-fors in classrooms, as well as discussions around strategies and content covered. 

Knowledge Capital has been critical to the success of our NQ training plan, and can be viewed through two lenses: content knowledge and delivery knowledge. While supporting NQ teachers in understanding curriculum and content expectations has been necessary, training sessions have placed greater emphasis on how to teach than what to teach. The TIP team is intentionally comprised of three professionals with diverse subject-specific expertise (Math, French, and English Language Arts), as well as access to other content experts through the WQSB’s Consultants’ Coaching and Mentoring team (CCMT). Sharing content and accessing resource documents is surface level learning for the NQ teachers that can be managed through document sharing, breakout sessions and individual follow-up. The time the TIP team spends training the whole group focuses on how to deliver content in meaningful and engaging ways to students; highlighting teaching strategies, approaches to assessment and evaluation and effective strategies for planning and classroom management. Reflective questions for NQ teachers to explore with their Mentor-Coaches and administrators, as well follow-up sessions on topics reinforce and extend previous learning.  

The success of the TIP depends on the team’s ability to establish and maintain Social Capital. Positive and professional relationships are at the heart of the TIP team’s work with NQ teachers. These relationships are cultivated with intention and care. Every session, meeting and interaction is structured to convey belief in the ability and capacity of the NQ teachers to be effective and successful in their work with students. Moreover, each session makes time for teachers to share their ideas, progress, concerns and questions; providing the TIP team with vital feedback to inform next steps and interventions, as well as celebrate and build on successes. As a result of weekly meetings, relationships and trust have developed in a way that has created a learning environment where the NQ teachers show vulnerability, ask for help and trust in the support available to them. Social capital has allowed the team to leverage these relationships to influence teacher practice and advance student outcomes.

Finally, Organisational Capital has allowed the TIP team to work efficiently in creating a training plan that addresses immediate needs within the system, aligned with the goal of providing students with outstanding teaching. Pre-established structures within the TIP, such as clear processes for goal-setting, trained mentor-coaches, and procedures for observations and feedback enabled NQ teachers to join a highly effective program built on the values of support, ongoing growth and reflective practice. The TIP team has been forced to allot its time differently this year to support the unique demands a large group of NQ teachers has placed on the system. Less time has been spent supporting qualified TIP teachers, as the priority for support has shifted. The benefit of this change of focus has been in the development of training sessions that can be reused and re-purposed in the future.

The TIP team sees evidence of NQ teacher success through high teacher engagement, classroom observations and student outcomes. At a recent session, NQ teachers shared evidence of their progress and growth, offering glimpses into their classrooms and practice. One teacher shared student work and explained the planning process behind the result. Another offered a tour of a classroom corner that has been created for discussion and conversation, highlighting the importance of relationships to teaching. Another reflected on adjustments to classroom management that have improved student participation and engagement. During this session, NQ teachers were able to link their work to the learning and ideas shared in training sessions, and, in many cases, offered ideas about how to build on and refine successes. 

For the TIP team, documenting how the four capitals underpin the training plan mirrors the sharing session for the NQ teachers—a chance to reflect on the tremendous work that goes into creating opportunities for learning that are meaningful, relevant and focused on each learner’s potential. The four capitals have been relied upon and strengthened by this challenge.

Our next post will explore collective efficacy and the role of the Consultants’ Coaching and Mentoring Team (CCMT) in developing the training plan for NQ teachers, and how the CCMT has benefited from the opportunity.

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We hope you find this illustration of how a collaborative learning programme is developed by the Western Quebec School Board in real time useful. 

Take care and stay safe

George