The best decision?

What’s the most transformative decision I made this year? I’d have to say it was offering a 2 hour PD during the summer to introduce interested faculty to Guided Inquiry Design.

When did I schedule it?

Logistically, I selected a date many teachers would already be in the building. This was key! A lot of teachers devote a morning or two in the summer to help with 9th grade orientation and took advantage of the opportunity to stay and earn 2 of their 24 required hours of PD that same afternoon. I will definitely keep this in mind when scheduling PD in the future!

Why did they come?

For some, it was a matter of convenience. Earning 2 hours of PD before the stress of the school year started seemed like a no-brainer. For others it was a matter of necessity. Late in the summer, course loads changed unexpectedly and some teachers were tasked to design a curriculum from scratch without any textbooks. Having promoted the PD as a way to make learning more student-centered, some felt like the process might work well for these new electives. Still others came out of curiosity, eager to see what it would look like to collaborate with a librarian in something as concrete as math class. Regardless of their reasons for coming, I was thrilled they did!

How was the PD structured?

For the first 45 minutes to an hour I shared my experience with the Guided Inquiry process, building a case for its relevance in our classrooms and then explained what the GID process looks like at each phase for the various members of the learning team. The approach I attempted to take was conversational, yet informative and enthusiastic. I emphasized practical ways GID could help with student engagement and higher order questioning techniques, both of which have been major points of emphasis in our new teacher evaluation system, not to mention ways the library staff or its resources could be used throughout as well.

The second hour was structured more like a workshop. In order to earn the PD credit, teachers were required to complete a unit overview outlining the GID process for one of the units he/she taught. Some teachers worked alone while others brainstormed with the people sitting near them. Each one though invited me to co-plan with them or at least discuss how the library staff or resources could strengthen the unit. In exchange for the unit plans I gave teachers a certificate for 2 hours of PD and a roadmap of several potential GID units that I could follow up with in the following weeks and months. I couldn’t believe they actually sat there and wrote a GID unit plan before leaving!

What made it so transformative?

First, teachers were given time to apply what they learned during the first hour of the PD right then. Rarely does one get time allocated in a PD setting to digest the information and for that reason, many PD sessions aren’t quite as helpful as they are intended to be. It’s just too much information. By allowing time within the PD to collaborate, teachers were much more receptive to authentic co-planning which led to more co-teaching opportunities for us as librarians.

Second, teachers walked away with a plan. It was practical. And the cool thing about that was the majority of teachers opted for a unit at the beginning of the year; they wanted to implement GID immediately! One of the positive outcomes from that decision was increased opportunities to collaborate with these teachers. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I must admit I’ve felt swamped all year though. In my eleven years of working as a school librarian, I’ve never been utilized or stretched as much as I have this year but that’s a great problem to have! Teachers are wanting to implement GID more and my colleague and I want to be there to help any way we can. In fact, there was enough buzz about the Intro to Guided Inquiry PD that we offered it again in October. Different teachers came to that session and left with practical unit ideas too.

Third, students are more engaged in the learning process. Feedback classroom teachers receive after implementing GID activities or a unit has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only are students are mastering the content objectives of the units, they are improving their questioning and research skills, they are working more collaboratively in groups, and there is increased engagement because of the student choice components. That’s transformative learning in any classroom!

In summary, here’s what I’ve learned: offering practical PD at a time when teachers are less stressed and mentally rested makes for a great environment to have collegial conversations.  Guided Inquiry Design can (and probably will) be implemented in various ways and at various depths when you are first introducing it to others in your building. That’s ok! Allow teachers to get their feet wet even if it’s just tweaking an activity or two as opposed to redesigning an entire unit. Don’t get discouraged, any implementation is progress.  And practically speaking, it would be difficulty if everyone jumped on board all at the same time anyway!

Let’s keep the GID conversation going. Join us back here again next week as we learn from another GID practitioner.