Brain Cohort: Journey of a cohort member

The Center for Teaching (CFT) at The Westminster Schools received a 2-year, E.E. Ford Foundation Leadership Grant to build a collaborative project between the Atlanta Public Schools and a consortium of independent Schools in Atlanta (Woodward Academy, Atlanta Girls School, Pace Academy, The Lovett School, and The Westminster Schools).  The four goals of the project are:

  • Goal 1) to expand the knowledge base for becoming an effective 21st century teacher through participation in a Professional Learning Community (PLC);
  • Goal 2) to develop faculty cohort members into teacher leaders and instructional experts;
  • Goal 3) to improve student learning through enhanced teacher performance;
  • Goal 4) to develop public-independent school partnerships that build bridges, share resources, and lead to collaborative collegial relationships.

After completing the match for the $250,000 Leadership Grant, the CFT is beginning the work for the 2011-2012 academic year.  We will establish two distinct faculty cohorts each year for a total of four cohorts over the two-year grant period. The cohorts will explore, research, and discuss topics geared towards improving teaching, content mastery, and skill development for education in the 21st century.  In studying topics, the cohort members will share teaching experiences, educational research, current thinking on new pedagogies, and new knowledge obtained through teacher action research.  Cohort members will meet regularly throughout the school year and maintain regular contact through a virtual learning community.

An Advisory Committee representing all of the participating schools has been meeting to lay out the framework for the two-year project.  The committee decided on topics for the two faculty cohorts in 2011: (1) Current Brain Research: What are the implications for teaching?; and (2) Utilizing Formative and Summative Assessment to Improve Learning and Instruction.  Application went out to APS and independent school teachers and the committee reviewed applications and selected 20 E.E. Ford Fellows for 2011, 10 from various APS high schools and 10 from the consortium of independent schools.

Each cohort will be facilitated by two faculty members, one from APS and one from a consortium school.  The CFT will work with the facilitators in training them to lead a cohort and helping them assemble and implement the plan for the year.  The four facilitators are:

  •  Brandi Sabb-APS
  • Dr. Keisha Nalty-APS
  • Anna Bacon-Moore-The Westminster Schools
  • Shelley Paul-Woodward Academy

We have decided on a common read for both cohorts, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.  Each cohort group decided on reference materials faculty will read and use throughout the school year.

Brain Cohort readings

Assessment Cohort readings

Below are two videos of some work the facilitators were doing yesterday at our first training and planning session.  We were using an activity from Gamestorming called, Prune the Future.  Each facilitator group was building a plan for how to lay out the work for the year.

For questions about our work with the E.E. Ford Foundation Leadership Grant contact