Collaboration Professional Development Professional Learning Communities

Hualalai Academy: Practical Guide for Developing 21st Century Learning Communities

Today’s (2/28/2012) afternoon workshop at NAIS 2012 was presented by educators at Hualalai Academy on Kailua-Kona, HI.  Their presentation was titled, Practical Guide for Developing 21st Century Learning Communities.  Their workshop was a hands-on, three-hour experience using the tools they have implemented and practiced with their faculty as they went through change in leadership and culture.

Marc Saks, the Middle School Dean, is the coordinator of their Schools of the Future Project.  This project is part of the Hawaii Schools of the Future project, a partnership between Hawaii Association of Independent School and the Hawaii Community Foundation.  The five million dollar, five-year project is designed to help schools re-invent aspects of what they do to better prepare their students for learning the 21st Century.

Hualalai Academy received some funds from this project to launch a project to explore new ways of engaging faculty in collaboration and reflective dialogue.  In the summer of 2010, Mr. Saks was trained at the National School Reform Faculty program (Harmony Education Center) in Bloomington, IN to become a trained facilitator leading Critical Friends Groups (CFG). In addition, Kate Mulligan, the Head of School, has done extensive research at Teachers College, Columbia University, on the use of CFG protocols to develop a professional learning community culture in schools.  With their expertise they have launched a CFG program at Hualalai Academy.

Their workshop was designed to simulate for participants the protocols they use in classrooms and faculty meetings to foster open and honest dialogue that is central to building trust and respect within the school community.  Each protocol they introduced was presented as a case study illustrating how it is used in their community.  Afterward the brief introduction, they created an activity that allowed participants to experience the protocol.

They shared five protocols with us.  Each of these protocols was developed at the National School Reform Faculty program.  The five protocols (click here to get PDFs of all the protocols) were:

  • Continuum Dialogue (ice-breaking protocol): They shared the article by Rob Evans in Independent School Magazine, Winter 2012, Getting to No: Building True Collegiality in Schools.
  • The Final Word (text protocol): We read Tony Wagner’s article, Rigor Redefined, in Educational Leadership, October 2008, pp 20-25.  This protocol is used in classrooms and in faculty meetings.
  • Chalk Talk protocol: We used this protocol as applied to two central questions around assessment in schools. (1) What should 21st Century Assessment look like?  (2) What are the challenges to changing assessment models in your school? (see photos below)
  • Project Tuning protocol: This was described using a project-based learning lesson in high school social studies.  This protocol is used by faculty to give feedback to one another on lessons.  Similar to a lesson-study exercise and debrief.
  • What, So What, Now What protocol: An exercise in sharing and debriefing a collaborative experience
Chalk Talk
Chalk Talk

All of there protocols were interesting, presented well, and stimulated good conversation among participants.  The overall feedback from the participants was very positive.

A few questions remain.  (1) How to move a school from using the work to allowing the work to transform the faculty and school culture?  (2) Making a commitment to valuing the protocols and scheduling real time for faculty to collaborate.  (3) Supporting teachers to incorporate the protocols into their lesson plans as part of their instructional toolbox.

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