Note: this is the first in a series around my professional learning goal at YIS (more below)

At most international schools (and probably most schools in general), each year teachers are asked to create one (or several) goals for the year. In some cases, I’ve had to create three: a personal goal, a team or department goal, and a goal related to a school-wide initiative. Although I always have many ideas for things I want to improve or explore each year, I often find the creation of these types of goals a little artificial.

Starting with the end in mind

Racers cross finish line in 5K run for Navy Chief birthday.For starters, I pretty much always select a goal I know I will be able to accomplish – something that’s basically part of my job, but maybe a little bit above and beyond. If it’s not something I know I’m going to do anyway, then it often ends up being something practical that I know I should be doing, but can’t always force myself to make time for it. And in the worst case,  it’s something that’s easy to document (and often easy to do), just to be able to say I did it at the meeting at the end of the year.

This is not to say that I don’t have my own goals that I’m really interested in or passionate about, just that those usually aren’t the ones I document because they may be too vague, or I’m not sure if I can actually do it, or I don’t know exactly what successful completion of those goals look like. Those are the more interesting ones, for sure.

In the end, I always meet my documented goals, and certainly make progress on my own (vaguely formed) individual goals. But those documented goals often feel like hoops I have to jump through, rather than an authentic learning experience (even though they could be perfectly practical and important things for me to do).

Enter the YIS Professional Growth Plan

So, this year, I’m super excited that we have started a whole new process for teacher goals. Last year a team of teachers and our then Head of School, James MacDonald, worked together to develop a plan for professional growth that is authentic, relevant to the teacher, collaborative, and individual. We called it the Professional Growth Plan (or PGP for short). This is our first year of implementation, and it’s already been a great learning process.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

In a very organic fashion (using a Google Doc) teachers added ideas for what they wanted to learn about this year. Some themes were:

  • Creativity
  • Service Learning
  • Making Thinking Visible
  • Blended Learning
  • Game-Based-Learning
  • New Literacies
  • Leadership
  • Design Thinking

As those themes appeared on the shared Google Doc, teachers added their names to a group they were interested in. We had about a week or so to select our topic and join a group (of course we could change and move around during that week if we wanted to). Personally, I really liked that the doc was open and that we had time to finalize our choices – this helped me select a topic that I was interested in, and a group that I knew I would work well with, stay focused, and could really support me in my learning.

Once we had our themes, we had our first full PGP-focused faculty meeting, where we were able to meet in teams and start thinking about our chosen topic, and how that central theme can be applied to an individual goal. At this time, our group opted to create a Google+ Community to stay connected throughout the project and share relevant resources in a central place.

Over the course of the year, we’re responsible for moving forward with our individual goal and documenting our progress in any format that works for us. The purpose of the group is for support, feedback, inspiration, and to learn from each other. As you might have guessed, I’m going to be documenting my learning and thinking here.

Here’s the timeline:

PGP Timeline


Getting Started

For me, the selection of the topic and group was really exciting. Because this process is so authentic, and so focused on individual teacher professional growth (rather than a specific task that can be explicitly measured throughout the year), I decided to take somewhat of a risk in my topic group. When I looked at the topics, there were quite a few that would be obvious for me, and I could see myself thinking along the lines of a more traditional school goal. However, instead of going the “safe” route, I chose something I feel like I don’t know much about, and am really interested in learning and exploring more: Design Thinking.

I’ve heard the term quite a lot over the last few years, I know lots of people have been talking about the concept and it seems like a natural fit for me, teaching MYP Design Technology. But, I really haven’t taken the time to explore it much further than that. That means that this is the first time, ever, in my 14 years of teaching, that I have identified a topic for a goal that I actually don’t know how it will end up. I really have no idea what I’ll end up doing with design thinking – either in my classroom or as a technology coach – and that feels great! This is what learning really is: an opportunity to explore a new idea with a group of collaborative and supportive colleagues who genuinely want to learn, grow, and be better teachers. I couldn’t be any luckier with my group either – I’m working with Rebekah Madrid, Clint Hamada, and Mariko Jungnitsch. All superstars (and COETAILers) and some of the most thoughtful and pro-active colleagues I’ve ever worked with!

An Unknown Goal

The Gentle Path to the BeyondSo, now what? At our first meeting we talked about what we want our individual goals to be, within the theme of Design Thinking. For the first time, I really didn’t know what my goal could/should/would be. We talked about the ways that Rebekah plans to bring Design Thinking into her classroom, how Mariko wants to use the process with her EAL students, and the ideas Clint has to refine some projects in MYP Tech using this process. Rebekah and I talked it through for a little while as we explored useful resources and added them to our Google+ Community, and I decided I think I like the idea of using Design Thinking to help teachers develop their goals for learning with technology this year, maybe to use the process in some of our PD events, and generally to find ways to really make sure that teachers are individualizing their technology related learning in a practical and useful way.

While I like the sound  of all of those ideas, I’m still not sure this is exactly the direction I want to go. What do you think? Have you explored design thinking as a professional learning format? Is it useful? Or is there something else I should/could be doing?

It feels a little crazy not to know the destination yet, but I think that’s all part of the learning journey!

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5 thoughts on “An Unknown Goal

  1. Kim,

    First, thanks for sharing YIS’s new PGP format and your personal experience of using it. Second, I think you remember Erin Zaich (@ebzaich) from our KIS group at Beyond Laptops last year, she is big into Design Thinking. As a Stanford graduate, she got to visit the campus Design School several times. I think she would be someone to contact about this as well. Third, I’m on the outside about Design Thinking as well and I’m very curious to learn more about it, so I’m excited for you to have this process and I’m looking forward to following your learning through your blog posts.

  2. Kim–It’s great to read about the Professional Growth Plan at YIS. I like your group choice as I’m also interested in design thinking as a process for problem solving, and would love to see a crash course offered at YIS like this one (–perhaps this could be offered as part of COETAIL or a one-day workshop. It would be interesting to consider how design thinking, which stresses innovation across disciplines, might be integrated into IB and MYP programs where courses in the different disciplines operate quite separately. Looking forward to learning about your discoveries!
    Holly Thompson´s last blog post ..COETAIL–Encounter Plotting: Course 4 Final Project

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