How the Diocese of Orange is revolutionizing student learning through professional development
There is little doubt that technology is a key component to 21st century teaching and learning. After all, it was this premise that led to the great 1:1 race in which schools and districts invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to get the latest devices into the hands of as many students as possible. In their haste to be the first to lay claim to the most modern technology, however, many schools neglected to address the most essential piece of successful classroom learning, a highly effective teacher.
In the Diocese of Orange, we are committed to developing highly effective teachers who can provide focused personalized instruction to help students attain mastery of content. As Beth Thomas, teacher at St. Junipero Serra School and ABLE Fellow puts it, “When high quality teaching is infused with the dynamic use of technology, personalized student learning becomes possible.” In the Diocese of Orange, we believe that blended learning is the best instructional approach to reach these goals. Erin Watson, 2nd grade teacher at St. Catherine School and ABLE Fellow explains why she believes in blended learning. “While I can always improve upon my methodologies, blended and personalized learning methodologies have helped me tap into the strengths of each student and create a spark for learning.” However, it cannot be assumed that all teachers know how to effectively implement blended learning as an instructional strategy. According to a recent article on the Christensen Institute’s blog, research has shown that teachers are not receiving training in blended learning in their credentialing courses.
Consequently, the Diocese of Orange has implemented a teacher coaching program to provide personalized professional development to teachers. The program, entitled the ABLE Fellowship (Advancing Blended Learning Education), was modeled after the FuseRI program in Rhode Island. Exceptionally qualified educators from throughout the diocese are sought to seranyonve as peer coaches. Following a rigorous application process, some of these teachers are selected to become fellows in the ABLE program. Fellows receive intensive training in blended learning and coaching strategies. Each fellow is then assigned to coach 3-4 teachers at another school within the diocese. Fellows communicate with teachers at their partner schools regularly to establish goals and measure progress toward those goals. Danielle Ekno, former mentee and new ABLE Fellow, explains “I am so excited to become an ABLE Fellow because I know I am a part of something awesome. I was a mentee last year and I was so excited when given the opportunity to mentor other teachers. I have already learned so much and I am looking forward to all the other wonderful information I will be receiving and sharing with other educators.”
The ABLE Fellowship seeks to empower teachers by providing personalized professional development. All too often professional development consists of “one and done” trainings in which there is no follow up. Evidence shows a direct link between student success and teachers that receive mentoring. The ABLE Fellowship provides that missing piece by connecting early adopter teachers to peer coaches who can provide extended support for blended learning.
The ABLE Fellowship is currently providing coaching for approximately 30 teachers in 10 schools in the Diocese of Orange. While student success data is only preliminary at this point, early results are very positive where teachers are receiving peer coaching. Check out our video to see more about the ABLE Fellowship or follow us on Twitter at #ABLEOC.
Scott Gotreau is the Director of Educational Technology in the Diocese of Orange (CA). He has been an educator for nearly 20 years, holds a Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, teaching credentials in three states, and a blended learning coaching certification. He has taught in traditional brick and mortar and online classrooms. Scott has a passion for education and supporting the growth of all students, regardless of their needs.