4 ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice

The #everydaycourage of being seen

#everydaycourageTake the iconic back-to-school prompt for students — what I did on my summer vacation — and give it a twist. Imagine how students might respond to the prompt What I think my teacher did on summer vacation.

A lot of us wish other folks knew how hard we work during summer: the workshops, the team planning time, the reflection, the resource-gathering. So a lot of us should share out all the work we’re doing.

Let’s look at four ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice.

Professional, collaborative, & courageous learning

Sharing as you plan: Protean

This past June, hundreds of teachers attended the Middle Grades Institute learning about how to personalize learning for their students. Teachers from Shelburne Community School opted to make their thinking and planning visible to their state-wide colleagues by posting evidence and reflecting in Protean.

They established clear goals, linked to evidence of their learning, and reflected publicly, making their thinking visible and asking for peer feedback from their Protean ‘mates.’

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Protean Mates can comment on, like, and favorite posts. In Protean, Mates can continue sharing and collaborating to meet agreed-upon collective goals. Mates can also create and join projects within the system.

Turn your back on feedback?

Yes, and here’s why.

At a “Project Based Learning 101” workshop with Buck Institute , teachers from a number of different schools shared their project plans using a tuning protocol for feedback. As part of the protocol, the presenter turns away — they physically turn their back — as the group discusses the shared plan. While the turning-away at first felt uncomfortable, the consensus was that it yielded important and well-received feedback.


Debriefing the power of the tuning protocol and its effectiveness in generating and receiving critical feedback from peers..

Cross-school teaming

In July, 10 teachers from four Vermont middle schools traveled together to a 3-day Schoology Next conference in Chicago. The goal of this group was to share current practices and push each others’ thinking. To that end, teachers joined a collaborative Schoology group to curate resources, share tips & tricks, and discuss possible future uses to support personalization.

They built in group planning time between workshops. As a result, the educators collaborated on planning a cross-school Immigration Unit in Schoology. They’re inviting students from three middle schools to join one shared Schoology course, effectively extending the walls of the classroom while using the LMS to share content, to support peer critique of student products, and focus assessment on transferable skills.

“Observe Me” Learning Labs

This fall, we’re launching an extended effort at opening up practice in Vermont schools. Meet the What’s It Look Like? TIIE Learning Lab.  Fifteen teachers from seven schools have committed to experimenting together this year to answer three framing questions:

  1. What, exactly, are teachers and students doing in settings that are becoming increasingly personalized?
  2. ​How is personalized learning similar to, yet distinct from, differentiated instruction?
  3. How do proficiencies, personal learning plans, and flexible pathways contribute to getting personalized learning right?
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This summer, these teachers began articulating their anticipated practice shifts. And they committed to opening their classrooms this year to visitors interested in their work.

These classroom visits will include observations as well as a full group debrief and facilitated dialogue. These visits will facilitate discussions around the successes and challenges of implementing personalized learning. Send an email if interested in learning more about the program, the participating schools, and how to schedule a visit to susan.hennessey@uvm.edu.

Get inspired by other examples on twitter

As we navigate these first few weeks of the school year, explore the #observeme postings in Twitter for inspiration. You’ll see examples of how teachers around the country are inviting their peers into their classrooms and how they’re prompting these visitors to provide specific and constructive feedback.

If you want to know more about this inspiring trend, check out Robert Kaplinsky’s blog post reflecting on his initial experiences and ideas for improving the process.

Why make your teaching practice visible?

Research shows teachers benefit immensely from learning with and from each other. As a teacher, you benefit from tapping into the courage to:

  • open up your practice
  • be transparent and reflective
  • ask for critical feedback
  • and want to be observed in action as a way of improving that practice.

And that courage is a constant source of inspiration.

How do you encourage your colleagues to engage with your practice?


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