In this #coachbetter episode, Kim talks with Tavia Clark, Learning Experience Designer at Clarity Innovations!

Tavia has extensive experience designing professional learning for educators, having worked as a teacher, a coach, a leader of professional learning, a consultant at the Friday Institute in North Carolina, and now designing for other organizations at Clarity Innovations. As coaches, we’re always working on designing learning – for our teachers through PD, or supporting them in designing those experiences for their students. In this conversation we talk about what professional learning should look like, how schools can create the structures and mindsets to embrace change and be adaptable, and what educators should be thinking about to design effective and engaging learning experiences for their students. If you’re an educator or a coach ready to design more innovative learning experiences for your learners, this conversation is for you! 

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Please tell us about your experience as an educator? How did you get to where you are now?

From North Carolina, NC Teaching Fellow, HS English teacher, HS Librarian with a lot of PD leadership experience, The Friday Institute (part of NC State University) – coaching program for anyone that did any aspect of coaching. Best PD I ever had. Realized there were different ways I could do things. Digital Innovation Coach (14 people interview, 15 min PD, 45m of questions), lot of 1:1 rollout programs and building coaching programs.

What were your key takeaways from the Friday Institute?

Research institute within a university. 14 people team: Professional Learning & Leading Collaborative (PD for the whole state)

How amazing it can be when you create experiences for people that really hone in on / demonstrate / amplify good instructional practice. Deconstruct what we did – the intentionality behind an experience, how it translates into the classroom or our coaching work. Having the permission to take the time to deconstruct PD, learning content and learning how to engage with other people. The value of intentionality and having intentional design and intentional thought behind all the work we do.

Mantra: “check our egos at the door” – created an environment that was very collaborative. Became more about the work than the people

What does a “learning experience designer” do / mean? 

I like to call myself a swiss army knife. I develop content. Strategy, product development, write curriculum, teacher facilitation guide, course for admin, sales enablement. Have to be able to learn, adapt and pivot very quickly.

You have such a varied background, what’s your vision for professional learning for educators? What should that look like? What do learning designers need to keep in mind?

Whether we’re designing or co-constructing, the experience should model & acknowledge really good instructional practices. Sometimes we don’t spend enough time talking about those instructional practices. It’s so valuable when the person facilitating deconstructs the intentionality behind their practices. That’s how we make the connection between our learning & how it will translate into their work. Getting on the metacognitive level & talking about it is really important. That’s the difference between a professional learning experience I remember and one that I forget.

Professional learning experiences need to promote collaboration, with these brains in the room, this is the only way we can create the magic that we’re making now. If only one of those brains was missing, we wouldn’t be able to create this magic. If we promote collaboration as just group work, then the people who are attending will do the same thing.

Offering sustained support and accountability. Leave people with the momentum, capacity, and expertise to carry on, we need to leave them a toolbox and include follow-up with multiple check-ins (follow-ups, breaking up PD into chunks over different days, Zoom calls, coaching). Partner with the coach to join forces and continue to provide people support and accountability.

Accountability partner. Setting a goal, reflecting on student work: where did this go wrong, right, what opportunities do I have to improve.

PD needs to be agile. For those that have been doing this for a while, we get really good at designing experiences. We have a huge toolbox, we’re creating learning goals for the experience, but we also have to acknowledge that our own intentions being realized isn’t necessarily the point. While we have goals, we have to realize that there are going to be times that we have to slow down because that’s what people need.

Always do an evaluation after the PD: what did you learn today that you’re going to take and use in your practice? When I started reading their answers, and thinking about what they were telling me, I realized I was trying to do too much. Have to capitalize on the face-to-face time for the intentionality and metacognition because those benefit from community.

Reflection is so important: Glows & Grows. When we take the time to build in reflection, we are giving people the opportunity in a low-stakes environment that it takes to be really reflective. As people get to practice that and do that more, it comes through in their work.

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Show Notes continued…

In your work with the Friday Institute, what enables schools to be innovative and risk-taking environments? What elements need to be in place?

In education, we are constantly transforming & growing and learning. 

  1. Creating a participatory culture that practices both communication and collaboration. Feel like things are being done “to me”, not “with me” or “for me”. Participatory means building trust. 
  2. There has to be buy-in from leadership. As a leader you have to be willing to allow for your people to take risks, to fail, to figure out within that failure what is the opportunity to grow. 
  3. Leadership has to be committed to learning alongside staff. 
  4. In creating that kind of culture, we have to stop assuming that everybody knows how to collaborate. We have to work on communication skills that it takes to be able to collaborate (it’s not divide and conquer), practice communication skills (role play).
  5. Commitment to professional learning. In a way that’s low stakes, not in front of students.
  6. Spend a little more time with affirmations & celebrations of success in growth and learning. Celebrating the glows and the grows, builds excitement.
  7. Provide resources: time, money & human capital. We have to start investing better in our people. Distributed leadership, what opportunities do administrators have to distribute leadership. Investing in coaching. Coaches are the glue that keep it all together, they create the connections between people and plans.
  8. Transparency about expectations: how do strategic plans and student achievement 

What are some barriers or challenges that schools face in terms of change management? How can schools overcome those challenges?

You can have the best culture in your building. That’s the first step. If you can unlock that, that’s the foundation.

Preparing for the change, creating plans and implementing the change. Thinking strategically, what does this look like in 3 years, 5 years. Real organizational change takes years. 

The barrier is that things are constantly changing. It’s trying to figure out how to prioritize the changes we’re going to make. And feeling confident in what we decide to prioritize.

We need to see students and educators as humans not just data points. We don’t spend enough time looking at qualitative data (rather than quantitative). How are we going to conduct discourse around the metrics we collect?

Understand the “why” behind your goals. What story is the data telling us.

We don’t always include the right voices around the table in the discussion. Distributed leadership can help with this. We are challenged by creating platforms so people can use their voice. Everyone has a voice, we’re not “giving” them a voice.

Creating, prioritizing, including the right people around the table, advocating for change that is deeper than instant gratification. Investing in real systemic change takes a long time. Whats our sustainability plan. We don’t often think past the coming school year. Consider change from a systemic level. We get so focused on the outcome, we forget about the journey. We forget that along that path there are lots of roads we can turn off from.

When you look ahead, in terms of teaching and learning, what should educators be thinking about? What are you curious about?

What opportunities exist. Whether that is opportunities that already exist, or opportunities that we need to create. Doing things differently and more equitably. We have an opportunity to consider the way we’re going to move forward. Recreating co-constructing tearing things down and rebuilding them. If we want to create change at a systemic level, our eyes are open, and now is a great time to do that. Learning from people’s lived experiences.

I look forward to seeing how we’re going to include more joy & laughter into learning. How are we going to build time for relaxation. How community supports a more holistic idea of teaching & learning. Considering who’s voices are at the table: family members, caregivers, students themselves.

Thinking about how we build in more autonomy & agency for students, and support more inquiry.

Continue Your Learning…

If you’re ready to dig deeper into facilitating professional learning in your coaching practice – or if you’re new to instructional coaching and you’re curious about getting started, join us for one of our courses for coaches!

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For Experienced Coaches

If you’re already a coach & you want to think about being more intentional & strategic in your practice, watch our workshop on the Thrive Model for Coaching Success which will help you evaluate your program and your practice to see where you may have room to grow. You’ll walk away with a clear picture of exactly what you need to focus on to build a thriving coaching culture – and help you decide if our year-long mentorship and certification program, The Coach, is right for you, right now. This program is designed for current coaches who are focused on building a coaching culture through intentional and strategic coaching work at all levels – with teachers and school leaders.

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