What makes world-class teaching?

Faculty cohort projects spotlight research, expertise and growth

Berger (82x100)More than anything else, great teaching is the essential ingredient in education. For most families, it’s the strongest reason for choosing Moses Brown School. MB nurtures a culture in which great teaching flourishes: where teachers feel a sense of ownership for their craft, with opportunities to collaborate, support for curriculum innovation, and encouragement to pursue personal growth.

Flaxman (83x100)Four years ago, an all-school task force convened to strengthen the systems that support great teaching: hiring, orienting, mentoring, evaluating and continuously developing the faculty. Designed primarily by teachers for teachers, the plan included new guidelines for hiring committees; a new employee orientation process; a mentorship program; and ideas such as mid-career sabbaticals, departmental Pirruccello-McClellan (82x100)retreats and support for priorities such as Friends education, global studies and multicultural education.

Key to the plan is the faculty cohort system, a professional development and evaluation program for veteran teachers. In a year of transformational study, a cohort of teachers sets goals, serves as McEnery (89x100)resources for one another’s evaluations and shares professional development plans at year’s end. At the heart of the program are cohort projects, each teacher’s big idea for personal research to be shared in the classroom. The benefit to students is clear: teachers are continuously deepening their expertise, refining their curriculum, bringing the latest research back to the classroom and partnering with Ohl (73x100)colleagues to improve the learning experience. Since the cohorts launched in 2011, 46 faculty members have participated. Members of this year’s cohort – and their projects – are:

Maureen Berger, upper school French teacher since 2010, is developing a student exchange with a peer school in France. She is also Street (94x100)implementing the Language Learner’s Passport in the classroom, a tool she developed following the European Union’s Council of Europe guidelines.

David Flaxman, upper school Spanish teacher since 1994, has become a novice language learner through studying French.

Tony Pirruccello-McClellan, middle school science teacher since 1984, is mentoring a new teacher at San Miguel School and developing MB’s middle school science curriculum.

Erika McEnery, lower school technology teacher since 2000, developed and launched a coding curriculum for fifth grade.

Dan Ohl, middle school math teacher since 1995, is strengthening project-based learning (PBL) in math, both in his own classroom and serving as a resource to his colleagues in all three divisions. Age-appropriate PBL opportunities can connect real-world challenges with the math curriculum.

Kris Street, upper school art teacher since 1979, is structuring and documenting a project in her new Tinker Maker elective. Students create an “intelligent” safety accessory or garment, from idea to model to prototype.

In the weeks to come, we’ll profile each teacher and his or her project.

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