A key ingredient in the Talent Quest Model of School Reform is a full-bodied program of teacher professional development. While we acknowledge that conducting high quality workshops is fundamental to the success of professional development, at Capstone we do not believe that professional development ceases when a given workshop ends; nor does professional development “officially” begin at the workshop’s onset.
Indeed, prior to the workshop series, we will gather information through our needs assessment process that will help in designing a series of workshops based on observed needs. Teachers are actively included in determining what they are to be given the opportunities to learn. In this regard, through focus groups and survey information we gain input from teachers on the specific or unique conditions that they face in their classrooms and the challenges they may face in incorporating Capstone-relevant practices and strategies into their classrooms. Capstone trainers or their designees visit the classrooms in advance of the workshops as well to make sure that they structure the professional development activities and experiences as much as possible in a way that is aligned with the actual circumstances facing teachers and addresses the pedagogical areas most in need of improvement. Workshop sessions range from three hours to six hours. They commence after the conclusion of the initial needs assessment. The focus of the workshops is on how to incorporate Asset-Based strategies into lesson plans. In addition, sessions will include Capstone’s classroom management scheme.
Each workshop thus is succeeded by follow-up technical assistance activities provided by Capstone trainers or school-based facilitators trained by Capstone staff. If necessary, Capstone staff or their designees conduct classroom demonstrations. Capstone facilitators also work with teachers and staff to help set up learning communities among teachers at the school. The learning communities meet on a regular basis at a minimum once per month for peer reflection and support for improved practices tied to student learning.
Talent Quest’s Asset-Based Strategies include:
- Promoting meaningful learning that builds proactively on students’ past experiences, prior knowledge, and existing or emerging competencies.
- Directly teaching thinking and learning strategies, while fostering critical thinking processes.
- Building a collaborative learning community among students through devices that foster collaborative intellectual exchanges among them, and support inclusiveness through encouraging student voice and choice.
- Utilizing cultural resources of students, families, and community members.
- Providing a supportive yet demanding learning environment where effort and improvement are emphasized along with sustained excellence. Asset-based strategies also call for focus on the utility of school learning for out of school life and the utility of out of school life for effective classroom learning.