Professional Development: Rigor

PD Case Study: Rigor at Woodmont High

Because our professional development at Mindsteps™ is fully customizable, how schools implement our work looks different from school to school. While the concepts and principles are the same, how each gets implemented is highly individual to each teacher. Here is how one school has used our workshops  and materials on rigorous instruction* to create a school-wide focus on rigor that is both highly customized to their school’s needs and highly effective in changing instruction.

Woodmont High School is a comprehensive high school located in Greenville, SC. In order to meet the needs of its diverse student population, the school has launched several initiatives including High Schools That Work, Learning Focused Strategies, Freshman Academy, an Advanced Placement Program, and A Middle Years and International Baccalaureate program. Although each program had its merits, there was little connection among the programs, which lead to a real lack of coherence in their implementation. After we introduced them to our rigorous instruction workshops, the administrative team began to see that rigor was the perfect foundation on which to build all of their other initiatives. Rigor provided a through line and a way to help teachers implement the initiatives with fidelity and coherence.

We began working with Woodmont High School in the summer of 2011. At that time, we provided a district-wide training series for instructional coaches and AP teachers to help them plan rigorous learning units. We also worked with their administrative team to help them develop a customized plan for introducing rigorous instruction to their staff. Towards the end of the summer, the coaches shared what they learned with their administrative team and together the admin team began working through some of our materials to understand what rigor is and how to lead teachers to implement rigorous instruction. They used our book The Instructional Leaders’ Guide to Strategic Conversations with Teachers as well as several of our free rigor resources* to guide their work.

At the beginning of the school year, the admin team and instructional coaches shared an article  and a few free resources* with their staff. They also continued to meet and grapple with the concept of rigor as an admin team first before rolling it out to teachers.

In October, I conducted a coaching visit with the school. During that time I took the instructional coaches and members of the admin team on walk-throughs to help them learn how to identify rigorous instruction and provide teachers with the kind of feedback that would increase their capacity. At the same time I worked with groups of teachers to introduce the concept of rigor and coach them through instructional strategies for beginning to implement rigorous instruction in their classrooms.

After my visit, the admin team continued to practice their walkthroughs. This helped them establish a rigor baseline for their staff’s current capacity and allowed them to hone their own understanding of rigor in preparation for leading their staff.

At the beginning of the second semester, the admin team and instructional coaches launched their rigor initiative with the staff. They began by having the staff watch my free rigor webinar and lead them in a discussion of the concepts. The staff also identified what their own professional development needs in order to implement rigorous instruction effectively and what their students needed to successfully engage in rigorous instruction.

Shortly thereafter, I visited for a day of coaching and to kick off the school-wide book study of my book How to Plan Rigorous Instruction. I met with the entire staff to introduce them to the book and then met with small groups of teachers to share strategies for overcoming resistance to rigor.

After my visit, the admin team continued their walkthroughs as teachers began exploring the book. Several of the teachers opted to participate in our Master Teacher Cohort – a group of teachers who receive on-line and in-person coaching – to develop model rigorous lesson plans. These teachers will also develop professional development workshops to share with their staff as well as lead out in the book study this fall.

Woodmont High School has done several things to ensure that their investment in rigorous instruction will pay off and last:

  • They took time to understand the concept of rigor first as an admin team before rolling it out to their staff.
  • They developed a multi-year plan for how they would roll out the rigor emphasis rigor for their staff.
  • They determined how to use rigor to meet their own needs and integrate it with what they are doing already.
  • They used our Free Resources to supplement our paid services.
  • They modified resources when necessary to better meet their needs.
  • They worked with us to customize our consulting services and trainings to better meet their needs rather than trying to adopt a “rigor program.”

That’s exactly what we love to see happen with our clients. We don’t want to come in a shove a pre-packaged program down your throats. Instead, we work to understand your needs and co-create a professional development program that is individualized to meet your needs and institutional personality. When we work together, we can develop something that works best for who you are and where you are.

If you are using Mindsteps™ Resources in your own way, we’d love to hear about it. Describe how you use our resources in the comments section below or post pictures and descriptions of what you are doing on our Facebook page.

*All of the free rigor resources mentioned in this post can be found here.

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