We Have Lift-off!

Ah Summer! What could be better than relaxing on the beach, searching for Pokemon, and reflecting on the 2015-2016 school year.  We had time to review new research in the field of blended and personalized learning, and organize best practices related to professional development. We are always pushing ourselves to get better at what we do, and we are dedicated to partnering with teachers to improve the impact of classroom instruction. Much of our summer work focused on teachers and how we might better match our coaching approach to individual teacher needs.  

Through our work, we understand that the teachers we coach may be in very different places, and at varying states of readiness in regard to implementing blended learning. Just as with students, a ‘one size fits all’ approach leaves some teachers behind. With that in mind, at the Highlander Institute, we design our professional development and coaching models to include scaffolded and differentiated adult learning opportunities. This is where coaching model comes in.  We want to share this approach with you all, as our commitment and belief in open source materials drives us to create systems in partnership with teachers, district administrators, community organizations and students alike. Check it out here!

In the early stages of coaching, especially with teachers new to blended and personalized instructional approaches, we work hard to develop relationships and employ a gradual release model. We begin by providing context for the work, including a close look at effective blended classrooms. Seeing the power of blended and personalized learning firsthand is one of the best catalysts we’ve found for motivating newcomers. Once teachers develop a mindset for this work and have a willingness to move forward, we implement a co-plan/co-teach model.

We join the teacher in thinking through components of a blended classroom, highlighting teacher-specific strengths and challenges. We are there to share classroom responsibilities, troubleshoot technology problems, and act as thought partners as teachers roll out their first blended and personalized lessons. As teachers become more comfortable with this approach, a specific plan is followed to transfer the management of the classroom back to the teacher. Once the teacher is managing all aspects of a blended model we shift our work to focus exclusively on coaching through an observation and feedback loop.   

This is going to be a big year for the teachers we partner with as they embrace a new model of teaching and learning. As we develop systems for classroom and district change-making, we invite you all to let us know what you think!  


Kara O’Connell  is the Director of Implementation at the Highlander Institute.  She manages a team of Educational Strategies Specialists that deliver coaching and consulting services in Rhode Island and beyond. To see more of our work, follow Kara on Twitter @KaraLOConnell