People, Poster Paper, and Post-Its

Shawna Neis, Principal, Prince of Peace Lutheran School - The title of Rocky View Schools’ (RVS) new Four Year Plan, Innovators by Design, is a perfect descriptor of the jurisdiction’s quest to collaboratively design learning environments where everyone can experience success. Guided by the School Playbook, Prince of Peace started its journey by delving deeply into the strengths and needs of our community. We called upon our staff, students and stakeholders to walk side by side and contribute to the collective vision of the road ahead. The lasting benefit of this scaffolded process of inquiry has been the creation of a climate where staff, students, and parents feel empowered through voice, connected to common goals, and valued as integral contributors to realizing its success. 

At Prince of Peace, we made use of the many design protocols in the playbook to dive into our discovery of the unique qualities of our school community. Wanting to harness student leadership and capture the voices of our learners, we developed teams of students to conduct empathy interviews. As Timperely (2011) asserts, evidence of students’ engagement, learning, and well-being should not only inform professional learning but be the primary basis for its focus. We were afforded this exact opportunity by engaging this process. Furthermore, we were able to create valuable experiences for our learners to design, collaborate, network, and collect and analyze data with and from their peers. 

As staff, we took this rich data, and others collected, to delve into how it would inform our daily experience and impact our day-to-day practice. Something as simple as placing a letter on a piece of chart paper and handing a group of engaged educators a packet of sticky notes empowered instant deep and rich conversation. In small groups, staff deliberated and discussed whether the best way to represent what students had to say about our school was better articulated using the word “relevant” or “meaningful”. The value wasn’t only in the words, sentences, or goals that resulted from these conversations; there was and always will be value in the process of having these conversations themselves.  

Together, we could see how student and stakeholder data came together with our own to create a vision moving forward that puts improved student learning at the forefront. All staff has also connected their practice and personal professional goals to one of our inquiry questions for the year. There is palpable excitement at how staff is digging into design for the advancement of their practice to accommodate needs and improve outcomes. Teachers and support staff are well on their way to defining how we might spend the year ahead deeply investigating ways to: 

  • improve student assessment through student engagement and reflection; 

  • increase student involvement and engagement in instructional design; 

  • implement tools to meet learners individualized needs; 

  • continue to develop a climate characterized by faith love and respect; and 

  • share our learning journey with our diverse community.

We are truly excited to see how learning changes at Prince of Peace as our prototypes begin to take shape and meet our goals by creating answers to our inquiry questions for 2020.  

References 

Timperley, H. (2011). The power of professional learning. Maidenhead: Open University Press.