Workshop Structure and Topics
Avant-Garde designs and facilitates professional development workshops that support our clients to make informed decisions, problem solve, and plan strategically. Through assessments and in-depth planning, our workshops are customized, needs-based, research-based, collaborative, engaging, practical, and sustainable.
The following are descriptions of frequently requested workshop topics:
- Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTI): This series of workshops guides schools to create a system for identifying struggling students and designing interventions to accelerate their progress. While each school's intervention system will be uniquely tailored to its own needs, an effective RTI process will include certain core components such as student assessment stystems, an analysis of student data, staff collaboration, intervention forms and strategies, outreach to parents and the use of community resources.
- Strategic Planning: Research points towards collaborative decision-making as a crucial element in achieveing significant improvements to school climate and instruction. Our workshops demonstrate how to guide a group in examining school data, establishing priorities and developing a workable action plan.
- Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers are guided to establish a structure for frequent, informal assessments in addition to formal quizzes and exams as a first step towards strengthening instruction. Unlike summative assessments, which occur at the end of a unit, a semseter or a year, formative assessments monitor students' progress in mastering skills and concepts so that teachers acan intervene quickly to correct misunderstandings or allow for additional practice. They also allow teachers to examine the effectiveness of their instruction and make needed adjustments. Workshops for school leaders on this topic focus on a plan for collecting and analyzing student data to determine whether initiatives are working and then identifying and addressing weak areas.
- Classroom Data Analysis: Teachers learn routines for gathering, organizing, and working collaboratively to analyze student data for use in planning instruction. Data includes results of formal and informal assessments, students' family and cultural background, and student questionnaires that identify interests and learning preferences. teachers work together to examine the data for clues about where students are struggling and why, discuss strategies that might be effective in re-teaching certain material or motivating particular students, and what additional data is needed through diagnostic testing or other means to understand any learning difficulties.
- Data Dissemination: Involving parents and community in school decision-making, whether informally or through the school board or advisory committees, is an important part of the work of any school. Avant-Garde helps leaders analyze and present school data to the community in a way that clearly showcases a school's strengths and demonstrates areas that require a focus of resources and community support.
- Differentiating Instruction: Teachers are guided to create lessons and assignments tailored to a variety of student needs and interests based on their analysis of student data. Strategies may include designing small group lessons for students at different skill levels or a variety of projects for students to select based on their interests.
- Building Professional Learning Communities: Regularly scheduled time for teachers to meet and plan or problem-solve together is a cornerstone of any serious effort to improve teaching and learning. Yet building a Professional Learning Community, where teachers collaborate to improve instruction, requires not only time but also trusting relationships and a structure that allows the group to focus and accomplish specific goals. to guide small or large groups in on-going collaboration, Avant-Garde custom designs "protocols" or a timed series of steps and questions that can help a group accomplish a specific goal. A school or district can then use these protocols as models for future planning efforts.
The Process of our Professional Learning Model
Education in rural Alaska can look very different depending on cultural, geographic, and historic factors. School size, student population, geography, technology, resources, cultural integration, and community support are all variables that work to mold each school into a unique educational setting. Avant-Garde Learning Alliance's approach to designing teacher workshops seeks to build the capacity of Alaskan educators through a participatory process, which incorporates need assessment and planning tools so that we can adapt our workshops to the needs of participants and the unique educational settings of Alaska. We help school leaders and educators understand the importance of gathering cultural, personal and academic data about their students and schools to improve teacher instruction, student learning, and school planning.
Our professional learning model uses a Data-Informed Decision-Making process to improve teacher instruction and student learning. Incorporating data in the classroom puts information in to the hands of students, parent, teachers, and administrators to understand student strengths and weaknesses, as well as teacher instructional practices. Our approach guides educators step-by-step through a process that builds the capacity of individuals and schools to translate data into actionable steps to improve student achievement.
- Data Tracker: Data trackers are used to help educators organize summative and formative assessment, student interest, learning style, demographic, cultural background, and attendance data into easily assessable sections for entire classrooms or individual students.
- Data Inventory (school and district): A summary of all of the types of data available in a school including external assessments, internal assessments and student information. We identify data sources, how data is being utilized, and ways to more effectively apply the data.
- Formative Assessments: Regular, low stakes formative assessments provide a rich source of data to inform instructional decision-making and they provide immediate feedback to both the learner and educator, allowing both to understand areas of strengths and weaknesses.
- Data and Assessment Literacy: in today's world of high stakes testing, many educators feel "data rich, but information poor." Assessment and data literacy helps educators turn senseless data into useful information for instructional decision-making. We provide instruction on how and when to use diagnostic, benchmark, interim, formative, and summative assessments.
- Professional Learning Communities: Based on the premise that sustained collaboration and multiple perspectives is a powerful strategy for improving teacher instruction and student learning, Professional Learning Communities support a collaborative approach to integrate the experiences and expertise of the local learning community and support problem solving, critical thinking, and analysis.
- Protocols: Successful data use requires collaboration and discussion that moves to deeper understanding and action. Establishing protocols provides structured processes for discussion, problem solving, analysis, and planning.
- Classroom and School Planning: The planning process gives teachers a way to continually monitor their teaching practice and to identify effective strategies. School leaders can use data to more effectively make decisions regarding school-wide programs, curriculum mapping, intervention strategies, professional development, and resource allocation. This process allows both teachers and administrators to use multiple sources of data to inform instructional decision-making.
- Differentiation: Differentiating lesson plans, assignments, activities, and materials allows educators to meet students where they are in their learning process, based on best-practices, research, and Alaskan experience. We introduce educators to strategies for differentiating content, process, product, and learning environment.
Standards and Best Practice
The Avant-Garde approach is based on best practices and research in the field of professional learning and instruction. Our adult learning design integrates the Learning Forward (formerly National Staff Development Council) standards that work to build local, long-term capacity among leaders, teachers, staff and community members, with a focus on improving student learning.
Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning
Professional learning that increases educator effectiveness and results for all students:
- Occurs within learning communities committed to continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and goal alignment;
- Requires skillful leaders who develop capacity, advocate, and create support systems for professional learning;
- Requires prioritizing, monitoring, and coordinating resources for educator learning;
- Uses a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning;
- Integrates theories, research, and models of human learning to achieve its intended outcomes;
- Applies research on change and sustains support for implementation of professional learning for long-term change.
- Aligns its outcome with educator performance and student curriculum standards.
Instructional strategies and processes such as Data Informed Decision Making and Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI) have been localized to rural Alaska based on best practices and research from Harvard Data Wise, University of Virginia, Curry School of Education, National School Reform Faculty, and various other leaders in the field of education.
Data Informed Decision Making and RTI Best Practice:
- All school staff and administration are committed to and involved in implementation
- Staff is engaged in ongoing planning to ensure that the needs of underperforming students are being met
- Instructional and assessment decisions are based upon accurate and timely review of data about student achievement
- Staff are trained to identify needed data to support instructional decision making and student placement
- Staff are trained to collect data about the effectiveness of instruction, student response and achievement
- Staff are trained to use data to modify subsequent instruction and assessment of student progress
- Intervention strategies begin with the core curriculum/general education population and move to assist in the identification and targeted instruction for underperforming students or students with disabilities, rather than proceeding from a deficit model
- Instructional methods are based on best practices/scientific research that demonstrates high learning rates and improved academic performance
- Diverse instructional materials are available to address students' identified weaknesses
- Collaboration between staff assures that the needs of all subpopulations of students are addressed to increase academic peformance
- Program development to meet special needs is not limited by availability, scheduling or funding
- Progress monitoring is aligned to curriculum and state standards, and is normed and valid for the population
Professional Learning Communities Best Practice:
- Structural conditions ensure adequate time and resources
- Intentional collective learning allows educators to integrate local experiences and expertise with best practices and research
- Supportive relational conditions create respect and collegiality
- Peer to peer support encourages collaborative and sustained professional learning
- Shared vision and values create common goals, focus, and language
- Shared and supportive leadership build buy-in, collective responsibility, and long-term sustainability (Hord, Tobia 2012)
Professional and Adults Learning Best Practices:
- Our adult learning design intergrates the Learning Forward standards for professional learning
- We design and customize workshops with local input and specifically to meet local staff expressed needs
- We recommend multiple workshops to provide ongoing support at the key times research has shown such school-wide change efforts will encounter obstacles to implementation
- As part of its normal workshop design, Avant-Garde transfers facilitation of the process to local staff to build local capacity and ownership
- We use a variety of technology and resources to facilitate professional learning, such as video conferencing, data visualizations, Skype, Google Documents, etc.
- Avant-Garde researches and applies best practices in adult learning including the integration of participant experience and expertise, need-based learning, differentiation, and discussion
Examples of Facilitation and Professional Learning Events
We design and facilitate customized meetings, workshops, and retreats. From a small leadership meeting designing a school improvement plan to a large instructional workshop focused on student data and Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI), Avant-Garde can help design and facilitate professional learning workshops to meet your specific needs and goals.
Here are six different examples of how Avant-Garde supports schools and organizations to use their time efficiently and effectively:
I. DATA INFORMED DECISION-MAKING
Location: Denali Borough School District
Duration: 3.5 days (over 1 year)
Number of participants: 40
Workshop objective:To develop a data informed decision-making process to guide instruction, planning, and problem-solving
“This was a great re-energizing re-entry workshop. It helped me focus, connect and get excited about the
new school year. I am walking away with an amazing collection of ideas because of what Tonio models. He
makes me want to reach for the stars and guide my students to their very best!”
”Digging in to the goals and figuring out how to get them done. Feels good to have a plan, be part of
creating the plan and feel empowered to help make it happen.”
- Denali Borough School District Participants
II. RESPONSE TO INSTRUCTION AND INTERVENTION (RTI)
Location: IDEA Homeschool Program, Galena City School District
Duration: 6 days (3 workshops over 1 year)
Number of participants: 45
Workshop objective: To develop a localized RTI system that meets the needs of students, families, teachers, and administrators.
“You have great visuals, engaging ways to reinforce participation and reflection. You cause intentional
stress, but opportunities to resolve problems. The exercises are not just valuable for the purposes of the
problem we are focusing on, but we have a learned a common language and skills to use in all areas of
"I think everyone appreciated the incorporation of the variety of learning styles and teaching styles, the
modeling of excellent teaching, the professionalism and the respect shown us as teachers back in the
- Galena City School District Participants
III. DATA LITERACY AND PLANNING
Location: Kenai Peninsula School District, Soldotna
Duration: 2 days
Number of participants: 150 school principals, assistant principals, specialists, and teacher leaders
Workshop objective: To analyze district and school data to inform the development of the school improvement plan and community data dissemination plan.
"I learned more than I ever wanted to know about Data and how to use it. What is more I understood it
and now can make some choices with that information."
“Absolutely wonderful. I really thought this topic would be dry and wondered how we would talk about
data for 10 hours. I have taught in Public and private schools and I have never had a more valuable in-
"I came into the workshop with a negative connotation of what data was and how we would use it and
completely changed my mind. I now see the usefulness of data both quantitatively and qualitatively."
- Kenai Peninsula School District Participants
IV. VALUES AND PROGRAM PLANNING
Location: Chinook Open Optional Program, Anchorage, AK
Duration: 1.5 days (3, ½ day workshops over 3 months)
Number of participants: 6
Workshop objective: To identify program values in order to guide decision-making and planning.
“I appreciate that the workshops were so specifically targeted to our needs and timelines. I am amazed
at how far we were able to get in just 1.5 days. All voices were heard and real work was accomplished. All
three of our goals were achieved.”
“This workshop met our needs and gave us great tools to use in the future as we continue to work to
improve our program. We surpassed our goals. I didn’t think we’d be able to accomplish so much as we
did. Thank you.”
- Chinook Open Optional School District Participants
V. SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANNING
Location: Tebughna School, Tyonek, AK
Duration: 2 days
Number of participants: 6
Workshop objectives: To reflect on progress of school development plan; To review data to identify student and staff needs; To develop a data informed decision-making process and assessment system
“It is great to revisit and look at data to make a story of the students. Very well organized and intentional.
I enjoyed how it was crafted to our school needs. I enjoy professional development that is relevant and
pertains to our kids.”
" Great to have such structured collaboration time. So important to get everyone on the same page, going
in the same direction."
"I felt empowered today! I feel assessments are more digestible."
"Great review of what was done last year and overview of data analysis to plan for this year. Each session
helps us to get a clearer picture of where we are and where we still need to go. As the leader, these
workshops provide a format and procedure for me to continue with between workshops. Thanks!”
-Tebughna School District Participants
VI. PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Location: Bristol Bay Borough School District, Naknek, AK
Duration: 4 hours
Number of participants: 22
Workshop objective: To develop a professional development plan based on the needs of teachers and goals of the school.
“The Facilitation team were able to successfully plan and deliver against our desired outcomes in
a workshop that had technical, cultural and subject matter complexities built in (including video-
- Bristol Bay School District Participant
Results - How Outcomes are Measured:
All workshops include the collection of participant data related to goal accomplishments, outcomes, and participant satisfaction with Avant-Garde's workshops, trainings, and facilitation support.
Individual schools and districts will also collect school data to monitor and evaluate progress on their goals and school improvement process. Specific goals and evaulation instruments and monitoring tools will be developed for each site.
Education Northwest recently completed an evaluation of two types of data workshops that Avant-Garde offered in the 201-2011 school year to 19 schools in eight high-need Alaskan districts. In an end-of-the-year survey, nearly all participants agreed that the professional learning they experienced with Avant-Garde was high quality (93%) and relevant for their work (90%). Those participants who attended the on-going, in-depth data integration workshops were much more likely than those who only participated in the data-orientation workshops to report that they collected and/or assessed data in all areas of their work (86% vs. 60%), and they acted on that data (91% vs. 59%).
As a result of the evaluation, we strongly encourage all of our partnering schools that want to improve their use of data to commit to a series of intensive workshops beyond the initial orientation. During interviews conducted by Education Northwest, participants reported that Avant-Garde workshops helped them reflect on their instruction and adjust it to better meet student needs.
Nearly all interviewed participants said that they would recommend Avant-Garde professional learning workshops to others.