In part 3 of this 4-part interview, TheEduProject CEO Lacrecia Terrance talks about promoting a culture of learning with teachers implementing project based learning.
– Welcome to another PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, Founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform for streamlining feedback to teachers and enabling more teacher to teacher collaboration. Today, we’re talking with the Lacrecia Terrance. She’s the Founder and CEO of the theEduProject, she’s also on the national faculty of PBLWorks and she’s also been a classroom teacher and a school leader and a district leader. So she knows a thing or two about what we’re gonna be talking about. Lacrecia thanks so much for joining us.
– Thank you Adam for having me.
– So we’ve been talking about PBL, Project Based Learning as a classroom strategy, but I wanna step maybe one level up from the classroom and speak to the school leaders out there who might be thinking this is a good idea and wanting to support their teachers and wanting some advice. So I think you’re well-suited to provide some of that advice because you were a principal in a school that was making ultimately Project Based Learning something that was a consistent experience throughout the school. But that’s not how it started, so why don’t you tell us about that journey and inspire us that implementing PBL is possible.
– Yes, so when I first became principal of this particular school, the school was not academically performing well. So I do wanna say that just to, and the reason I wanna point that out is to show that, once you kind of get a foundation of Project Based Learning it just increases your achievement after that. So, but there are some foundational things that we have to implement first. And so, one of the first things I did as a leader is I pulled the gold standard elements and of course I used the gold standard elements form from PBLWorks. And I just worked my way through those elements and taught them in PLCs. I taught teachers, I should say, I supported them mostly than anything. I supported their journey of looking at students’ work and reflecting on student work, reflecting on their own practices. And so, say for instance, authenticity, authenticity is one of those things that we closely look at in Project Based Learning as an element of reaching students and pulling them in. I would send out a video, a weekly video, I would have conversations around their own lesson plans and so at that time we didn’t have project plans. We were just still doing what was traditional at the time but I asked them to look at their lesson plans and I said, “how much authenticity do you see in your own lesson plan? How relevant is it to what’s happening with students today?” We did those moments and teachers reflected out loud, and then we came up with strategies, we came up with goals of what would happen. We were even thinking as as deep as, how would students react when we set these goals and they would go in back into the classrooms and of course implement the strategies that we talked about and then we will come back and reflect on how did it go? Did students respond? Let’s look at the work and see if students actually did what you asked them to do. And so those types of moments. I did that with each of those elements like I said before and not only did I see growth happening with students but I saw growth happening in our PLC with teachers, I saw the academic scores rising and there is one in particular, like critical thinking those moments sustained inquiry. We really look, it took us some time to get that. I didn’t realize that that was a moment for us as a school that we were struggling it with but I’m glad I learned that by doing these PLCs. So, we did sustain inquiry with each other as teachers we went in and modeled, I modeled, we had teachers go and look at other teachers and we just kind just worked our way through it, continues to look at those videos. But that’s how we created our PLCs around Project Based Learning. I started there at the beginning because I thought it was crucial to learn the foundation in order for us to build upon from there.
– what I took away from that, and a very common theme of the way you were describing that work happening within your school was this very active engagement on your part as a school leader and an instructional leader, really digging in piece by piece alongside your teachers with the elements of PBL. This obviously is in the realm of how to think about change management and things like that but, it really feels like that may have been a crucial piece to how you were able to kind of gain ground. And so, I guess my question for you is, would you advise that school leader who’s getting started to think of it as in some ways their responsibility alongside their teachers to be learning about PBL and how to implement it?
– Absolutely, I always model for my teachers what I expect for them to do. Most of the time, I’m not gonna even say most of the time but sometimes teachers just need to be shown. We ask them to do things that they’ve never embarked upon, they’ve never tried, they’ve never implemented in the classroom and so, I’m always happy to show them and model that for my teachers.
– And then of course, there’s that connection to the implementation of the practice and it sounds like there was a tight feedback loop of actually giving the feedback on the implementation and helping teachers learn how to adjust course. In the same way that ideally they would be giving feedback to students and helping students adjust course and their own learning.
– Yes, I was getting ready to talk about how powerful that was and how empowering teachers empowered students, right? So as teachers, we’re going through this process and I saw their growth, I saw students growing at the same time but more so the pedagogy became stronger, the content knowledge became even stronger for teachers, they felt comfortable about things that they were weak in or just not a strong in, but that reflection piece was the most impactful thing I have ever seen in my school. So, I did this moment every Wednesday and I know most people may say, “you’re going around looking at teachers once a week?” Yes, I was in classrooms, I was teaching, I was partnering, I was team teaching with other teachers. But what I did I used to have these sticky notes in my hand as I was walking around the school and you know, whatever we talked about in our PLCs whether it was sustained inquiry or driving question, whatever of those things, as I was walking into the classroom, I didn’t talk much, I would just kind of observe the students mostly. But if I saw something that we talked about in that PLC I would leave it on their window, which was pretty awesome. I said, “man, that was an awesome driving question.” So not only am I building culture, but I’m allowing them space to love teaching as well as students to love learning. And so I would put on their board or their window, “awesome driving question” and you ought to see the other teachers passing by saying, “wait, she has a sticker? Wait, let me see what that sticker say. I wonder what she did, I wonder what she did differently.” And they would ask each other questions about now I’m struggling with that. So if the students see teachers, educators in a culture where we learn from each other, of course when they get into their collaborative teams or I have to work with a partner on something they’re open to asking questions too. “What did you do?” And then open to talking to their teachers. So that’s the, when I say culture building a culture of learning is very intentional, right? And so just kind of building those foundations is very important.
– Well Lacrecia, I think I may have somehow tricked you into my favorite moment which is give us that one hot tip of the tactical and practical, cause those are the things that people love. So for everybody watching and listening there was, connect what you’re prioritizing those weekly meetings, put them on a post note, put them in the window. You heard it here from Lacrecia, it was not only rewarding good implementation and giving good feedback but driving some exciting collaboration. Lacrecia we’re gonna take a quick break, but for those of you watching or listening somewhere out there on social media or in an email shared to you by a colleague, make sure to head to PLtogether.org for the rest of this conversation as well as many others. Lacrecia, thanks so much for joining us for PLtogether.
– Thank you, Adam.