Sunday, July 2, 2017

Faculty Formation: Yes, This Is For All Types of Schools!

One of the great joys of my day-job is running the first and second year faculty/staff formation program.  The good people at Merriam-Webster define formation as “the art of giving shape to something.”   So we meet as a cohort once a month to read, reflect, discuss, articulate, and shape ourselves according to our Jesuit heritage and our Brebeuf mission.

Yes, friends, it’s going to get a little Catholic Jesuit deep here… but the big ideas are still valid in ANY educational setting.  I would even go as far as saying critical to all settings – and quite noticeable when missing.

Claim Your School’s Mission
“Brebeuf Jesuit, a Catholic and Jesuit School, provides an excellent college preparatory education for a lifetime of service by forming leaders who are intellectually competent, open to growth, loving, religious, and committed to promoting justice.” (full mission and core values are here… it’s worth a look).

As my debate teaching husband would say:  Name It (a Catholic and Jesuit school); Claim It (provides an excellent college preparatory education for); Prove It (a lifetime of service by forming leaders); Conclude It (who are intellectually competent, open to growth, loving, religious and committed to promoting justice). 

It Starts With Orientation
I start with our two-day orientation program.  Day One is what I call “The Nitty Gritty” day… how to print stuff, online gradebooks, location of bathrooms, get keys… all that day to day stuff.  Day Two is “Mission and Identity” day.  I start with a brief introduction to the Society of Jesus and Jesuit education.  We then explore and catch new educators up to some of our of cura personalis initiatives (student stress lately) and then send the new faculty and staff off to the Freshman Day of Service activities with our Community Service Director.  Immediately claiming who we are… and how we are operate in our Catholic Jesuit learning environment.  

Formation Cohorts
For two years, all new faculty and staff are required by contract to participate in what we call the Magis Program.  Yes, you heard me… required by contract.  Everyone but Buildings and Grounds (who are welcome but schedules are hard to coordinate).  These cohorts serve two main purposes: they create groups of supportive colleagues in new setting and they act as personal learning cohorts on topics of mission and identity.  The structure of the program starts with information (Context), moves to practical application (Experience), then to Reflection (Retreat), one to deeper dive (Use) and finally to a capstone project (Evaluation).  Whhaaaaa… the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm is the structure of the formation program.  Craziness J

Structure Your Program Based on Your Mission, Teaching Paradigm, or Educational Foundation
Shape the mission of the school through its teachers and staff.  Make the mission alive in all aspects of the workings of the school and watch the awe and wonder begin.  Seriously… and it might even increase test scores!  

Here’s our program at Brebeuf as example.

First semester focuses on larger issues of Jesuit education and history.

Second Semester focuses on practical life in a Jesuit school.  The main objective being taking the theory/history into daily practice.

  • The Classroom/Workplace as Holy Ground
    • “The Classroom as Holy Ground” by Kevin O’Brien, SJ. From America  May 26, 2003.
    • “Unfinished Houses” by John McLoughlin from America July 21, 2014
    • Discussion topics: Church;  Prayer (Individual, Communal, Spiritual Exercises) ; What is Holy Ground
  • Care of the Person
    • “Cura Personalis” by Peter-Hans Kolvenback, SJ.  From Review of Ignatian Spirituality, Number 114.
    • “Care and Concern for Each Individual Person” Excerpt from Characteristics of Jesuit Education (JSEA) page 9 Original found at
    • “Choosing to Care” by Katy Ridnouer.  From the book Managing Your Classroom with Heart 2006 pg 9-18.
    • Discussion topics with Student Panel: Cura Personalis – what it is and isn’t; how care is lived in action

Reflection : 
All faculty and staff are required to participate in the Midwest Province retreat “Ignatian Themes” the summer after the first year of employment.  This is a 2 day retreat.  All funding for travel and registration is covered by the school.

Year Two is a deeper dive into the theory and practice of Jesuit education and the formational documents of the Jesuit Schools Network (formerly Jesuit Secondary Education Association).
  • Context and Reflection on Ignatian Themes Retreat Overview
    • “Four Hallmarks of Jesuit Pedagogy:  Prelection, Reflection, Active Learning, Repetition” by Ralph Metts, SJ.  From JSEA.
    • All of the IPP readings are on the JSN website .
    • Veteran Faculty Speaker

  • Experience
    • JSEA Foundations “The Preamble"
    • Key Questions:
      • What techniques do  you use to install a sense of awe and wonder in your students/interactions?
      • What techniques have you seen another use?
      • What tensions/balance do your students/constituents struggle with?  How do you offer experiences to guide them to an Ignatian response? (see paragraph 11)
    • Veteran Faculty Speaker
  • Reflection
    • “Foundations: Reflections on the Educational Principles of the Spiritual Exercises” by Robert R. Newton.
    • Look at various forms of reflection (Examen, journaling, prayer)
    • Key Questions:
      • Review of Spiritual Exercise and relationship between Retreatant – Director – Creation and how it related to Teacher – Student – Knowledge
      • The purpose of Jesuit Education “the knowledge, the love and service of God.”
      • Why is reflection so key to learning?
      • How do we engage the affect elements of learning?
    • Veteran Faculty Speaker
  • Action/Evaluation
    • Read “A Fire the Kindles Other Fires” from GC 35
    • Culturally Responsive Teaching (see handout from St. Ignatius San Francisco).
    • Key Questions:
      • How do we live this mission in action in our school?
      • How do we live a compassionate response to the world, community, students, families?
      • What frontiers are you called to?
      • Review Ignatian Identity Review and how used to move school to Action/Evaluation
      • Review the Five Steps of IPP Handout
      • Intro the application project for the next 2 months

Participants are then charged to work with a mentor on intentional use of the IPP in their classroom or workspace.  This is the reflection they turn in to “graduate” from the program.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Rethinking Faculty Evaluation and Professional Growth

Full disclosure.... using this post to process an idea.  So if you are inclined to discuss - feel free to comment.  If you work with me  - don't panic.  My ruminations below are all in the idea stage!

Here we go :-)

Our current faculty evaluation system here in Indianapolis is about 10 years old.  In true Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) fashion, the time has arrived to move into the evaluation stage. Is the process serving faculty needs?  Is the process encouraging the kind of growth we anticipated?   To give you content, our current evaluation program looks like this:

This model is built on the foundations of Marzano, Downey, Wiggins and McTighe.  Through a series of standards and indicators, evaluating administrators and faculty discuss successes and failures in the classroom... culminating in a year end meeting.  Evaluating the process, we find a weakness in meeting needs of new and experienced faculty - both who are lumped in same process.  We find that formal observations and informal walkthroughs work well for early career teachers who are new to our methods and expectations.  The indicators and focused discussion builds a foundation for them.  However, we are not seeing the growth process with mid-career faculty.  Veteran faculty quite frankly know the elements of day-to-day teaching but do not feel challenged to really innovate. In an nutshell, our challenge has become less one of evaluation (Are you doing your job?) and more one of professional growth (How can you better develop your craft?).

As Jesuit educators we a challenged by the 1st Principle and Foundation “…we show reverence for all the gifts of creation and collaborate with God in using them so that by being good stewards we develop as loving persons in our care of God’s world and its development…”  As a public school educator I might have translated this to say “My gifts and interests are meant to be shared and I choose to share with my students so they can grow and care for the world.”  However you interpret – a challenge as an educator is to recognize and articulate professional gifts and limitations.  Once gifts and limitations are articulated, then a professional begins to desire opportunities for growth.  

Great, Jen… but what does this have to do with faculty evaluations in schools??

What if we separate evaluation from growth in our processes?  This is not all my idea… The IndependentSchool Management firm thinks the idea of separating is possible and even preferred. Taking a page from higher education tenure processes - what if we ask the deeper questions regarding life as a scholar?  Can I as faculty articulate my identity as a scholar?  What do I offer to my department/university that is unique to my gifts?  I strongly feel we should be having this conversation in K-12 to focus on growth rather than simple evaluation.

Taking this idea into my school context,  we create an evaluation around the Profile of an Education Educator plus some basic professional expectations to create an evaluation to quickly communicate “meets/does not meet” expectations for employment in our schools.  (For those wondering, Brebeuf Jesuit operates with year-to-year at-will employment agreements).  Maybe it could look like this:

Meeting expectations communicates that a faculty member has a job next year
(barring anything unexpected with enrollment and finances).  With evaluation out of the way, then faculty and supporting administrators could focus on the real work necessary for improving our learning experiences – professional growth.  Setting goals that stretch teaching methods, innovate assessment and just plain energize the classroom away from the fear of “will I have a job if this fails?” So, instead of checking the "do you lesson plan effectively" indicator, I am asking:

  • What is your personal identity and mission as an educator?
  • Why do you hold these values?
  • How do you values support the mission of Brebeuf Jesuit as we develop students God-given talents as a responsibility and act of worship?
  • How do you express your mission within your department?
  • What do you need to bring these desires into the classroom?

Diving into the questions above through a process of self-reflection, dialogue and action might lead to deeper professional growth.  Growth that would encourage my desire that all our faculty discover the classroom as a place of awe and wonder and not just a paycheck.