Staff Learning & Capturing Voice

Learning alongside is powerful and builds collective efficacy that nutures relationships, trust and risk-taking. On April 9th, 2013, the @AncasterSrPS Grade 8 teaching staff and I spent time learning together with @bloggucation and @mrjarbenne. The day’s theme focussed on sharing their wonderings and questions about our Grade 8 students transitioning to high school. The “how” was what was different because the day was designed to allow self-directed learning and choice.  We were learning through collaboration with tech tools that foster openness, transparency and choice in how to contribute.  The powerful learning was embedded in the staff choice and experiencing different ways of how one can express their thinking and ask questions.

Staff were learning as individuals because one size does not fit all. The key: leveraging the affordances of technology is the best way to go whenever possible because it allows one to express their thoughts in connected ways via text, image, video, audio creating optimal learning conditions focussed on choice.

ASPS Staff learning how to share their thinking in connected ways.

ASPS Staff learning how to share their thinking in connected waysTo assist staff in their learning and expressing their thinking 1:1 facilitation was available as needed and as well learning guides.  Here is the GDoc collection of staff learning guides that were available:

Staff Learning Guides









These learning guides brought  DIY (do it yourself) into the mix of our group learning and can serve as useful ongoing reference materials.  They are also repurposable and transferable for classroom learning with students.

Our staff learning from this day was in preparation for April 19th, 2013:  Express Your Grade 9 Voice.  Teachers were ready to take risks and coach / facilitate at stations where 150 grade 8 students would share their thinking and questions about transitioning to Grade 9.  Staff supported Grade 8 students and encourage them to share their wonderings, questions and thoughts about heading off to high school in many different ways.

In preparation for this day, a few weeks prior to April 19th, each grade 8 teachers set the stage for the day with an introductory video and slideshow that I prepared. This “Minds On” that Grade 8 staff guided supported their homeform classes (5 grade 8 classes equalling 150 students) in a school-wide collective wondering using GDocs.

Here is my video and slideshow that was presented to the students by staff in the five homeform classes.

This dedicated fifty minute period was done at the same time in a school wide way and all 150 grade eight students worked in groups logging their questions and wonderings in five google docs. Wow!  It was exciting to walkabout and see small groups of grade 8 students sharing their thoughts and questions simultaneously. This crowdsourcing of their thinking was powerful and set the direction for the upcoming day, April 19, 2013.

Over 300 questions and wonderings from the GDocs were collected and studied by Ancaster High and Ancaster Senior staff and collated into key thematic questions to guide our “Express Your Grade Nine Voice Day” on April 19th, 2013.  This honouring of student voice in advance created enthusiasm, ownership, commitment and excitement for the upcoming day for all – students and staff.

The Express Your Grade Nine Voice Day on April 19th was an incredible one of choice and voice.  Grafitti walls and tables, speakers’ corner and alley, bloggers cafe, sticky notes and face-to-face conversations.

Ready, set and almost go for ASPS Express Your Grade Nine Voice Day

Ready, set and almost go for ASPS Express Your Grade Nine Voice Day

Ancaster High students were key participants being mentors answering questions face-to-face and encouraging students to share their thinking at the various stations.


Staff were there to facilitate capturing voice when needed and practice in a real way their learning as well.  It worked because we were all in this together and learning alongside while thoughts, ideas and questions were being shared to support our Grade 8 transitioning to high school.

Mr. Pasian and ASPS students.

Mr. Pasian and ASPS students.










Take a peak at my storify, Learning Alongside and Capturing Voice that brings together images, tweets and words of many to tell the story. In addition, check out the Ancaster Royals Roar blog where all artefacts have been curated from the four feeder schools.  A place where all grade eight students from all feeder schools are sharing their wonderings, questions and comments.

My reflections as the lead learner when I think about learning with and from staff as we prepared for this day:

  • SPEND TIME LEARNING ALONGSIDE with your staff in connected ways, you must be able to do or be willing to try what you are asking them to do and try; no opting out ever
  • BUILD IN CHOICE always for how staff express their thinking and ask questions; one size never fits all and be responsive to this
  • OBSERVE their learning in progress, NOTICE their growth and progress
  • CELEBRATE how it makes a difference in their individual efficacy and team efficacy
  • BLEND LEARNING always; group, individual, f2f, DIY, online, onground, 1:1
  • OPEN UP how your staff expresses their thinking, ideas and input and leverage it being done in connected ways via text, image, video, audio <—THIS IS POWERFUL and transfers to how they learn with their students
  • TIME TOGETHER is needed to understand and experience how leveraging technology and apps for learning, sharing, creating and collaborating makes a difference in collective efficacy and efficiency
  • PRACTICE what you have learned together and make it happen in a timely way
  • PERSEVERE and it’s okay that it isn’t perfect and messy that’s when the best learning happens!

Want more?
Check out these two blogposts from @bloggucation from the Director Students Voice Forum:

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  1. Pingback: Re-imagining Professional Learning for Staff

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