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Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency, Part 1

By Patty McGee
 | Mar 16, 2017

TeachingTip_x300We most often picture residency programs to happen within the medical field, but this learning design is gaining ground in the education world. I define a residency in the education world to be  professional learning that takes place across a number of consecutive days within one classroom with a small group of teachers. It goes beyond the one-shot demonstrations that are often part of embedded professional learning and also takes coaching to an elevated level of collaboration. Residencies answer the question that I most often hear: How do I fit this all in?  

Why hold a residency?

Literacy learning, as we know, is multifaceted and complex, and it requires a deep knowledge of many intricate instructional approaches. A residency allows for the practice of the many components of balanced literacy as responsive choices based on student readiness. Most professional learning experiences in literacy are very often about only one of the components, such as the reading workshop. We teach and experience the parts and pieces of reading workshops—mini-lessons, eyes-on-text time, conferences, small-group instruction, guided reading, and so on. We often explore, deeply over time, the what and the why of workshop instruction. In other words, we share strategies and units to focus on, and we learn the research that supports a workshop approach. But a reading workshop is a pliable, flexible, student-centered approach that has no specific road map. And so, the residency concept supports teachers in making instructional choices to consider the big, looming question of when—when do I pull a strategy group? When do I teach this particular strategy? When do I hold conferences?

How do you plan for a residency?

As you prepare for a residency, here is what you will need in place:

  1. A concentrated time of at least an hour, though preferably an entire literacy block if possible
  2. A group of teachers who understand the purpose of the residency and the intended outcomes and have had at least some background in balanced literacy
  3. Current unit plans with goals and other materials that are used for instruction
  4. Scheduled time to meet to plan and debrief before and after the classroom residency time
  5. One person who will act as the literacy leader of the residency—usually a literacy coach, consultant, or teacher leader

How is a residency designed?

Think of the residency in the same gradual release model that you use in classroom instruction. Design the days using this concept, handing over the responsibility for teaching more and more to the participants.

Next week’s post will give you a day-by-day plan of how a residency can be designed based on the gradual release of responsibility model. Aside from it being high-impact professional learning, it is also so much fun!

McGee_w80Patty McGee is a literacy consultant whose passion and vision is to create learning environments where teachers and students discover their true potential and power. She is the author of Feedback That Moves Writers Forward: How to Escape Correcting Mode to Transform Student Writing (Corwin 2017). Patty’s favorite moments are when groups of teachers are working collaboratively with students in the classroom.

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