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The Unicorn, Realized

January 27, 2015

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BetterLesson launches TeachCycle, our new continuous learning platform

TeachCycle is the first scalable attempt to support any team of teachers, anywhere, in engaging in continuous improvement cycles.

Real professional growth is all about continuously learning. And for teachers, this means continually improving your practice by learning (as quickly as possible) what works for you and your students. There’s no silver bullet.

What’s cool is that everyone increasingly agrees. Teachers and administrators alike, think that continuous improvement processes are the bees knees when it comes to professional development. And what’s more, everyone we’ve talked with further agrees that teacher development should be:

  1. Collaborative: Innovation is a team sport.
  2. Job-Embedded: It can’t feel like one more thing added to your plates.
  3. Personalized: The specific needs and growth of your students must be at the center.

And yet, the humming, engaged, teacher-led PLC remains the unicorn of PD myth — often sought and rarely sighted.

So why does it remain such a mythical creature?

Because cultivating a bottom-up, beautifully-efficient PLC is hard to pull off. Very hard.  It requires that schools provide their teams of teachers with plenty of collaborative planning time, highly-trained coaches or mentors, and a shared continuous learning process that easily embeds itself into their daily practice. That’s a high bar when added to the already-overwhelming demands schools must meet daily.

With TeachCycle, our grand challenge is to make this high bar more attainable; to bring the unicorn within reach. And it’s a challenge we’re pursuing with all due gusto — thanks largely to a lovely, $1.8M investment from Scott Cook, Founder of Intuit, and his wife Signe Ostby.

Our model is simple:

  • Step 1: We pair up teams of teachers (PLCs) with an awesomely expert TeachCycle coach who joins the team remotely via the interweb.
  • Step 2: The team and coach select a Teaching Challenge based on a rich, actionable area of student growth. And they identify a single, simple metric by which to gauge progress.
  • Step 3: Finally, they tackle these teaching challenges by engaging in a simple 3-step process for structured experimentation: Teach, Measure, Learn (more on TML here).

After just a few weeks of implementing TeachCycle, the process of structured experimentation becomes integrated into teachers’ daily workflow.

And critically (we think, anyway), it’s a teacher-owned, school-supported process. It’s not some external provider foisting its notion of good teaching onto teachers and schools.

Instead, TeachCycle is a responsive set of supports to empower teachers to engage in structured experimentation to minimize the time is take to learn what work for their students (and what doesn’t).

It allows PLCs everywhere to realize their inner unicorn. And so far, teachers and administrators are pretty fired up:

“I felt that this was the first time PLCs weren’t just meeting for a meeting’s sake. I had an individualized goal and was working toward it. My time and experience were valued.”

Teacher Indian Trail Middle School, Plainfield, IL

“TeachCycle is small-group professional development that can be quickly modified to meet the needs of individual teachers. The components of reflection, discussion, sharing, and strategies mean that it is easy to make changes in the classroom right away.”

-6th Grade Teacher, Sinagua Middle School, Flagstaff, AZ

“TeachCycle allows teachers a rigorous and intentional model for which to have professional conversations regarding the learning of each individual child on a timely basis. Isn’t that the essence of teaching?”

-Principal, Oldham County Middle School, Buckner, Kentucky

Ready to join up? Holler at us: rachel@betterlesson.com. Or sign up for a demo here.


Background on BetterLesson:

BetterLesson is an edtech company committed is to to empowering teachers to learn what works best for their students (as quickly as possible). BetterLesson supports this mission in two ways:

  1. BetterLesson.com, a curriculum sharing community with over 500,000 registered teachers, is building a living, breathing body of knowledge around effective instruction. Through BetterLesson’s Master Teacher Projects, BetterLesson recruits the highest performing teachers in the country to share the full suite of their effective practice (all of their lessons and best practices). In partnership with the NEA, the Gates Foundation, and the Learning Accelerator, BetterLesson has launched four K-12 Master Teacher Projects in Common Core Math, Common Core ELA, Next Generation Science, and Blending Learning. BetterLesson currently has over 10,000 rich, comprehensive lessons across every single CC standard…and there are more on the way!
  1. TeachCycle, BetterLesson’s continuous learning platform, empowers teachers to learn as quickly as possible what works for their students (and what doesn’t!). TeachCycle pairs teams of teachers (PLCs) with an expert, dedicated TeachCycle Coach. Together, they engage in structured experimentation, using TeachCycle’s simple Teach, Measure, Learn process to tackle rich teaching challenges based on specific areas of student growth. You can learn more and read teacher and administrator testimonials here.

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