Phase II aimed to leverage the substantial resources created in Phase I to build teacher leadership in the districts, and to support the application of “big ideas thinking” to teachers’ day-to-day classroom practice and to districts’ long-term K-12 science/math curriculum planning. The goal is to transform teacher practice and institutionalize the big ideas and inquiry approaches within Consortium districts for the long term.
To accomplish this, Phase II established CONNECT-ED Professional Learning Communities in each Consortium district. Existing design team members form the core membership of each district’s PLC, with new teacher members to be added over time. Each PLC is responsible for setting its own goals (consistent with the CONNECT-ED approach), based on the learning needs of its members and the science/math priorities of the district. Each PLC creates its own 3-year plan (PDF) for accomplishing its goals. CONNECT-ED supported the PLCs by providing teacher leadership training, Big Ideas Learning Design (BILD) workshops (so that many more teachers may have the rich experience of designing a BIM), PLC Grants, and a menu of elective professional development programs available either from Consortium partners (such as the CONNECT-ED Summer Institutes and Mini-Institutes, Princeton’s QUEST program, and Raritan Valley CC’s summer astronomy institute) or other providers.
Phase II shifted the locus of CONNECT-ED activity to Consortium districts, giving them the autonomy to set and advance toward their own goals for science/math, and the opportunity to develop teacher leadership within the district that can sustain change for the long-term. Further, Phase II promoted Professional Learning Communities as the medium for ongoing, coherent, district-based professional learning for teachers. This strategy is aligned with Learning Forward’s standards for professional development and supports the New Jersey Department of Education’s recommendation that “collaborative learning” be the mode for teacher professional development in all districts.