Aug 10, 2021

Using Back to School Professional Development Time to Reflect on the Past and Plan for the Future

Julie Corbett
Director STAT
Picture of boxes with arrows pointing in different direction

Do you ever feel like you are jumping from one strategy to another, rushing to find that elusive silver bullet to finally close learning gaps? Do you feel like you start implementing the next program before you’ve had a chance to reflect on what you’ve already done? 

As educators, we always strive to bring the best evidence-based practices to each student. However, the pressure is on this year, more than any other year, to address the interrupted learning and instructional loss that have left so many students behind, especially those most vulnerable to disruption. The funding available is like none we have ever seen, and with funding comes great responsibility for each state, district, and school to use the funds in the most effective way to address student learning needs due to lost instruction time. 

This summer is the time to reflect on past attempts to address learning gaps, identify what worked and what didn’t, and use those lessons to better plan education programs and services for the school year and next summer. Our students need evidence-based, EQUITABLE programs and services, as opposed those that are the easiest to deliver or the same old same old that hasn’t really made the real impact needed to change the trajectory of student’s learning and their lives. 

Administrators and educators are busy developing plans for their back to school professional development and planning time, and some of that time could be wisely spent completing an After-Action-Review (AAR) on Learning Recovery efforts. An AAR on Learning Recovery could be completed in one block of time (ideally 90 minutes-2 hours), but could also be incorporated and spread over a couple of days to link the past effort reflections with planning for the upcoming school year. 

Using the past for better planning calls for meaningful reflection and discussions within a culture of candor to examine individual, group, and entire organization performance in closing gaps in student learning. An AAR is just the means to do so. An AAR is more than the typical project debrief of what happened. It is a thoughtful process to analyze actions previously taken, dig deep into actual results versus anticipated outcomes, identify what worked most effectively, and plan to use those effective actions to get better results. It requires putting individual and group egos aside and putting students and outcomes first. An AAR not only assists in planning, but also informs evaluation methods to ensure accurate and timely data can be used to adjust so actual results meet or exceed planned results. Take the time to discover important lessons from the past and use those lessons to strategically plan for better results in addressing the impact of instructional loss on all students!