Syfr Learning provides sustained, inquiry based professional development based on brain research and the need to develop students for a world of accelerating change.
Underlying Syfr’s approach are two fundamental premises about today’s schools:
- Students will need to graduate having mastered how to learn because the world is shifting that responsibility to the individual as change accelerates.
- Students will also need to graduate with higher proficiencies than in the past in the fields of communications, analytical and quantitative reasoning, collaborative work, and an ability to work on complex problem that cross disciplines.
Syfr’s goals with each participating school are to:
- continuously and measurably improve student learning,
- develop students capable of structuring their own learning with the desire to do so.
Over three years, the professional development addresses five big topics:
- Understanding the importance of knowledge and remembering,
- The design of practice,
- The use of models, patterns, and their exceptions (novelty),
- Motivation and the use of choice and goals,
- Social support and relationships.
Learning is an inferred skill.
Learning is measured by evaluating performance – what can the student do with what has been learned.
We measure what has been learned in three ways:
- Durability. Does the learning last?
- Flexibility. Is the learning transferable between contexts?
- Motivation. Does the student have the desire and skills to learn more?
Each year has three institutes and a fourth strongly recommended. The institutes are sequenced to give teachers and students an immediate sense of success and then gradually the Institutes work into more and more complex topics. Each institute is built around a “BBQ”—a Big Beautiful Question, and targets one learning principle and three or four design principles.
Why a three year program?
- There are results that are significant and observable in the first one to two months.
- But, a school’s change must be permanent, which in our case means that improvement must continue – not that the school achieves a goal and stabilizes.
- To accomplish a sustained commitment to continuous improvement, there must be a sustained involvement in professional growth.
- We chose three years so that topics were spread over time and in manageable chunks.
The model for school improvement is based on peer influence. We train a Teacher Leadership Cohort (TLC) of ten percent of the school teaching staff plus one or two and with support from coaches and the school principal, they influence other teachers in the school. The neural system in the brain for empathy is the same one used for imitation. We take advantage of it and create a culture of cooperation and collaboration from inside the school for change. This creates the long term sustainability for continuous improvement.
What you should expect:
- Learning will measurably and substantially improve in TLC classrooms within the first month.
- Learning will measurably and substantially improve in non-TLC classrooms within two months.
- End of year grades and scores will reflect the improvement. A 10- to 15-point average improvement in a school is not unusual.
- Two evaluations on each school are done in concert with the coaches and based on the STEPPs by an outside evaluator.
What we expect:
- Principals and coaches will continually ask teachers questions about what they have learned, what they are doing with it, what is the evidence of success and how have they shared it.
- Half day of training with the principals and one day after each Institute with the coaches.
- Sufficient contact with the district and principals so that the messaging to the teachers is consistent. There should be no sense on the teachers’ part of multiple initiatives that send confusing or, worse yet, conflicting messages.