KY Eastern Kentucky University WP: Innovative Changes to Invitational Summer Institute

Nov 13, 2014
Posted by: Jsinger2

The KY Eastern Kentucky University Writing Project works to respond to teachers' needs and concerns by increasing their site's flexibility in terms of scheduling the Invitiational Summer Institute. They have also made innovative changes to their teaching demonstrations:

In response to teachers’ concerns, then, we continue to seek ways to increase our flexibility, believing that makes us still more relevant. For example, we endlessly tinker with the Summer Institute schedule, flexing between four solid summer weeks and three weeks with a couple evenings and an extra follow-up day in the fall added to the schedule. For obvious reasons, school calendars dictate some of those decisions, and in 2014, at least, the winter-that-would-never-end forced us to get creative. But that creativity is valuable: we set the schedule in consultation with this year’s SI fellows, establishing the perspective from the outset that EKUWP belongs to them. We added two pre-SI Tuesday evenings, and our facilitators quickly agreed that those sessions were supremely effective. The fellows themselves then added a post-SI Thursday evening, because they recognized the work they were involved in needed it. The facilitators joined them, of course, and were as comfortable as ever in the role of facilitating the work the fellows themselves undertook.

That Thursday evening post-SI work the fellows assigned themselves supported the most radical change EKUWP has experienced in the past few years. We made two changes to the teacher demonstrations. First, we moved them out of the SI. We brought in several Teacher-Consultants to present demos during the summer, and each facilitator did a demo too, but we moved all fellows’ demos to a Saturday in August that we then advertised as professional development. In the end, the fellows’ demos weren’t only for each other; instead, they had an audience of over 30. Along with that schedule alteration came a shift in the demo structure. Until this year demos have always been an individual matter. We supplied mentors who would coach and guide the demo development, but fellows would stand on their own practices and fill their own 75 minutes. Except that, too often they didn’t. We saw demos falling short of our expectations. We saw fellows less confident in their practices than we wanted them to be. We saw evidence of them being stretched thin. So we responded the same way our region’s best schools respond to teachers’ learning needs: we pushed them to form professional learning communities that identified their own needs, entered into their own research, and created their own products. The highlight of this process, before the August professional development session at which the demo groups presented their work, was a very memorable afternoon in the SI when each fellow entered into a rigorous, exhausting Demo-Idea-Exchange Speed Dating session. Though worn out at the end of it, the fellows all recognized the facilitators’ goals of empowering them to find a focus, to think critically about their practice and priorities, and to see themselves as leaders with ideas about teaching and learning to share with other educators. Once fellows made those connections and connected with each other, they were ready to roll through the rest of the summer. They did just that.

You can find online resources that offer a closer glimpse of the 2014 Eastern Kentucky WP ISI here.