At P.S. 249, in Brooklyn, New York, educators have leaned into an innovative professional development model called “lab sites” to help each other improve their teaching practice. Once a week, during PD time, teams of teachers get together to explore specific teaching strategies or activities they need help with. Teachers hone their skills by working with a small group of students who volunteer to stay after school, while their grade-level colleagues observe. Having students be part of the teachers’ experience allows them real-time teaching and learning interactions, while the students get extra academic support. After the students leave, the group provides feedback to the teacher who was being observed on what went well and what still needs work. Teachers implement what they’ve learned in their classrooms later in the week and return the following week to let everyone know how it went.
The teachers at P.S. 249 were first introduced to lab sites in a Teachers College workshop about seven years ago, and they loved working with their peers and the students so much, they adapted it and made it part of their regular professional development. The low-stakes practice builds on the strengths of all teachers and gives new teachers, especially, an opportunity to grow and learn from their peers in a safe, supportive environment.