We know that "one and done" workshops are not an effective way to support long-term growth and change in schools. This is why The Early Science Initiative (ESI) is designed as a system of job-embedded professional learning that provides ongoing opportunities to develop and implement knowledge across a variety of contexts. We engage the whole school on a journey of learning new knowledge, putting that learning into practice, and reflecting collaboratively. This ongoing cycle generates a culture of inquiry within the school. It is through this cycle that "advanced professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions; to support both learning and change in daily practice; and to facilitate this learning and improvement continuously" (Pacchiano, Klein, & Hawley, 2016, p. 3) can be achieved. The results are reflected in the high-quality teaching and learning that occur within ESI schools.
What does embedded professional development LOOK like with ESI?
ESI offers a variety of ways in which we engage schools in ongoing learning and development. We begin each year with a hands-on, highly engaging professional development day that lays a foundation of new knowledge and how to apply it in the classroom. Following our kick-off training, teachers continue to deepen their knowledge of early science through completing self-paced online learning modules. To support the application to practice and ongoing reflection, we engage various members of schools in our communities of practice (CoP). Etienne Wenger (1998) defines a CoP as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Science Club is one such platform that ESI offers that provides teachers a space where they can share and reflect on the science that they are engaging children in. Our Leadership CoP focuses on reflecting on the practices of educational leaders and how we (leaders and the ESI team) can best support teachers in their growth and development through a cycle of inquiry. Finally, Science Committee is a CoP that supports interdisciplinary teams within a school in developing plans to engage families, and the school community broadly, developing their lens for seeing young children as scientists and supporting their curiosity for learning across domains. The results are a cohesive school working together to unleash the power of science!