Hawaii Lab Cohorts are teacher learning communities within complex areas and schools that offer an effective approach to professional growth for teachers, allowing for continuous improvement. In its fourth year of implementation, the Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Area's cohort has grown from school-level English Language Arts teams to complex-wide labs in ELA and math, soon to expand to science.
Esmeralda Carini, educational specialist and the creator and facilitator of the model, has mentored other Lab Cohort facilitators in order to grow the lab across content areas, schools and complex areas by creating a mentor group that meets regularly throughout the year.
What are the conditions for success?
What makes Hawaii Lab Cohorts an effective approach to teacher professional learning and collaboration that impacts student learning is it incorporates many of the design elements for 21st century teacher professional development (Darling-Hammond, Hyler, & Gardner, 2017), specifically:
- It is content focused and includes teachers’ choice in the learning focus of the cohort;
- It incorporates active learning via adult learning theory (which allows for teachers to take on leadership roles with the lab, classroom observations, book talks, etc.);
- It supports collaboration, typically in job embedded contexts, in a true community of practice where there is a sharing of knowledge and resources in order to create new knowledge);
- It embeds effective practice: from peers, facilitator, outside exemplars;
- It provides coaching and expert support from a content specialist;
- It offers opportunities for feedback and reflection (teacher goals, classroom observation); and
- It is of sustained duration (since participation in the lab is voluntary, teachers can choose to continue their participation or not over the course of a few years).