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How does the Galileo Educational Network support professional learning and research partnerships?

   Galileo Educational Network    March 21, 2018    About


The Galileo Educational Network is a comprehensive and complex network. Six guiding principles guide how this network engages with partners: stewarding the intellect through inquiry-based learning, infusing digital technologies, providing high-quality assessment, honoring collaboration and teamwork, fostering scholarship of teaching, and providing practical thought-provoking preparation for pre-service teachers.

The Teaching Effectiveness Framework (Friesen, 2009) provides a theoretical lens for guiding the design and assessment of the design-based professional learning and design-based research partnerships.  The coherent progression of professional learning from pre-service to experienced practitioners is a through line of the work – both with design-based professional learning and research work.

Therefore, the Galileo Educational Network can be considered a comprehensive and complex network. The long-term work in research-practice partnerships focused on professional learning and research situates this network as a unique and leading-edge example of an innovate organization informing educational theory and practice with a central focus on student learning.

Established in 1999, the Galileo Educational Network is an independent, charitable organization that consists of thought-leading educators and a high-profile Board of Directors. The Galileo Educational Network creates, promotes and disseminates innovative teaching and learning practices through research, professional learning and fostering external collaborations, guided by our vision and mission statements.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified 27 networks taking innovative approaches to teaching, learning and pedagogy. The Galileo Educational Network in Canada was featured by the OECD (2017) as a leading partner organization and described as follows:

Rocky View School Division established the Galileo Centre in 1996 within Banded Peak School in Bragg Creek, Alberta. The success of this initiative in establishing new images of teaching and learning led to the creation of the Galileo Educational Network in 1999, a provincial professional learning and research network with a focus on technology implementation. Since then, the mandate has expanded and today the Galileo Educational Network creates, promotes, and disseminates innovative teaching and learning practices through research, professional learning, and networking locally and internationally.

The network has expanded since 1999 and is currently situated as the professional learning arm of the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary and has pioneered a mentoring approach for continuous professional learning (Jacobsen, 2006). The Galileo Educational Network website and Focus on Inquiry eBook provide open educational resources to support professional learning and these resources are accessed world-wide. These resources provide examples of impact on student learning along with exemplars of effective teaching in a variety of contexts including reserves, across different grades and subject or discipline areas. Gallagher-Galileo doctoral fellowships were awarded yearly until 2015. The network also sponsored an annual conference (IDEAS) from 2013-2017 with presentations from both practitioners and researchers. Peer reviewed proceedings accompanied the conference presentations.

Galileo collaborates with leaders in each school division to develop plans for the ways in which building the capacity of individuals enhances and extends system-wide school improvement implementation. There is a focus on assisting teachers and principals design and implement 21st century inquiry-based approaches to teaching and leadership.  Improving competencies in 21st century pedagogies is a complex process that requires long-term commitment and support for meaningful school improvement. Galileo has developed strategies and expertise for on-going, job-embedded professional learning for educators that is informed by, and informs, the most current research.  Galileo has proven ability to:

  • impact student learning through high quality mentoring relationships with teachers and instructional leaders
  • turn professional learning into professional practice
  • strengthen professional learning cultures within schools and across school divisions through professional learning opportunities and support for learning leaders and administrators
  • support teachers to find and use quality resources in the classroom
  • maximize the effectiveness of personalized, responsive onsite and online classroom-based mentorship
  • demonstrate evidence of teacher and student learning, and
  • use this evidence to guide next steps.

A Design-Based Approach to Professional Learning and Research

The Galileo Educational Network uses a design-based approach to professional learning and research. This iterative learning process (design, enactment, evaluation and redesign) provides an opportunity to connect educational theory and practice. Friesen and Jacobsen (2015) describe this work as follows:

Researchers and mentor teachers from the Galileo Educational Network have adopted design-based professional learning as a way of assisting administrators and teachers to build upon the design-based research for improving student outcomes – defined as student achievement, engagement and well-being. (Para. 3)

The six guiding principles of the Galileo Educational Network

Using design-based professional learning strategies and design-based approaches to research serve to continually inform both theory and practice.  The six guiding principles of the Galileo Educational Network provide the focus for the selection of and partnership work within the educational community.

Galileo Educational Network Foundational Principles

Design-Based Professional Learning

The Galileo Educational Network works alongside teachers and administrators in schools to plan and provide quality professional development to plan, implement and build professional capacity to create technology-rich, inquiry-based learning environments that demonstrate new images of teaching, learning, student capabilities and staff development. At the same time, the Galileo Educational Network mentors work strategically with key personnel in each school jurisdiction while coaching directly in classrooms.  Mentors work at all levels, all at once, from five year olds to superintendents to government ministries. The challenge for today’s educators is to create a culture of competence where all students are engaged. Figure 3 demonstrates the phases of design-based professional learning with a central focus on student learning.

Design-Based Professional Learning Iterative Cycle of Inquiry

Teaching Effectiveness Framework

The Teaching Effectiveness Framework (Friesen, 2009) offers a lens guiding the design and assessment of the professional learning and research: Teachers are designers of learning; Teachers design worthwhile work; Teachers design assessment to improve student learning and guide teaching; Teachers foster a variety of interdependent relationships; and Teachers improve their practice in the company of their peers.

Principles of Effective Teaching for Cultivating the Intellect. Adapted from Friesen (2009).

When professional learning is focused on cycles of inquiry into students’ needs, then making changes in students’ learning environments becomes an integral part of building knowledge (Timperley, 2011). The Galileo Educational Network focuses on design-based professional learning iterative cycles of inquiry and the Teaching Effectiveness Framework as a lens to guide the design and assessment of professional learning and research.

Design-Based Research

Drawing on the foundational work of Ann Brown (1992), a pioneer in real-life experiments in early childhood classrooms, the Galileo Educational Network often uses a design-based research approach. This participatory research methodology requires partners to collaboratively design research-informed learning experiences. Learning is a collective endeavor among researchers and practitioners. Design-based research informs and is informed by theory and practice. The research involves iterative cycles of design-enactment-analysis-redesign with focus on continual improvement involving innovative or disruptive design solutions. Mixed methods are used to gather data and findings from each phase are responsive to emergent goals.  Other types of research may explore “what is” and only provide summative reporting to partners.  Whereas, design-based research is used when looking at “what can be” and this requires researchers to share formative and summative reports with partners.

Excerpt from:

Brown B., Thomas C, & Stuewe N. (2018). Professional Learning Networks and Research Partnerships: A Literature Review. Section 2: Galileo Educational Network: A Hybrid Example of a Networked Improvement Community and Design Research Partnerships. Pp 9-16.