Three educators working collaboratively.

RoP as SOP at AoP

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Author: Dave Bader
Organization: Aquarium of the Pacific

I’m Dave Bader, Director of Education at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. At AoP, we’ve worked as a team to integrate RoP into the culture of our education department. As anyone who has completed a powerful professional learning experience knows, you leave the experience feeling empowered and optimistic about making changes to your work space and own career. However, you are soon confronted with the reality of competing priorities—time, budget, turnover, and many other factors can put a stop to making organizational changes. Developing a professional learning community within your institution is important and it needs to be purposeful—it’s something that we, as team members, decide to create, value, and prioritize for ourselves. Most importantly it requires time and energy, and must become integrated into day to day practice in order to become common, shared practice. RoP gives a framework for making this happen.

At AoP, RoP helped us to build a shared educational vision. It actually helped us to first realize that we didn’t have one and so needed to create and share that vision. As a manager, I recognized that I and other leaders had not been explicit about what the educational vision or strategies were for our department, and our staff were really looking for that type of guidance to steer their work. Using this as guidance we were able to use RoP in our work. For us, RoP:

  • Defined our educational vision. RoP has helped us define what a “good” learning and teaching experience is. Our education department now has tools, structures, and language established to help them identify and reflect on evidence from their practice that qualify as a “good” experience.
  • Established a set of shared values. Although all of our educators are at different points in their careers and lives in how they think about learning and teaching, the shared vision we developed through RoP helped us set up a shared point to help them think about those things in the same way.
  • Developed a shared language and practice. We coined the acronym WEDL to describe what we do—wonder, explore, discover, and learning. This is a shared way for us to think about our educational practice.

These are all things that we knew we needed, but RoP helped us to be purposeful about defining these things and creating structures to put them into practice. In that framework, we were able to recognize and think about all of our educators on their own individual capacity-building paths while still working together as a team. In this way, we began to think about our own education staff as an audience of learners—as we thought about what it means to have a good learning and teaching experience for our visitors, we also thought about what it means to be coached and have a good learning and teaching experience for our educators.

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