Broader debates about professional learning: Owen (2014)

In your blog, discuss which of these readings is of most value to you in your own professional context?

Owen, S. (2014). Teacher professional learning communities: Going beyond contrived collegiality toward challenging debate and collegial learning and professional growth. Australian Journal Of Adult Learning, 54(2), 54-77.

 

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As a leader responsible for a professional learning community (PLC), Owen’s (2014) work ‘Teacher professional learning communities: Going beyond contrived collegiality toward challenging debate and collegial learning and professional growth’ seemed to be of most value within my professional context. In case, you’ve missed a previous post where this was outlined, I’m currently working within Catholic education at a secondary school in regional Victoria.

 

 

Owen’s (2014) work focused on addressing the question “ In what ways are characteristics of PLCs evident in the professional learning processes occurring in significantly innovative case study school contexts and what are the learning impacts for those involved?” (p. 60). By examining the research presented within Owen (2014), I’m able to apply the findings within my context.

 

Leadership is one area that Owen (2014) addresses. The idea that leadership should be distributed and that a focus should be on developing the team’s leadership skills within the group was really impactful (p. 58-59). I now find myself thinking about how I can adapt this within my context. As a starting point, rather than consistently finding/providing professional reading for my group, I’ll now allocate major tasks and be sure to open a forum for greater debate and decision making. Less significant, I can suggest that group members share their own readings within the group on a rotational basis. These small alterations may improve the effectiveness of my PLC.

 

School culture seems to be something that is connected to PLCs. Owen (2014) writes that “the key is building a culture which goes beyond the work group and is open to new ideas and guarding against insularity (p. 59) My experience indicates that where an open culture of learning is embraced, the PLC thrives. Voelkel and Chrispeels (2017) seemingly connect culture to collective teacher efficacy (CTE). They assert “a positive and high correlation between PLC implementation and teacher collective efficacy” (p. 520). Lee, Zhang and Yin (2011) also draws connection between school culture and CTE identifying that “when teachers were in a friendly and trusting school culture… strong collegial relationships in a PLC would make teachers feel that they were not professionally isolated but interdependent in the community” (p. 827). If CTE is as critical to school improvement as suggested by Hattie (2012), I need to focus on how to cultivate it more regularly. And, if it is a byproduct of a PLC as suggested by Voelkel and Chrispeels (2017), I need to put greater emphasis on making mine more effective.  

 

Owen (2014) stress that “robust debate” (p. 73) is something that also improves PLC practise. Within my context, I think generally, teachers have a difficult time with debate. Emotions can run high when peoples fundamental pedagogical beliefs are challenged. Debate isn’t a skill that’s taught but one that needs to be developed. School leaders need to help create an environment where respectful debate and discussion is encouraged.  

 

A final point that I’ve drawn from Owen (2014) was the importance of “time for collegial work, funding and clear expectations are an essential part of the supports and nurturing for these professional growth-oriented PLCs to evolve and operate at the most mature levels” (p. 73). A challenge for me will be to help create time for teams to meet.

 

References

(please note that formatting problems within WordPress have impacted the correct indentation of referencing below)

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers : maximizing impact on learning. Milton Park, England: Routledge.

 

Lee, J. C., Zhang, Z., & Yin, H. (2011). A multilevel analysis of the impact of a professional learning community, faculty trust in colleagues and collective efficacy on teacher commitment to students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(5), 820–830. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2011.01.006

 

Owen, S. (2014). Teacher professional learning communities: Going beyond contrived collegiality toward challenging debate and collegial learning and professional growth. Australian Journal Of Adult Learning, 54(2), 54-77.

Voelkel, R. H., & Chrispeels, J. H. (2017). Understanding the link between professional learning communities and teacher collective efficacy. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 28(4), 505–526. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2017.1299015

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