Archive of ‘EPT502’ category

Well, this is it.

 

Well, this is it. The final post of my Masters of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) and this first part at least is being written going 100 Kms an hour on the Northern Highway heading to my home in beautiful Echuca, Victoria. My amazing wife has let me smash this out while on the way home from a weekend in Melbourne. This is a small glimpse into the incredible support she has offered me while I’ve undertaken this course. So, first and foremost; thanks to her.

To be honest, I have mixed emotions upon finishing this subject and my course. The past three years have allowed me to explore fascinating concepts of knowledge networks and digital innovation including design thinking, game-based learning, digital citizenship, classroom technologies and knowledge networks. As you’d expect, it is incredibly broad! When I began the course, I was actually hoping to find something that would resonate with me and lead me down a very specific path to become a niche expert. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened. The phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind. Thinking about that more critically, I’m happy with what I’ve learned and accomplished. I’m looking forward to letting the dust settle and allowing me to reflect on a more focused area of study. I’ll let you know when I know 😉

But allow me to ruminate for a brief moment…

If I’ve completed my Masters, without feeling quite like a Master… what were the gains?

As I said before, it’s been amazing to explore and thrive in the subject areas, but in my opinion, the most important thing has been expanding my personal learning network (PLN). This is the one thing that won’t be forgotten and has proven invaluable over time. I’d like to thank broadly, all those I’ve connected with at CSU for their generous support and encouragement and for their inspirational fearlessness, publishing and sharing their work with a global audience. In particular, I would like to thank a crucial node within my PLN, Jacques du Toit who has helped me learn and grow as an educator/leader over the last three years. Weekly Google Hangouts to discuss readings and assessment have characterised this period.

 

 


Reflections on Issues in Professional Learning

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this subject and in particular, combing through the course materials! There was a wide range of resources that helped me gain a solid understanding of the subject area.

In the beginning of the subject, Susanne asked us to identify our goals. I indicated that I was “ hopeful that this subject will help identify best practice and enable me to implement it with my staff in the future.”

Susanne responded by pointing out that “best practice is a term that has been used for a while – but it can be misleading. See her point below.

 

 

My second assessment allowed me time to explore not only the research behind professional learning communities but the contexts and conditions in which my school’s model works the best. It’s been great to sort out which versions of this model are more successful and as a result, begin to think about how I’ll draw from the research and lead change within my school community. Providing increased time, creating an environment that endorses rigorous debate and cultivating leadership are all places I’m looking to start. Despite having done a crazy amount of research on the topic, it’s still important to build with flexibility in mind. Huffman, Hipp, Hord, Pankake, Moller, Olivier, and Cowan (2003) caution that PLCs “cannot be prescriptive or expected to follow a linear course” (p. 68) There are too many factors moving within school organisations that can force you to augment your plans. So to reiterate Susanne’s point, it’ll be more about playing with the elements and finding out what works best within my context.

In terms of participation in the subject, I was able to utilise the discussion forum, blog and Twitter to enhance my experience.

Reflecting back, I found it difficult keep track of discussions on blogs. When I first posted to the “blog” section on the CSU learning management system, I was surprised that no one else had utilised the Think Space blogs or a free alternative platform to track their learnings/musings within this subject.

 

 

When comments were posted to the “blog” page here, no notifications were directly sent to the author of the post. This impeded potential conversations as I would often tire of checking. It was nice to connect with other students via my Thinkspace blog.

 

Obviously, I would have loved to participate more but unfortunately, these holidays, the family came (as it should) first. Now that my official study is finished, I’m looking forward to spending more time with them!

 

 


 

Hyperlinks to all previous posts:

 

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Post 4

Post 5

Post 6

Post 7

Post 8

Post 9

Post 10

Reference

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Huffman, J. B., Hipp, K. K., Hord, S. M., Pankake, A. M., Moller, G., Olivier, D. F., & Cowan, F. (2003). Reculturing Schools as Professional Learning Communities. Lanham, United States: R&L Education. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csuau/detail.action?docID=1058098

 

 

 

Evaluating Professional Learning

 

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Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (n.d.) ‘The essential guide to learning: evaluation’ for provides a powerful framework to use when conducting professional learning. It correctly seeks to measure growth in terms of impact on the student, organisation and individual teacher (p. 3). While Hattie (2011) stresses the complete focus on student improvement, I believe that improvements to the organisation and individual are undervalued.

 

The most important aspects of evaluating professional learning are establishing the processes whereby growth will be measured. The guiding questions on the initial page of the AITSL’s (n.d.) ‘The essential guide to learning: evaluation’ provide a starting point for those planning professional learning. These questions include:

 

  • Is the evaluation of professional learning driven by clear and measurable goals for improvement?

 

  • When will the evaluation of professional learning take place?

 

  • How will you determine which qualitative and quantitative data will be gathered for the evaluation of professional learning?

 

  • How will the results of the evaluations be used to inform ongoing planning for professional learning?

 

Without having clear methods of evaluation, your/a school’s progress will be difficult if not impossible to measure. Based on these readings, the main learning is to rigorously plan and incorporate these points of data collection and analysis into your professional development timeline.

 

References

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Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (n.d.) The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Evaluation. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/essential_guide_evaluation714a8891b1e86477b58fff00006709da.pdf?sfvrsn=25a2ec3c_0

Hattie, J. (2011) Maximising the dividend of professional learning. Presented at AITSL conference Promoting a National Professional Learning System: a call to action. Retrieved from https://visible-learning.org/2013/02/john-hattie-presentation-maximising- the-impact-video-transcript/

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

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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

Professional learning and student assessment

 

Timperley’s (2011) ‘Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students’ outcomes to identify teachers’ needs’ brings to light many issues that are relevant to professional learning today.

 

Here are 2 things that I took away from the reading.

 

  1. The pivotal role of leadership.

 

Timperley’s (2011) contextualises their involvement noting that “leaders have an important role to play in shaping this context if professional learning is not to become a series of events with little impact on practice or student outcomes” (p. 24). Here, her proposed ‘cycle of inquiry’ eliminates the idea that professional development is a one-off thing. The cycle can be observed below.

 

(Timperley, 2011, p. 25)

 

In order to have an impact, teachers can be involved in a broad range of activities. They may include:

 

identifying the needs of students and ensuring they are priority needs for the school; working with teachers to unpack the current levels of knowledge and the skills they bring to their classroom practice; ensuring implementation in classrooms; and assessing the impact (p. 24).

 

              2.  The Teacher inquiry and knowledge-building cycle to promote valued student outcomes

 

Timperley’s (2011) framework is based around five stages that begin with assessing what ‘knowledge and skill students need’ below, then repeats after asking ‘what has been the impact of our changed actions?

 

What knowledge and skills do our students need?

 

What knowledge and skills do we as teachers need?

 

Deepen professional knowledge and refine skills

 

Engage students in new learning experiences

 

What has been the impact of our changed actions?

 

Timperley’s (2011) identifies “that assessment information is central to the cycle and includes both assessment of student learning and the effectiveness of their own teaching practice” (p. 5) I think that one of the vital components to her model. From my experience, the further you get from using tangible data, the harder it is to quantify results.

 

References

 

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Timperley, H. (2011). Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students’

outcomes to identify teachers’ needs. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/research/timperleyassessment.pdf

Approaches to professional learning: PLCs and the Charter

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The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (2012) ‘Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders’ identifies the characteristics of quality professional learning as being relevant, collaborative and future-focused. Based on scholarly research as well as personal experience, it’s clear that development model, professional learning communities (PLCs), encompasses the aforementioned characteristics.

Before unpacking how PLCs are relevant, collaborative and future-focused it’s important to explore what PLCs are and what are their key features.

AITSL’s (n.d.) describes a professional learning community (PLC) as a “group of leaders/teachers who collaborate regularly with a focus on achieving continual school improvement. The group comes together to share and critically interrogate their practice, and together, learn and apply new and better approaches to enhance student learning” (p. 6). Some keywords and phrases present in this definition include: collaborate, continual improvement, enhance student achievement.

According to Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas (2006), there are five generally accepted characteristics of a PLC that include: shared values and vision, collective responsibility, reflective professional inquiry, collaboration and where group, as well as individual learning, is promoted (p. 226-227). More recently, Vangrieken, Meredith, Packer, & Kyndt (2017) stress the importance of leadership, group composition and dynamics, and trust and respect in an effective PLC (p. 57).

In order for a PLC to be effective, it must be relevant. AITSL’s (n.d.) definition indicates that the professional learning has a focus on continuous school improvement. This means that it’s direction or mandate is on an area that would benefit the school. Taking it down to the individual, DeLuca, Bolden, and Chan (2017) assert that teachers value choice of their own topics to study. This autonomy makes their learning relevant.

Stoll et al. (2006) claim that “learning can no longer be left up to the individual teacher” (p. 221-222). AITSL’s (n.d.) definition highlights the need for teachers and leaders to collaborate regularly. In terms of collaboration, PLCs will fail to function if collaboration does not occur. It’s also important to realise that “skills of collaboration are not necessarily automatic or natural but need to be practiced and refined” (AITSL, 2014b, p. 8). It seems as though collaboration is one of those skills that is often assumed but rarely developed. Schools need to realise its importance and target teachers capability in this area. Effective PLCs rely on this attribute and thrive as a result.  

Reflecting again on the AITSL’s (n.d.) definition of PLC, it’s apparent that this form of professional development is future focused in its inclusion of continual school improvement. This means that there is a concerted effort to constantly look for areas where improvements can be made.

Continual school improvement as relating to a focus on the future is highlighted by this PLC group.

 

 

References

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Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2012). Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/australian_charter_for_the_professional_learning_of_teachers_and_school_leaders.pdf?sfvrsn=53c3ec3c_0  

 

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014b). Disciplined Collaboration in Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/dcpl_summary_report.pdf?sfvrsn=59baec3c_0

 

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (n.d.) The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/the-essential-guide-to-professional-learning—collaborationce4a8891b1e86477b58fff00006709da.pdf?sfvrsn=86a2ec3c_0

 

DeLuca, C., Bolden, B., & Chan, J. (2017). Systemic professional learning through collaborative inquiry: Examining teachers’ perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67(Supplement C), 67–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.05.014

 

Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional Learning Communities: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221–258.

 

Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.10.001

Forms of professional learning: Collaboration

Choose one of the Essential Guides to Professional Learning above and consider how a school or adult education organisation you are familiar with addresses the issues raised in the Guide.

 

 

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recognises that collaboration is a powerful professional development tool. Its publication, ‘The Australian Charter for the ‘Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders’, underscores that it “has a powerful effect in magnifying and spreading the benefits of professional learning and adds a new and valuable dimension to the learning undertaken by individuals” (2012, p. 5).

 

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AITSL’s (n.d.) ‘The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration’ highlights a multitude of factors and issues that relate to collaboration. One of the key questions highlighted on the first page of the document asks: What support is provided to teachers to facilitate collaboration? In my experience, time is the most crucial. DeLuca, Bolden, & Chan (2017) identify this as a factory that impedes group collaboration and professional learning communities. Without being allocated and supported with time, I’ve found it difficult to be effective with collaboration. Teaching teams can easily fall into ruts where they’re ‘too busy’ to meet or one member of the group will do all the work.

 

Another question from AITSL’s (n.d.) asks: how is an effective culture of collaboration developed and maintained? Snow-Gerono (2005) also see this as vital, positing that it’s not enough to come together and collaborate, the practice must be reflected upon, analysed and criticised in order for it to be effective for those involved (p.254).  AITSL (2014) points out that “skills of collaboration are not necessarily automatic or natural but need to be practiced and refined” (p. 8). My experience with developing an ‘effective culture of collaboration’ is that it’s not something that people external to the group have focused upon. Other leaders in similar positions to mine have remarked that it’s something that they want to build, but not something they’ve developed a clear plan for. The barriers and enablers diagram highlighted on page 4 of the diagram effectively showcases both factors which can affect collaboration.

 

In terms of enablers or barriers, it seems as though school culture cultivates either poor or strong collaboration. Schools with poor school culture can often be filled with teachers hesitant to share, are characterised by a lack of enthusiasm or trust while schools with strong collaboration have a shared vision, high level of trust and collective teacher efficacy.

 

The publication suggests learning walks, professional learning communities, instructional rounds, peer observation and instructional coaching as activities relating or encouraging collaboration. My experience within PLCs is that their success is predicated on having support from leadership. This view is in line with Timperley (2011) opinion that strong leadership is crucial for the success of the professional development.

 

References

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Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014b). Disciplined Collaboration in Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/dcpl_summary_report.pdf?sfvrsn=59baec3c_0

 

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (n.d.) The Essential Guide to Professional Learning: Collaboration. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/the-essential-guide-to-professional-learning—collaborationce4a8891b1e86477b58fff00006709da.pdf?sfvrsn=86a2ec3c_0

 

DeLuca, C., Bolden, B., & Chan, J. (2017). Systemic professional learning through collaborative inquiry: Examining teachers’ perspectives. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67(Supplement C), 67–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.05.014

 

Timperley, H. (2011). Using student assessment for professional learning: focusing on students’ outcomes to identify teachers’ needs. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/research/timperleyassessment.pdf

Global trends in professional learning: Open

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Price (2013) identifies that “because information flows faster and more freely than ever, and because we are better connected than ever, the barriers to learning are being dismantled” (p. 6). This shift has resulted in a massive disruption within education. Courses from reputable universities are being offered free of charge to massive amounts of interested students. While Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) effectiveness can be debated, their potential is something that scholars must take note of.

 

The case study explored in this post “highlights a U.S. based provider whose platform supports teachers to get the best of the opportunities created by online and digital learning” (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2013, p.11). EduPlanet21 was created out of a need to extend conversations outside of professional development sessions where ideas and motivation often stagnated (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2013, p. 12).

 

Here’s a quick video that outlines it further.

 

 

The framework for the program is of four steps essentially consisting of a presentation, activity or stimulus reading material, collaboration with other users and reflection section. So essentially schools will purchase this program for staff and they’ll use it to track and encourage learning. Once a member, you’ll have access to a global resource with a vast number of educators to collaborate with.

 

An interesting aspect of this platform is the encouragement of rewards through monitoring staff’s progress and the potential for live video conferences with ‘virtual speakers’ (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2013, p. 13)

The case study notes:

While there is a cost for the platform – a necessary move in order to be able to pay the authors and content creators who work hard to communicate and present their ideas – EduPlanet21 is most definitely open to global collaboration and the creativity of users. (p. 13)

 

It seems as though the designers have stopped short of the “open” principles which they profess to embrace. Although no prices were listed on the EduPlanet21 website, it’s apparent that cost is a limiting factor to the use of this product. I’d advise a try before you buy senario. It the open and collaborative culture wasn’t flourishing when used, I’d advocate steering clear of it.

 

References

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Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2013). Six case studies of innovation in professional learning and performance and development. Retrieved from https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/case_studies_detailed.pdf?sfvrsn=2  

Price, D. (2013). Open: How we’ll work, live and learn in the future. Crux.

The Professional Learning Continuum

Module 3’s readings and stimulus material were well designed to help us consider our place on a professional learning continuum.  

 

Feiman-Nemser’s (2001) article explores her thoughts on the central tasks of learning as they relate to the stages of a teachers development. In this case, her work focuses on preservice, induction and early professional development. She explains that “the notion of ‘central tasks’ suggests that each phase in a continuum of teacher learning has a unique agenda shaped by the requirements of good teaching and by where teachers are in their professional development”(p.1014-1015)

The following table (included in the article) identifies these central tasks.

 

(Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p.1050)

 

Thinking about my own preservice teaching phase, I can definitely relate and think back to all the central tasks identified by Feiman-Nemser (2001). Despite these tasks being something that was considered, I’m not sure I can quantify the depth at which they were covered. Developing a repertoire was something focused on during practicum while the others were largely explored academically. The first task listed in the induction phase is arguably among the most important learning that needs to be done when you begin working at a new institution. Learning the context allows you to ‘get on the same page’ as colleagues, community, and students. A key difference here might be an extension of this context. What are your school’s expectations for assessment and reporting? How/when is feedback given? How do you operate the learning management system? The continuing professional development section is also characterised by tasks that are familiar to my experience in secondary education. It seems as though Feiman-Nemser (2001) central tasks are general and can incorporate a wide spectrum of the task. As this is the case, it’s difficult to generate further differences.

 

It is interesting to explore how different education systems provide for a continuum of professional learning.  This article looks at three successful education systems – Finland, Ontario and Singapore – and discusses the policies in place to create an effective educator workforce.

In a previous post, I described how I was from Canada and have since immigrated to Australia and have been teaching here for the past ten years. I’m always interested in exploring new education models and in this case, one from ‘back home.’

 

It’s incredible to hear of the diversity within their education system. 27% of students in Ontario were born outside Canada (Darling-Hammond, & Rothman, 2011, p.23). That statistic would lead me to believe that there ranges of abilities within a classroom could be more pronounced. On account of this, the education branch of the provincial government recognises that teachers are “the single most important factor in the improvement of student achievement, and teacher professional development as the single most important factor in the improvement of teacher quality” (Darling-Hammond, & Rothman, 2011, p.24). It seems as though high standards reflected in a rigorous induction program, appraisal and evaluation, and an encouragement to pursue continued education opportunities help improve their teachers quality.

 

References

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Darling-Hammond, L., & Rothman, R. (2011). Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High-Performing Education Systems. Alliance for Excellent Education and Stanford Centre for Opportunity Policy in Education. Retrieved from https://pasisahlberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Teacher-Leader-Effectiveness-Report-2011.pdf

 

Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001). From preparation to practice: Designing a continuum to strengthen and sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6), 1013-1055.

St. Joseph’s PLC Journey

 

 

In the nine years that I’ve been teaching at St. Joseph’s College, I’ve been part of some pretty fantastic learning communities.

 

Thinking about it, collectively, the school culture underwent a significant shift in my first year and emphasis was placed on us (teachers) as learners. A principal that arrived in the same year was chiefly responsible for this shift. 2010 marked the first inception of a PLC that I would participate in. While this version was not what I would call a highly effective rendition, we did work collaboratively to improve our practice. This was based on several prominent books within education. Teams would read sections of the book and have discussions and seek ways to implement it in our practice. While this was not as focused on specific student improvement using their data, anecdotally, we agreed that it was positive and brought with it some new metaphorical tools for our teacher tool bag.

Other versions of the PLC at St. Joseph’s have followed a process where a leadership member (part of the four-person team of Assistant Principals, House Leader or Learning Leaders) run the team of teachers with similar learning goals. These goals are based on the AITSL Standards and are driven by areas teachers would like to work on. It was in this version of the PLC where peer observation was implemented. This was either really embraced or feared by staff. As teachers refined this practise, generally speaking, the majority of staff seemed to gain a lot of insight from these discussions. 

More recently (2017), teachers have been given a list of topics and were asked to “sign up” for the one that most interests them. They were then able to refine a research question and collaborate while they undertook an inquiry process. Again, one of the school leaders was placed in charge of a group. This seemed to be one of the more successful versions of the PLC it created a rigid focus on this inquiry rather than being able to be distracted by the whims of other group members.

It also important to note that group dynamics seemed to play a factor. Vangrieken,  Meredith, Packer and Kyndt (2017) also identify this as a key when forming a PLC (p.57). When working with a group of motivated educators, the group was more likely to be productive. When working with educators that seemed to be disinterested or didn’t buy into the PLC, it seemed to have a larger impact on the group and impact the output negatively. In some PLC groups that I’ve observed it almost seemed like an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Philpott and Oates (2017) suggest that some group members might perceive the presence some form of leadership within the group as “surveillance by the group on behalf of authority” (p. 212). I wonder if this may fester into the negativity presented in the groups that I’ve observed.

I’m looking forward to helping shape what PLC version is in store for 2018.

 

References

 

Philpott, C., & Oates, C. (2017). Professional learning communities as drivers of educational change: The case of learning rounds. Journal of Educational Change, 18(2), 209–234. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-016-9278-4

Vangrieken, K., Meredith, C., Packer, T., & Kyndt, E. (2017). Teacher communities as a context for professional development: A systematic review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 47–59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.10.001

Reflections on Reflection

Photo by Wouter de Jong 

 

One of Module 2’s readings, Schon (1991) highlighted the importance of ‘reflection in practice.’ The powerful analogy of a baseball pitcher adjusting his tactics while in the game (p. 54), allowed me to reflect on how I adapt my lessons or actions while in the lesson.

One such example occurs when I’m delivering content. Are the students’ eyes glazing over? How long have I been speaking? Do I need to give them a break? Should I emphasise this more? By thinking about these factors (while actively teaching), I’m able to make the alterations necessary to be more effective when delivering content. Schon (1991) asserts that this reflection in action process “is central to the “art” by which practitioners sometimes deal well with situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and value conflict”(p.50). These mid-lesson alterations may help to improve the overall quality of the learning experience.

 

Reflection on learning, which Naylor and Bull (2000) simplify and define as “evaluation and learning after the actions have taken place”(p.57-58) is also equally important. One of my previous blog posts highlights a moment where I really began to adopt this practice in a more systematic way. As described in the post, Spillane “reinforced the importance of reflective time. He said ‘a high performing person’s mind grabs all the information it can and makes personal sense of it’ ” (Grant, 2015, para 4). This became the impetus for me implementing a ‘meeting with myself’ (as explained by Spillane) at the end of every teaching day to quickly document what worked well, the even better ifs and broader thoughts. This has helped me to not only keep a record of my successes but help me articulate problem issues so that I can systematically work towards fixing them.    

 

Without reflection in or on learning, little progress could be made in terms of professional development.

 

References

 

Grant, J. (2015). Off the Beaten Track [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/iteachilearn/2015/05/08/off-the-beaten-track/  

 

Nayler, J., & Bull, G. (2000). Teachers are supposed to teach not learn : exploring the need to support teachers’ professional growth. Change : Transformations in Education, 3(2), 53–65.

 

Schön, D. A. (1991). From technical rationality to reflection-in-action. In The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action (pp. 21-69). Aldershot : Ashgate Arena.

 

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