Having previously read a little bit about the idea of teacher learning communities in Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam, and subsequently read more here and elsewhere about collaborative models of professional development, a session led by @swhsleadership at the SSAT Leading Edge Annual Leadership Conference back in October was the final kick I needed in order to look at how we move forward with the idea.
The goal is to have ‘fully-fledged’ teacher learning communities (or whatever we end up calling them) in place for the end of the academic year, ready for them to form the backbone of our professional development programme next year (2016-17). The Professional Learning Projects was a way to collectively dip our toes in the water and get a sense of how they might work for us.
And so we started this evening’s INSET with a short briefing, all teaching staff together, to formally introduce the Professional Learning Projects…
Prior to the twilight, staff were given a brief sense of how the projects would work and were asked to express their top three preferences from a list of options:
The opening 5 minutes was then a chance to make sure all staff were clear on why we were doing this and what we were hoping it would achieve.
It was a good opportunity to make it clear to staff that this is intended as a move away from stand-alone INSET sessions (not an abandonment of the stand-alones, but a re-prioritisation!) towards a longer-term, ongoing model in which the expertise of our own staff is valued, a forum is provided for discussion and sharing of ideas, choice and support is provided for staff in terms of their own individual areas of interest, and staff are given chance to experiment, take risks and learn from it all. No small ambition!
The general process, irrespective of which particular project group staff opted for, will be similar:
- A reflection stage, involving pooling of ideas and consideration of some carefully selected reading/ research literature that group leaders had assembled beforehand
- Moving to action, forcing teachers to make their ideas and intentions more concrete. Staff were encouraged to focus on a small number of changes, spelling out specific changes in teaching practice and time-frame, identifying some aspect of their approach to pedagogy/ classroom practice that will be done differentely/ additionally/ less/ not at all.
- Planning for reflection/ review – what was effective? how do you know? what next?
Having had a number of staff express interest over the last couple of months in structured peer observations, this also presents an opportunity to make peer obs part of the development programme, possibly by using a peer observer to help identify impact.
From there, it was off into the project groups (ranging from 5 people up to 16 people) to get cracking… more to follow in the coming months!
The support materials for the individual project sessions looked like this…