Thursday, September 9, 2010

Collaborative Professional Learning - part 2

Following on from my post last week on collaborative professional learning, and especially after receiving a comment from one of the co-authors of the book Becoming a Learning School that my post was based on, I returned to read the chapter and found out that I'd neglected 2 very important aspects of it:  the Where Are We Now section and the final reflection.  This post seeks to address those omissions.

The Where Are We Now section is right at the beginning of the chapter and it provides the opportunity to agree or disagree with various statements about how we are doing as a school:

  • Teachers work collaboratively on the routine tasks associated with teaching:  I agree with that as at my school there are opportunities every week for the grade level teams to meet 4 times together during the school day and again one day after school.  This is because all the students in the grade level go to either German or EAL 4 times a week at the same time.  What this means is that myself (as an ICTL teacher) and one of the learning support teachers are always available to meet with the team during at least one of their collaborative planning sessions as we have built this meeting time into our flexi schedules.  My observation during most of these meetings is that teachers are working together both on the routine tasks and on the collaborative planning process.
  • Teachers focus their professional development needs on the learning needs of their students:  I agree because this year certainly PD will be tied with our department and personal goals.  In addition there is the requirement from the IB for all teachers to be trained in the PYP.  Certainly I can say that personally I have attended workshops and conferences that have had a direct impact on the learning of my students.
  • Professional development involves teachers working in teams to improve teaching and student learning: I agree - there are grade level teams and subject leaders also meet together as a team.  During the past year we have focused on many things that will impact teaching and learning, for example which inquiry cycle we will use.
  • The majority of teacher professional development occurs at school:  I disagree - most of my professional development occurred outside of school - however last year I did run Techie Breakies to give PD to teachers at school.  There was also a large focus on having all the teachers who had not had PYP training attend a PYP workshop (outside of school).
  • Teachers meet multiple times per week in teams to learn, reflect and extend teaching and student learning - I agree as already mentioned above.  The question in my mind, again based on a previous post, is how much of this planning is true collaboration, and how much is coblaboration?  How much is a true creation of knowledge and how much is just a transmission of knowledge, cooperation and collegiality (what we did last year, what worked, what didn't etc).  In addition up to now we have had collaborative planning sessions for the whole primary school where all specialist teachers attend (though if they teach several different grade levels there are often clashes)
  • How could we benefit from collaborative professional learning?  I think in any school teachers will benefit from a being part of a culture of collaboration and learning together.  I think that teams will be strengthened by this and will start to work together for the good of the team rather than for the good of the individuals in those teams.
  • What barriers appear to stand in the way of our implementing collaborative professional learning?  Time is a major barrier and having all the teachers who are collaborating being given the time and space to work together.  Too often duties and extra curricular activities are standing in the way.  Some years previously (before I actually worked there) students at my school had an early release day which allowed the teachers more time to collaborate - this time disappeared when the students were given extra German lessons.  In a previous school where I worked, students had a late start one day a week, giving teachers the first hour of that day to work together and receive PD.  I think that was an even better idea than an early release day as teachers were fresh for their morning meetings, rather than feeling jaded at the end of the day.
  • What aspects of collaborative professional learning are we already implementing and what aspects need more attending?  I think staff need to feel more in control of their learning and the direction they are going.  I think there needs to be more emphasis given to making teachers feel safe and respected.  I think some teachers still feel very threatened in meetings if their opinion is very different from the rest of the team, and therefore they are less likely to contribute or to share.
  • What is one action we can take to strengthen our practice of collaborative professional learning and its results?  I think we could focus more on "just in time" professional development rather than "just in case".  I think we need to recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't work.  we are all at different stages on our learning journey - we need a differentiated approach too.
  • What attitudes and understanding or lack of, do we need to address to begin collaborative professional learning?  I would say that we should all be addressing the IB learner profile - we should work on being inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.

Photo Credit:  Warming your hands by Ecole Wind

1 comment:

  1. Maggie, you are so good about being reflective in everything you do. It is a quality I admire greatly and strive to emulate.
    I agree, time is such a hindrance to good PD. Crammed in at the end of the school day is less than ideal and generally leaves teachers frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed out. Early release days or late start days would be nice, especially on a regular basis that teachers could count on (one or two a year doesn't cut it!)