Introducing the PLC model and Action Research to our staff

If you’ve been following my endeavour with the implementation of the Performance and Development Framework at my school, you’ll know that staff development day at the beginning of this term was massive. I spent four full days preparing for the day, because I wanted it to be perfect – well, as close to perfect as possible when you’re working with 60 humans. I also wanted it to be fun, and I wanted the teachers at my school to know that their learning is important to me.

I decided right at the beginning of the year that I would introduce and nurture the Professional Learning Community framework for whole-school professional learning, and within that Action Research as the primary model of teacher learning. Introducing these two ideas to staff required them to develop an understanding and appreciation of the philosophy behind each one, as well as seeing each as having potential to improve student learning at our school. I wanted buy in, not compliance. It doesn’t make sense to have teachers seeing a PLC as another ‘thing’ they’re expected to do, although I know that’s probably how it might be seen for a while. I also had to help the majority of teachers engage with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers for the first time, and help them feel confident writing their first ever Performance and Development Plan! Massive!  OK, so below is a quick overview of how it all worked.

Before staff development day:

During term 2, I presented briefly on the PDPs and PLC to each faculty, and asked each teacher to use a scaling tool to self-assess themselves in relation to a range of GATS quality teaching practices. You can see the document here. Using this information, staff self-identified three GATS quality teaching practices they were interested in learning more about, and these three were sent to me. I created a Google Sheets document with all teachers’ names, and listed their three goals. Using this information, I created PLC teams. Each team has 2-4 members. The ideal size is 4 – most teams had 4 – however some only had two because only two people picked that GATS quality teaching practice! In the end we had teams focusing on: mentoring, assessment as learning, organisation skills, research skills, wellbeing, literacy, ICT integration, differentiation, critical thinking, connectedness and explicit quality criteria.

The next thing I did was find key articles and resources for each of the teams – this is part of the ‘discover’ stage of the Action Research cycle we’re using as the basis for our PDPs. Once I had all of the teams sorted, and knew which GATS quality teaching practices would be the focus for teachers this year, I bought a whole bunch of books from Hawker Brownlow related to them. I spent about half a day going through them and identifying a chapter or two of each book that gave teachers a theoretical understanding of their chosen GATS quality teaching practice – to be copied and given to each team on staff development day. Next, I found some great articles on PLCs and action research, to be shared with the staff also. Then I gathered together all of the essential documents teachers would need to help them feel confident with writing their PDP – this actually took me ages. It constantly surprises me how hard important policy documents are to find online – it’s almost like they don’t want us to find them! Some of these resources were photocopied and added to team folders for teachers to access on SDD, but most were put online on a Weebly, so they can access the stuff anywhere, anytime – you can use it for your staff too if you like:

To help teachers find their way to the website on SDD, I created little laminated QR code swing tags to hang on their water bottles – these were a hit with everyone, and it was cool to see them stoked with a new tech tool! I prepared a bunch of stuff using Canva before the day – team posters, a project outline for the day, and a project outline for the action research project, activity sheets, and team role name tags. I also spent about half a day creating my PPT presentation.

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On the day – morning session:

When staff came into the room on SDD, they had to find their team by looking at the names on the folders – this was such a bad idea, you can just imagine the confusion! Anyway, once they found their spot they sat with their team, and I marked the roll using ClassDojo, and showed them how I would be using it throughout the day to reward positive learning behaviours – they thought it was pretty awesome. The session began with a driving question (How can action research support the growth of our school’s PLC and consequently improve learning experiences and outcomes for students at MSC?) and a project outline:

SDD project outline 

I asked staff to quietly read through the project outline, and then identify what skills and knowledge they already had that they were bringing to the project, and what skills and knowledge they felt the still needed to know (in the form of questions). They then shared these with their team members, and went and posted their ideas to a big KWL table I had made out of butcher’s paper on the wall. I told them that the questions would be our learning goals for the day. I then spent some time very quickly going through my PPT slides about the following: School Excellent Framework, Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, Performance and Development Framework and Plans (with a focus on quality professional learning, evidence collection and observations as well as showing my own PDP as a model). At the end of this I did a quick quiz using Plickers – before I could do it I gave everyone a couple of minutes to construct their Plicker sticks using the printed off plicker, a paddlepop stick and bluetak. Well, the first couple of questions worked with Plickers and everyone was impressed, but sadly the old skool Internet Explorer didn’t want to play the game, so I had to abandon the quiz idea, lol.

We then watched this awesome video of Dylan Wiliam about professional learning and had a chat about what he had to say using the surprised/confirmed/challenged protocol. It was a very robust discussion! This led into me speaking briefly about PLCs, and getting everyone to pair up for an active reading activity. I used the ‘say something’ protocol I learnt at PBL World – everyone took out the PLC article, and at key points I had written the words ‘stop and say something’ which indicates that they must briefly discuss what they’ve read with their partner. This process repeats until the article is finished. We then came back together and discussed what surprised/confirmed/challenged their ideas about professional learning. It was cool. Next we did essentially the same thing, but with a focus on Action Research… once again everyone was really cool about it, and could see the benefits. What I like about both PLCs and Action Research is that it’s pretty much common sense, and often it is formalising things that happen on the fly at times, and acknowledges the need for time for us to spend time together as learners. You can see my PPT here:

On the day – middle session:

This session was spent working in PLC teams to complete the final dot point in the ‘discover’ stage of their SDD project – research strategies related to their chosen GATS quality teaching practice. (Remember, that this is their first PDP goal – the one aligned to our school’s ‘Our Learning Culture’ strategic direction from our school plan.) They also were to work as a team to complete the tasks outlined in the ‘create’ stage of the SDD project outline. To support them with this, I created a series of activity sheets (yes, I am a teacher, lol). Having teachers chose ‘roles’ in their teams really helped ensure everyone contributed meaningfully, I even made badges for them because, you know, I’m a geek. You can see the badges here:

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I spent this session running between classrooms, supporting the PLC teams – manic but awesome. You can see the activities the PLC teams did in this time below:

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On the day – afternoon session:

I think this was my most fun session, because it was where I got to stand back and marvel at the awesome of my colleagues! If you’ve looked at the SDD project outline, you’ll see at the ‘share’ stage that each team had to share their team action research project plan with the rest of the staff. They were given a template for this (see below), and butchers paper and textas. I didn’t want to have them present as PPTs, because no one wants to sit through 12-14 PPTs after lunch – kill me now! Instead, I stole another PBL World idea – the gallery walk! We used a hallway between classrooms as our ‘gallery’ and our ‘artworks’ were each team’s action research project plan on butcher’s paper – the presenter from each team stood in front of their butcher’s paper (which was blutacked) to the wall behind them. The rest of the teachers then had 20 minutes to walk through the gallery, and hear what the presenters had to say – they could go to whichever ones interested them, and some presenters repeated the presentation 4-5 times. There was such a buzz during this activity, I was almost in tears (because, yes, I’m a geek!).

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The very final activity of the day was a noisy one – the ever popular speed dating! Teachers were sat in two long rows, facing each other. One row went and took a Post-It from the ‘W’ column of the giant KWL table, and they had 30 seconds to answer it, or ask for an answer to it, from the person across from them – this process continued until we were back to the original partner. SO NOISY! SO FUN! My final question of the day was, ‘Does anyone have anything they still need to know?’ and there wasn’t anyone who did (or, at least who was bothered to ask with 10 minutes of the day to go, lol). So that’s it, really. That was our staff development day!

After SDD: 

Of course, the learning didn’t end there… they had all made awesome action research projects to do! During this term, PLC teams have been meeting, sharing their strategies they’ll be trying out with students, and making plans to observe their critical friends try out these new strategies. I’ve been receiving emails from teachers asking to attend courses with their PLC critical friends to help them with their PLC goals, and I’ve had teachers sharing their progress with me – so cool! By the end of this term, they will have completed their action research project, and they’ll be preparing to present their findings/learning to the whole staff in Week 3 of term 4. Phew! It’s a big change, but not. I know it’s not perfect, and I never expected it to be. I do know, that my colleagues have been awesome in embracing this new way of doing PL, and I have genuine optimism that our PLC will continue to grow and flourish in the coming months and years.


6 thoughts on “Introducing the PLC model and Action Research to our staff

  1. Wow – pretty amazing stuff Bianca. Inspiring. Certainly wish I could be a part of this sort of TPL. Enjoying reading of your progress and reflections

  2. Pingback: Introducing the PLC model and Action Research to our staff | Create Great Schools

  3. This looks amazing Bianca. I have been working my way through all of this material. Sounds like it was a great day. We are in a beginning phase at my school and you have provided me with lots of ideas and discussion points to help guide myself and a staff with a lot of people in relieving positions. Thankyou so much for sharing.

  4. Bianca, you are such an inspiration! I am yet to fathom how you fit all of this in with the demands of life and a teaching load (I eagerly read your post about balance!). What an engaging way to work with the PDF. I am starting this process at school in tomorrow’s executive – Thank you for being so generous with your ideas!

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