What does professional learning look like at your school? 

At my school, we’re moving towards creating a dedicated in-school hours time for professional learning. We know how essential ongoing teacher learning is, but we also know how valuable teacher time is, with a multitude of different tasks teachers are required to do each school day. Creating a dedicated PL time will allow opportunities for PLC team meetings, faculty-based PL, and whole-school PL on our school plan priorities of formative assessment, Project Based Learning and Differentiation. 

I never knew it before, but I’m a systems person. I’ve worked hard this year to develop an over-arching PL system based on the PLC model. (You can read about that in earlier blog posts.) I’ve spent a lot of time revising the school assessment and reporting policy, and I’ve created separate assessment booklets for years 7, 8 and 9. I’ve always been very aware of the powerful relationship between assessment and learning. After almost a year at an academic selective school, I’ve become even more conscious of the relationship between assessment and wellbeing – something particularly close to my heart, because of my own son’s difficult adjustment from primary school (with its deemphasis on grading) and high school (with its constant emphasis on grading). Finally, I worked with the HT English to write part of the school plan – Our Learning Culture – and develop a series of detailed milestones for the next three years. For each of these there’s an underlying structure which allows me to set goals for myself and others – super important when you’re trying to manage change in learning culture! 

Two big PL successes at my school this term have been PLC team learning, and Tech & Teas. This term each PLC team worked on their action research project based on their chosen quality teaching practice. After setting teams up with action research plans on SDD at the beginning of the term, each team went off to work together to research, implement, observe and reflect on the use of a specific teaching strategy. I’ve been really pleased with the way in which teachers have embraced this model and throughout the term had a lot of discussions with teachers about their learning. Next time we do this, I’ll make a time to meet with every PLC team to see how they’re going, and offer ongoing PL support. This round of PLC team action research projects I simply didn’t have enough time, with so many other priorities taking my time I was frustrated that I didn’t get to support teachers as much as they needed. Teams have their presentations to the whole staff next term in week 3, so I’m hoping they go well, but I understand if some don’t because they didn’t get the ongoing support they needed. Next time they will! 

Tech & Tea has been another success this term. Initially I ran Tech & Teas in term one at lunch times, and literally had zero attendees for many sessions. At the end of term two I asked teachers to identify their preferred time and ICT they’d like to focus on, and then made regular times each week to meet these needs. The most popular time was after sport on a Wednesday, with most teachers keen to learn about Google Apps, Edmodo, and online quizzes. To track teacher attendance, and to help teachers identify teaching standards met, I have created two Google Forms – one for teachers to RSVP, and one to reflect on their learning and select standards met. They keep a copy of both forms, which they use as their PDP evidence for their goals. Cool, huh? I’ve had about 20 different teachers attend over the term, with many of those attending two or more sessions. Casual teachers have been attending too – coming in even when they’re not teaching that day! It’s been nice to have teachers asking about Tech & Teas next term, how cool is that? 

Anyway, I think last term was a pretty epic term for teacher learning – oh yeah, I ran four sessions on faculty-based PBL last term, and one session on assessment as learning for another faculty, so MUCH learning! Next term will see me engaging with data collected during our Tell Them From Me survey, and student focus groups – students and parents need to be part of PL dialogue too. 

So, what does professional learning look like at your school? 

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3 thoughts on “What does professional learning look like at your school? 

  1. Hello Bianca,

    It sounds as though you have got the ball rolling pretty quickly at your new place of work. I know you mention a few ‘zero attendances’; however, you have achieved much in the three terms of this this year.

    I note that you write, “we’re moving towards creating a dedicated in-school hours time for professional learning. We know how essential ongoing teacher learning is, but we also know how valuable teacher time is, with a multitude of different tasks teachers are required to do each school day.” I couldn’t agree more. Time is precious!

    In most NSW secondary schools, there is a dedicated amount of hours required for the teaching of all Key Learning Areas (KLAs). For example, in Years 7 to 10 English, Maths, Science and HSIE, there is a minimum of 400 hours per subject. Why don’t we ‘flip the thinking’ about mandated hours in New South Wales? Why don’t we limit these subjects to the bare minimum 400 hours? Yes, LIMIT them!

    Let’s take the example of School “A”. At that school, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10. That is a surplus of 480 hours across the four subjects over four years; 120 hours per year, 30 hours a term, 3 hours per week. Just to give you an idea of what can be done with that time, Music/Visual Arts is allocated 240 hours over Year 7 & 8. LOTE is allocated 120 hours in Year 8. As per its timetable, that is 3 x 1 hours lessons per week for four years. WOW! What if the 120 hours, even half that time, could be better used for dedicated teacher professional learning? What if all that time could be registered PD? At the same time students could work on genius hour projects, collaborative PBL, outdoor maker spaces, or……….

    I know, I know….. people will say the students will be unsupervised. Well, students will always behave if they are given choice to pursue learning which interests them. We get by everyday on student teacher ratios which are minimal; it’s called recess and lunchtime. How can we use those ratios to have ‘learning during lunchtime’, a working lunch perhaps? I may not be making much sense, but it does not make sense to have PL seen as ‘the last thing in the day’ either.

    Regards
    Greg

  2. Bianca, what an epic year you’re having. Both PLCs and participatory action research have plenty of evidence of being effective professional learning. They are ongoing, immersive and collaborative.

    At my school, we’ve been (among our other PL work such as PLCs, action research, whole staff PD) implementing a model of coaching to improve teaching practice. A bit about it here and in other posts: https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/implementing-a-school-coaching-model/

    Also, when I spoke to adult learning guru Ellie Drago-Severson last year, she had some good tips for developing a culture of learning within a school, including lunchtime opt-in PL. https://theeduflaneuse.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/transformational-learning/

    Keep up your fantastic work! And please keep blogging about it. 🙂

    Deb

  3. Fantastic post, Bianca, and I love that your school plan involves a specific focus on teacher professional learning. I’ve been really interested in following the development of your work this year and grateful that you’ve been sharing it so willingly both on Twitter and here on your blog. We’ve been working hard to develop our culture of professional learning at my school too, and I think we’ve made great progress, but certainly don’t have as cohesive a framework as you do, which I really like as I’m a systems person too. Thanks for the ongoing inspirsation!

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