Professional Learning Communities

In recent times we have not had formal PLC’s within our school. We have had variations on the theme including this blog and at one point primary staff were traveling to Kadina to meet with other primary teachers from a variety of schools. We have teachers communicating with colleagues in other schools around their subject areas and the use of social media by some to broaden educational knowledge and understanding. What I feel we are missing is a time where R-12 PBAS staff get to more regularly discuss their professional responsibilities including programming, assessment, reporting and pedagogy.

My Proposal

The spark for this idea came from our student free day in week 8 term 3. Our morning session centred around our reporting proforma but also included some sharing about how teachers kept records of student learning and how we use this evidence to support our reporting to parents. When I initially organised this (which was Joelene’s great idea) I had asked for some staff to share how they went about this process. I thought that this session might go for 20 minutes or so but the discussion went for about an hour with some great sharing of practice.

My suggestion is that we continue this type of sharing and discussion into 2015 on a more formal basis. The idea being that twice a term we set aside time to discuss predetermined topics. A general invite would be put out to staff a week or two in advance to share with the aim that we have 3-4 staff organised to share practice. This will then hopefully lead to others sharing, as it did on the student free day or encourage discussion by the wider group on what had been shared.

Topics might include:

  • Using IT in the classroom
  • Behaviour management
  • Assessment
  • Making the classroom an inviting space
  • Using higher order thinking
  • Homework – Expectations, Value, How do you use it? Do you use it?
  • Connecting concepts to the real world
  • Providing different entry points to a topic or task
  • Connecting with parents
  • Different ways students present learning

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A number of responses to the Teaching and Learning Coordinator survey recently completed by staff said that this idea of sharing is powerful and should be something that is developed.

Some of the responses included:

More sharing of good practice (this has occurred at student free days/staff meetings). I believe this can be very powerful.

I find the times during staff meeting where we work on professional development collaboratively to be useful as I can compare what I’m doing with others.

I would like to have more sessions where staff can provide details of tasks, pedagogies, best practice. Being in the secondary department I often feel very removed from the other sections of the school and have really got a lot out of sessions like this. An example was the sharing of how staff keep records of student achievements and work samples.

As this process would involve a commitment from all PBAS staff I am asking for a response to this post firstly giving your opinion of the types topics you might like discussed and secondly would you support sharing your practice with others if approached?


9 thoughts on “Professional Learning Communities

  1. Not to forget Nick the perhaps ‘unintended’ benefits of PLC’s around improved staff morale, job satisfaction and sense of team. Common conversations, challenging each other to be on the ‘life-long learning journey’together was an exceptional sense I had during my time working with PLC’s. I get an understanding they work even better in smaller schools in that you have such strong existing relationships anyway.
    I certainly have very fond memories of my experiences involved with PLC’s. The best continuous on-going and enriching learning in 18 years of teaching.
    I read with interest the article in this Terms SAASSO magazine about Homework by David Knuckey. As you know Nick, I was a great fan of homework – now my kids have to do it…….. and I’m not teaching…….. maybe less so 🙂 that’s my Wednesday laugh for you. Good article though. Once again the leading countries (e.g. Finland) educational experiences are rarely reflected in what is done in Australian schools.
    Bring on PLC’s!

  2. Am I still allowed to comment??…… consider me the voice of a parent maybe??….

    • Of course your still welcome to comment Ed and thanks for your reflection on how important PLC’s were to you as a teacher. As for the HWK debate that’s a whole other issue. I read some good stuff every now and then about homework, its value (or not), the impact it has at home (mostly negative) and as importantly the impact it has on learning (positive/negative). But like I said maybe a post for another time.

    • Clearly it is time we got a new URL. The last thing we need is an out of touch parent who reads the SAASSO updates skewing our dialogue.

      Staff could consider joining the PLCs which operate in both Pirie and Kadina. There is no reason ‘we’ can’t keep any of the topics Nick lists on the agenda at staff meetings but join external PLCs for that deep, subject/interest specific work with like minded peers.

  3. I certainly agree with this plan. As a small school I am sure an outsider would assume that sharing ideas, best practice and just generally working together would be easy and happen without having to create formalised time for it to occur. Sadly this is not so, we all just get tied up with what we need to do in our own classes.

    Even within our small school environment there is a great diversity of skills, knowledge and attributes that should be shared. I am more than happy to devote some time to sharing and collaborating as I can see the benefits for my teaching – not only just in general teaching matters but also in terms of my own person motivation and job satisfaction.

  4. I agree with all of the above but- I think if we are serious about professional development we need to be allocating formal time to it during our work hours or it won’t be sustainable. I am not in favour of creating extra meeting time however I do believe that we need to examine the way we currently use our meeting times and communicate information as a collective staff. My proposal would be to allocate an 8am staff meeting on Mondays to discuss all the admin info that can not be communicated through the daybook. We could then devote the Wednesday pm meeting time to staff professional development. This can be organised by leadership/staff members or driven by PLCs or individual time. It must be relevant to school focuses, professional learning plans, goals must be established accounted for and all monitored through regular line management meetings.

    • Sorry Brooky I wasn’t clear when I said I propose we set aside time once or twice a term. I actually meant we allocate existing meeting times for this purpose, a mixture of team (R-6 and 7-12) whole staff meetings. Sometimes we could discuss a topic as an R-12 group while at other times we could be in our teams.

  5. I think PLC’s are a great idea and personally I have found them very rewarding to be a part of. As a group of professionals it is good practice to share what is working well (& what’s not).
    I think time set aside for discussion of the topics mentioned above would be really valuable.
    I also see value in Aaron’s suggestion of joining Pirie or Kadina….. Not for all discussions (some would be specific for sites), but sometimes it is extremely valuable to talk with people teaching the same subjects (or primary year levels).
    At my previous school there were PLC’s (discussions held at scheduled meeting times – as Nick has suggested) and a Learning Circle. The learning circle would meet once a term (after hours shared, meal and drinks) to discuss a particular topic/topics.
    I would certainly support PLC’s and the sharing that would result.

    • Thanks Joelene. I like the idea of the learning circles. It would be useful to hear how PLC’s worked at Jamestown and what we could take from your experience to improve our learning.

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