In my last post I talked about cultivating a positive learning culture within your school as a foundation for a happy, upbeat, successful professional learning program. I also talked about the positive effects it can have on the learning environment for the students in terms of overall nature of the relationships between the student body and the staff, and the potential knock-on effect for your personnel.
Nothing I say from here on in is going to make much sense without laying down a roadmap for how to plan and categorise the learning that needs to take place for your staff. The framework I drew up for my old school had three tiers. It ended up being adopted by the entire K-12 cluster of 4 schools. Obviously an early childhood education unit is going to have vastly different immediate needs to a secondary mathematics department, so the model needed flexibility to cater to a wide range of curricular and pedagogical demands while unifying the broader environment under a set of common goals and ideals.
I’ve spoken before about the balance needed between whole school progress, individual growth, and the demands of the job, and that’s exactly what I’ve aimed to capture in this model.
The top layer moving downwards is the stuff that corresponds to broad, whole-school strategic goals that everyone shares responsibility for implementing. The middle layer moving laterally is to cultivate a collegiate learning spirit and cater to the needs of the different job profiles within your school. The bottom layer pushing upwards is to foster the notion of an idea-sharing community that can drive future direction within the school by equipping staff to pursue their own personal career interests and apply them within the context of the school.
In terms of priorities, I think the yellow arrow on the bottom should be tackled first, because it’s the one that has the strongest element of culture shift associated with it. It’s also the biggest jump into the deep end for a lot of teachers.
Personalised & Self-Directed
Chances are if you’ve been sent a link to this post by a friend you’ve already got the foundation of what you need to satisfy this one. Chances are that you’re the member of staff at your school who finds blog posts, online tools, resources, ideas and brilliant flashes of creativity or comic relief because you’re connected. If you’re anything like me you’re also the one who flashes a particularly vicious resentful face when you’re told in an offhand way that you have “too much time on your hands” when you try to share those resources with those co-workers responsible for your school’s astronomical photocopying expenditure.
This layer relies on your staff treating their teaching like a profession and a career – taking an active interest in something within their field, pursuing it, developing it, and sharing it. If I was setting up a new program in a school, I’d install a Twitter client on every staff machine, and put a screen in a shared staff area with a sample Twitter feed of interesting educational content. You’d initially need a couple of “champions” to start the ball rolling, and once again the role of leadership in driving this is paramount. Maybe I should blog that next.
Small Group & Job-Specific
The best learning happens hands-on, that goes without saying. It consolidates itself and proves its usefulness all in one fell swoop. If you’ve got a group of people all learning to do the same thing at the same time in slightly different spaces and ways, you’ve got some pretty powerful collaborative learning, troubleshooting, and focus happening.
Blogging for middle primary teachers, datalogging for the Science department, movie editing for English, wiki construction and management for Society and Environment, videoconferencing for teachers of languages… take it in whichever direction makes the most sense.
Formal & Schoolwide
This one should be a familiar approach. Everyone needs to know it because it’s a school priority.
Next time I’ll discuss the role of leadership at every level. What it looks like, what the demands and requirements are, and how to best leverage the role of leadership for increased uptake of the PL outcomes.