There has been quite a paradigm shift in regard to school wide professional development for teachers. The complexity of teaching and increasing accountability has moved professional development beyond the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Teachers are now in a duel role as teachers and learners of their own trade. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is one model that has evolved as a way of supporting this paradigm change.
We call our PLCs Collaborative Inquiry Groups at Pt England, but essentially they follow the same assumptions:
1. knowledge is situated in the day to day experiences of teachers and is best understood and reflected on with others who share that same experience.
2. active involvement in Collaborative Inquiry Groups will increase teachers professional knowledge and enhance student outcomes.
Vescio, Ross and Adams (2006)
The key here for me are the words 'active' and 'collaborative'.
Active involvement is a topic I shared with teachers in our end of term presentation (in a previous post). Just as we want active engaged learners in our classrooms, we need to be active in our own learning.
Proponents of collaborative learning claim that the active exchange of ideas within small groups not only increases interest among the participants but also promotes critical thinking.There is persuasive evidence that cooperative teams achieve at higher levels of thought and retain information longer than learners who work quietly as individuals. The shared learning gives learners an opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning, and thus become critical thinkers.
One factor that determines the efficiency of collaborative learning is the composition of the group. So far we have grouped teachers who have a similar inquiry focus (Term 1) then in similar student age levels or curriculum disciplines (Term 2). Feedback from teachers is that they prefer the mix across age levels and disciplines because they get to hear from colleagues from other syndicates, and groups are more heterogeneous.
So in Term 3 we are back to our first model;different viewpoints but within the boundaries of mutual inquiry interests.