Right oh, so in the last post I shared some of the underpinning thinking behind an emerging approach to professional learning for staff. To quickly summarise, I would like professional learning to:
- is personalised (voice, choice, interests, passions, ownership…)
- incorporates ‘play’
- moves towards smaller self-directed groups
- mirrors what we want to see happening for our learners
- empowers teachers
- provides conditions for innovation and creativity
- aligns to our school vision.
As I started thinking about this more I started sketching out a diagram of where my thinking was headed. This is what shape it started taking.
I will attempt to explain what is going on.
- Central to the approach is the school vision & values. This drives everything we do.
- Stemming out from the vision are inquiry streams. These relate directly back to the vision and values. The streams are co-constructed by the staff and could be a new approach or idea they want to investigate further, an extension of one of our strategic goals, a passion or interest area, a hunch, known review area…
- Each stream has staff members who opt in to it. This group of teachers is currently referred to as a professional learning group (PLG). These are characterised by:
- being self chosen
- having their own budget with which they can spend as they decide (e.g. to release teachers, to engage outside expertise, going on school visits, purchasing professional texts)
- defining their own structure/approach (e.g. the roles within the group, responsibilities, protocols and expectations, professional inquiry model, where and when they meet)
- having a coach assigned to them to work 1-1 with each PLG member
- Each PLG develops a set of agreed upon expected outcomes. These clearly show how they see their inquiry impacting on the group, the members, and the learners, and will serve as a review & monitoring baseline for measuring the impact of the inquiry.
- It is anticipated that the members of the group will:
- be in control
- be active and engaged
- highly value the professional trust placed in them
- engage in rich professional dialogue.
- The coach assigned to the PLG will:
- respond to individual and group needs
- make links to vision and values, effective pedagogy
- promote deeper thought and reflection
- guide and scaffold thinking
- not be a subject expert
- be supported in their own development as a coach.
- The idea of flexible membership is explored. By this I mean the ability to be a member of more than one PLG, or the ability to drop out of one PLG and join another if you are no longer gaining anything from it.
- The time line for an inquiry stream is noted. At this stage this is deliberately open ended to remove any constraints of either having to start/finish within set dates. If a PLG is in the flow I want them just to keep to on inquiring to when the cycle has a natural end point.
That’s it in a nutshell. I have shared this concept with my own principal PLG, the leadership team, the staff and the Board. I have drawn it on the wall in my office so I can ponder more over the structure and implications.
In doing so what has emerged are ongoing thoughts re the place of the learner agency tool (described in Part 1) as a possible tool for supporting any measure of the impact of the streams.
When sharing the concept, there are plenty of questions thrown about and interestingly no matter what the audience the questions are the same. Some of these are shown in the image on the right. These have been great and have helped clarify how the whole approach could work.
Perhaps one of the biggest ah ha moments has been the perceptions of what leadership is all about in a school. I think that there is still a string voice that outlines how school leaders are all about managing and administration. I challenge this notion and see developing people to be the most effective they can be as the core job of a leader. Question 4 below is a reflection of this.
We are revisiting the concept as a whole staff in a couple of weeks. In the interim I have asked them to reflect and have a think re the following questions:
- What questions do you have?
- What fears do you have
- What development streams do you think there should be for next year?
- How does the concept of leadership being about coaching others first, rather than the more traditional role of admin and organisation?
- If you could design your own professional learning pathway, what would it look like? How would you spend your money?
The general feeling though is one of excitement and support. Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.