Showing posts from August, 2014

Professional Learning Communities: What do I mean by a PLC?

PLCs have been around for years in a variety of guises, including Teacher Learning Communities in the Dylan Wiliam/Tapestry model.

As I understand them, PLCs aim to improve the learning of pupils through the professional learning of teachers.

Our implementation of PLCs at North Berwick High School has grown organically over a period of 18 months, and has been described both as "The Coaching Project" and "Coaching for Professional Enquiry".  We eventually settled on "Professional Learning Communities" when we realised that our model bore so many similarities to other implementations that it seemed pointless to hold on to our distinct name.

The North Berwick PLCs are groups of eight to ten teachers who have volunteered to participate.  They come together for 75 minute meetings six times per session, and participants engage in peer-observation, peer-coaching and collaborative professional enquiry throughout the year.  Each PLC is chaired by someone who has p…

Professional Learning Communities: Establishing Norms

This will be something like the tenth post in a series (if I ever write the previous nine!) about the work I have been doing to establish and support professional learning communities (PLCs) at North Berwick High School (NBHS).  It's a long story, which began 18 months ago with the growing realisation that the real work of professional learning looked more like personal growth than  "going on courses".

A potted version of the story so far...

I became very enthusiastic in 2013 about the potential for peer-coaching to support the professional growth of teachers.  This enthusiasm coincided with my temporary promotion to depute head, and my embarking on the Flexible Routes to Headship programme.  My FRH project became the development of PLCs supported by peer-coaching, initially in a pilot project of ten volunteers.  I failed to secure the permanent depute post, but continued to lead the pilot PLC as head of maths during the 13-14 session.  The pilot was deemed sufficiently …

Chaining down the goalposts

I discovered this week that all hockey goals in my authority are now padlocked in place by chains, following an unfortunate incident when someone climbed on top of one and it fell over on top of them, to their considerable injury. The PE teacher who told me this complained that the chains made it very awkward for them to move the goals, which they often want to do in order to use the playing area flexibly.

I don't know enough about this situation to comment on the wisdom of the decision to padlock the goals in place, but it struck me at the time that this institutional response is a great metaphor for the way that we, as individuals, respond to painful experiences in our lives.
When we experience pain, especially in response to the actions of others, we have a strong tendency to react internally by seeking to shield ourselves from further pain. Unfortunately, this defensive response also restricts our openness to receiving positive experiences in future.  In some small way we beco…

Joyce and Showers

In a post last year - Behaviour Management and Avalanches - I wrote about the failure of professional development activities to lead to actual changes in behaviour from teachers.  At the time I thought that I had stumbled upon something new.  It turns out, as usual, that I was just ignorant of the existing work in this area.

Joyce and Showers established, back in the 80s, that fewer than 10% of participants in staff development actually implemented new strategies in their classrooms.  But they found that with  peer-observation and peer-coaching this percentage increased to 90%!

This research is very reassuring to me, given that I am currently working with staff to set up professional learning communities in school, supported by peer-observation and peer-coaching.