I can’t guarantee that this version will be as articulate as its predecessor, which sadly went AWOL in an uploading incident, but here goes…
I have a temporary contract with a primary school that has embraced the Professional Learning Community (PLC) philosophy of Eaker and Du Fours’. I’m part of the middle school; a collaborative team (PLT) of six teachers of (mainly) 11- 13 year olds. Recently, we were asked to comment about our experience working within a PLT, for the validation process. This is a three yearly cycle where schools are asked to reflect on and account for their practice and gain feedback from a panel of educators and administrators. Here is my contribution to the shared Goggle Doc we created:
I’m still within my first two years of teaching, after many years in human services and postgraduate education. I had not yet encountered PLCs or PLTs until I started a contract with Craigburn. The collaborative aspect of the PLT environment, concentrates our focus on learning as oppose to imparting knowledge through teaching. That emphasis on learning embraces staff as well as students, which for me, demonstrates a transparency and honesty beyond the stated philosophy. As educators within a learning community, then unless we are learners too, we are not full members of that community.
Working collaboratively means I have been able to embrace the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, knowing that experienced, knowledgeable and supportive colleagues are a question away. Someone always has the time to listen to my ideas and give feedback. My contributions have been accepted, both used in the original form and elaborated upon, which has grown my confidence as an early career teacher.
Within each classroom, students are encouraged to use initiative, adapt and personalise their learning experience. Our Inquiry learning is an example of this, where students choose their own question to work with. Kath Murdoch says “inquiry is about thinking, thinking in order to make meaning.” Were we not in a learning community, we would be talking about our meanings, not students’ understandings. Change does not happen when thinking stays the same. As with intervention, a student will not grow unless their learning opportunities are rich and offer the opportunity to extend current understandings and search for new ones. The CFATs (common formative assessment tasks) create this bespoke experience for each of our students. Likewise, as a learner, I have been able to extend and practice areas in which I have particular interest and have appreciated being able to share my enthusiasm with students.
My Example of our PLT in Action Term 2 intervention focus was in Literacy. We used data from Probe word recognition to provide each student with the appropriate level of comprehension task. This was then analysed to inform us:
- in which areas students needed more learning opportunities;
- which parts of comprehension we needed to focus on;
- which students needed what area.
Interestingly, we did not need to have a group focused on inference, because the data showed that the majority of students were meeting goals in this area. This was discussed and agreed to be the result of an earlier focus on inference. This enabled us to have:
- an extension group for students who had shown competence across all areas (we knew from the assessment that these students knew it);
- a group where students not meeting goals could be helped to progress towards the curriculum standards;
- targeted learning groups for evaluation, reorganisation and vocabulary.
Ongoing formative assessment enabled staff to tailor learning activities. My extension group chose their own classic novels and completed challenging tasks to demonstrate their learning across the areas of comprehension. They were able to present their learning to their individual classes, in a format of their choice. Students in other groups benefitted from others’ focus. Likewise, in our book groups, (collaborations between two sets of two classes), we have all been able to give the students opportunities to build on these skills within ‘micro’ learning communities.
I have been able to focus on high quality, targeted learning activities, because the learning areas are shared across the PLT; likewise so are resources and expertise. As a collaborative team, we can integrate and build on learning we can prove has happened and can continue to see progressing. Previously, in professionally, not geographically, isolated teaching posts, I realise I had to focus on what most students needed, as I could not have effectively addressed all levels of learning on my own. What a fantastic opportunity this has been. My own progress as a learner and educator has developed at a faster pace and in a more meaningful way than it possibly could have without the support of our PLT.