At the heart of the matter, professional learning and professional development serves to improve student learning.  The process should focus on learning as well as teaching.

When teachers focus their learning on the learning of their students then real gains can be made.
 
Amazing Grades Educators involved in professional learning communities know that typically inquiry cycles begin and end with their students. Teaching is a highly interventionist and contextualized activity that requires teachers to respond to the diverse learning needs of their students by modifying their teaching methods and practices.
 
Highly competent teachers know that in order to meet the learning needs of their students they themselves need to be constantly learning. They continually question themselves with questions such as:

  1. What knowledge and skills do our students needs to meet their curricula, personal and social goal?
  2. What do students already know?
  3. What sources of evidence have we used and how adequate are they?
  4. What do they need to learn and do?
  5. How to we build on what they know?

So within a professional learning cycle the ‘team’ is motivated by a desire to know rather than in a traditional professional development model where somebody “the expert” has the desire to tell. There is a shift within professional learning communities from professional development to professional learning. The other shift that occurs in the building of social capital and well as intellectual capital. The pedagogical practices of the group collectively improves rather than just the capacity of individual teachers.

I have always found it difficult to identify my own professional learning needs because it is difficult to step outside my own frame of reference. We all see the world through the lens of our own experiences. A key feature of professional learning communities is the perspective these communities bring to the need to improve ones own skills and knowledge as identified through a focus on what the group is trying to achieve or understand.

The power of a well facilitated PLC lies in the scaffold of the inquiry cycle when they ask questions such as:” What skills and know do I need in order to meet the learning needs of my students?”.

In seeking the answer to this question teachers link their own learning to the successful learning of their students. This is a powerful tool for improving the quality of teaching individually and collectively.

image001David Hamlett’s career in Australian education spans 38 years where he has worked in several large urban and rural schools in Tasmania, Australian and in Canada. For the past 20 years his main interest has been on pedagogical development, school improvement and the school transformation needed to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

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