What does effective professional learning look like?

Well we think we have some idea …

Have a look at the slideshow by clicking here 

Our regional cluster project on blended learning was firmly built on the development of communities of practice to enable teacher professional learning. Our model largely avoided the concept of professional development workshops run by so-called experts where teachers sit and work through a set programme. We believe in the teaching as inquiry model as outlined in the New Zealand curriculum where teachers are seen as learners and researchers. This was enabled through a close parternship with the Unversity of Canterbury and Professor Niki Davis whereby our teachers were enrolled in tailor made courses that closely linked with our own goals. The goal of this wasn’t to provide motivation for the participants, but to develop a process of certification and recognise that everyone would gain from a wider circle of expertise. The teachers’ current course is very open ended, flexible and project based. They are choosing to work in an area interests them, but also receiving support in their learning from a mentor (in the form of Niki). She acts as a very effetcive critical friend.

We have also built all teacher learning on collaboration and the development of communities of practice. By definition a community of practice is a group of people with a common interest who work together to improve their knowledge. The whole group of teachers (around 30) acts as a very effective community in itself, but now groups have developed within groups as teachers align themselves based on common projects.

Lastly, we have taken a blended approach to professional learning. So much of what the teachers do is done online through various asynchronous (Moodle, Mahara and google docs) and synchronous tools (video conferencing, Skype, Google Hangouts), but we also recognise the importance of face to face opportunities as well. So every year we have two retreats for all teachers and we fund opportunities for the various groups of teachers to meet when it suits them.

We have found this model of professional learning extremely effective in enabling teacher learning. In the end that is the key thing for us – teachers are learners and are capable of developing expertise provided they have the right levels of support. Often this comes down to the provision of dedicated time.

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