Aim: To create a learning community where staff recognise themselves as learners, and to promote effective learning habits for both staff and students. To set up and sustain professional learning communities and explore their impact on teaching and learning.
Background: Student learning had been developed through the Building Learning Power (BLP) approach, which focused on the ‘how’ of learning and generating discussion around this. The focus of the project became teachers as learners, recognising that CPD should be redesigned to allow for teacher experimentation, coaching and reflection.
Year 1: A set of Staff Learning Enquiries, then Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) were set up. These groups researched aspects of classroom practice within a choice of themes: learning habits, literacy, numeracy, mindsets, visible thinking, routines, meta learning and coaching. Teachers designed their own driving questions within a theme to research (e.g. How can we encourage students to engage more actively with written feedback?). Staff were given dedicated meeting time, opportunities for peer observation and were required to gather evidence from student voice.
Year 2: In response to staff feedback, more individual projects were undertaken to give flexibility and the timing of PLCs were reconsidered. More time was given to sharing outcomes through the VLE, discussions in learning communities and a booklet that was published to share learning and good practice. Staff designed their own driving questions from one of the following themes: Strategic Learning, Flipped Learning, Literacy/Oracy and Assessment for Learning. New staff took part in Building Learning Habits activities rather than PLCs to give them a grounding to build from.
Year 3: In response to emerging priorities, the range of themes was widened beyond classroom learning and included Student Wellbeing and Rewards. Sessions were held for all staff where themes and good practice from the previous set of PLCs were shared.
Evidence: Student voice feedback, appraisal lesson observations, learning walks, staff feedback, Ofsted report (2014) and examination results.
Impact: Analysis showed that members of any PLC the year before were much more likely to show strength in that aspect of practice than the staff as a whole:
Other evidence of impact came from learning walks, for example, 73% of lessons during the Strategic Learning Walk had elements of strategic learning. Ofsted observed: “Teachers are encouraged to explore aspects of learning in groups and report back to their colleagues in order to share good practice... This creates an environment where all strive to improve their performance.”
Reflections: We have been pleased that colleagues have taken the idea of PLCs in the spirit it was offered. Their reports show the seriousness with which they have taken the development, and they have grown professionally as a result. It is now a fundamental part of our CPD offer.
Contact: Clare Berry, Deputy Head, firstname.lastname@example.org