In this month’s and next month’s column I’d like to suggest ten ideas as to how you might enhance the skills of your staff.
I’m suggesting these ideas in no particular order, and basing them on the assumption that there isn’t a teacher in the world who wouldn’t benefit from learning.
1. Whole staff professional learning. Still the most common form of professional learning in schools, but we must be mindful that it might not be the most impactful.
Whole staff approaches probably work best when a new idea, initiative or program is being introduced, but if it is the only form of PL in your school, I’d wager it’s not as beneficial as my next nine suggestions.
2. Individual professional learning. Most teachers have professional goals that are often aligned to their personal, departmental or school-wide goals. However, whilst these goals might be personal, it is often the case that professional learning time is taken up with whole-school stuff (as mentioned above).
3. Coaching. Coaching has gained a lot of traction recently. Done well, coaching allows all staff to reflect on their practice and articulate the next steps in their learning.
One of the most beneficial aspects of coaching is that it does not require a hierarchy to operate.
Often schools need senior staff to mentor younger staff, but a well run coaching program enables all staff to coach each other, and in doing this, creates a culture of learning and reflection across your school.
4. Peer observation. In my work I’m often surprised at the tension these two words create. I think many teachers imagine people coming in to their classrooms with clipboards and a judgemental eye.
But rather, and I mean this, I’m suggesting that colleagues “hang out” in other classrooms, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
Ideally, the teacher whose classroom it is might ask their colleague to watch for specific things; a new behaviour management technique, or how they use a new questioning strategy.
By asking for feedback the process is far more empowering for the teacher, particularly if it’s tied in with Ideas 2 and 3 above.
5. TeachMeets. TeachMeets are get-togethers of teachers who share their practice through seven-minute presentations.
They are a great way to connect, learn or get inspiration. You can usually find one in your area by doing a quick online search.
Next month I’ll share five more ideas…