Tool PDC-1: Challenges

For this tool you will need the following resources:

  • PDC-1 PowerPoint
  • Handout: Aims and values

download_powerpointThis tool will help the group identify any challenges to their effective working together that may need to be addressed. The general aims of mascil are first shared with the group before asking teachers individually to answer selected questions from an international survey that has been used in the study of teacher professional development. Responses to these questions then stimulate discussion about the aims and values of both the individual teachers and the group, from which any challenges to effective working together can be identified.

classFirstly, introduce the aims of mascil in developing professional learning communities.

Mascil teacher groups:

  • are collaborative;
  • meet regularly over a sustained period of time;
  • support members to inquire into classroom teaching practices;
  • reflect on their inquiry;
  • draw on the resources of the Mascil toolkit and classroom materials.

Then introduce the group to TALIS (the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey) which has been used to study the professional development of teachers in Europe. The survey asks teachers about their working conditions and the learning environments. It covers important themes such as initial teacher education and on-going professional development; what sort of appraisal and feedback teachers get; the school climate; school leadership; and teachers’ instructional beliefs and pedagogical practices.

Consider the dimensions that the survey uses to find out about professional learning communities and the questions used. A six-point scale (Never, less than once per year, once per year, 3-4 times per year, monthly, weekly) is used to answer each question.

In TALIS, teachers were asked the following questions that can be taken to reflect characteristics of a professional learning community.

Dimension Teachers are asked: how often do you do the following in this school?
Focus on learning  Ensure common standards in evaluations for assessing student progress.
Shared vision Attend staff meetings to discuss the vision and mission of the school.
Reflection Take part in professional learning activities (e.g. team supervision).
De-privatisation of practice Observe other teachers’ classes and provide feedback.
Collaborative activities

Exchange teaching materials with colleagues.

Teach jointly as a team in the same class.


Ask the group to work individually using the Handout: Aims and values to answer each question from the survey that was used to find out more about professional learning communities.


The TALIS questions reflect characteristics of a professional learning community that are important for mascil teacher groups. Bring the group together and ask them to share their responses to the questions. Ask the group to use their responses, together with the aims of mascil teacher groups, to consider what challenges there might be for the group in becoming an effective mascil teacher group that supports professional learning.

You may find the flowing result from TALIS useful in stimulating discussion: TALIS found that “in many countries, basic forms of co-operation among staff are common, but participation in reflective inquiry and de-privatisation, where teachers work together on the core of their professional activities are much less common.”

As a group, consider ways of overcoming the challenges that you have identified. Try to discuss and prioritise the most important challenges.

Before next time, think about these challenges and be ready to share your ideas about practical solutions.

You may also wish to find out more about TALIS and view the full teacher questionnaire at

You may find it useful to follow this tool with Tool PDC-2: Collaborating, which allows the group to further explore the underpinning principles that ensure teacher inquiry groups are effective in supporting professional learning.


OECD (2013) TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. Available from