Tool PDA-2: Coordinating a professional learning community

The Mascil professional development toolkit has been specifically designed to support teacher groups that can be quite ‘self-directing’ in the way that they work. That is, the agenda of the group, over the times that they meet, can emerge from the experiences and interests of the group members. It may be, for example, that one group initially wants to consider how best to connect learning with the world of work in some way and when doing so decide that they would like to explore some issues in relation to IBL. A different group, on the other hand, may decide that the main focus at the outset should be on IBL before later considering connecting learning to the world of work. As coordinator of a group operating in this way it is important that you do provide some leadership but equally you need to be sensitive to the emerging needs of individual teachers and the group as a whole.

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When you start working with a teacher group the following approach is recommended:

  1. Consider using the Tool PDB-1: Using the resources to meet professional needs as a starting point to facilitate discussion about the professional needs that arise from the local or national context in which the group are working. This will help establish some initial priorities and shared aims. In this tool the group are introduced to the cycle of inquiry and consider how this might work for them as a group before exploring particular aspects of working together in more detail in the later tools.
  2. You can then discuss with them the questions raised in the issue Working as a teacher group. There are three questions and four tools provided here that will help the group consider their individual expectations and possible challenges in working together. The group will explore some of the important issues in relation to working effectively as a supportive community that is comfortable with trying out new approaches in the classroom and willing to share both their successes and failures.
  3. You will also need to think about the practicalities of organising the group and their meetings. There may be decisions about arrangements that need to be discussed and made collaboratively by the group, or you may have already decided on the details such as the location, dates and times of meetings. In this case these decisions need communicating carefully to the group. Tool PDD-1:Group organisation will support you with these important aspects of coordinating a teacher group.
  4. You should also consider issues that relate to the use of teacher inquiry in developing professional practice. These are fundamental to the Mascil concept of professional development and Tool PDE-1: The inquiry cycle will support you in working with teachers to develop this inquiry approach.

Having considered these important “Ways of working” issues you may then get started confident that the group has a good understanding of the process of professional development that is being used.

You are then recommended to explore issues in relation to Inquiry and IBL pedagogies before thinking in detail about connecting to the world of work. However, the two domains are strongly linked and the world of work will soon become apparent in some of the tasks that teachers are asked to engage with when thinking about inquiry learning.