Monday, February 24, 2014

Collaborative Inquiry and Professional Learning

Professional learning is the catalyst for school improvement. An emphasis on learning reflects the reality that learning never stops and that the most vibrant and successful schools are those where everyone acts on the need to continue to improve. The most successful professional learning involves educators in more collaborative activities to examine their work and improve practice. Activities like book study, looking at student work, instructional rounds and collaborative work teams reflect these new norms. There is a growing recognition that when a school faculty comes together around a shared vision and a collective commitment to improved student learning, the results are meaningful and long lasting. 

Learning Forward, formerly the National Staff Development Council, recommends that professional learning focus on clear results and include activities that promote the growth and learning of teachers and administrators.  Activities should be based on standards, and they should be thoroughly woven into the job, rather than simply being an activity that is done as an “extra,” possibly outside of work hours or on staff development days. In other words, learning activities should be results driven, standards based and job embedded (NSDC, 2001).

Many schools use professional learning communities as a way to engage in professional learning.  A professional community of learners is a school where teachers and administration continuously seek to learn and grow professionally and then act on what they learn (Astuto, 1993; DuFour,, 2010). The goal is improve student learning by improving effectiveness and PLC's reflect these characteristics (Eaker, DuFour & DuFour, 2002; Hord & Sommers, 2008)
  • Collective Inquiry: Teachers and leaders work collaboratively to examine data about student learning and develop a plan to address students’ needs.
  • Results Orientation – There is clarity about outcomes with a “laser light” focus on achieving the desired results.
  • Supportive and Shared Leadership: Power and authority is shared by inviting teachers and families to provide input into decision making about improving student learning.
  • Action Orientation: There is a willingness to try new things and adopt a “whatever it takes” stance in support of student learning.
  • Focus on Continuous Improvement: Teachers and leaders recognize the value of routinely examining practice and making changes when appropriate. 

A post in a recent Education Week blog discussed collaborative inquiry as a way to nurture and develop teacher leadershipThe post makes a powerful case for collaborative inquiry as perhaps the most empowering feature of an effective learning community. I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with collaborative inquiry and PLC's.

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