Professional Learning Communities
By Louise Stoll, Ray Bolam, Agnes McMahon, Sally Thomas, Mike Wallace, Angela Greenwood and Kate Hawkey
Free, DfES Innovations Unit with the National College for School Leadership and the General Teaching Council. Download from www.standards.dfes.gov.ukinnovation-unitcollaboration or request print copy from DfES Publications, PO Box 5050, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham NG15 0DJ. Tel: 0845 6033360. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Quote reference DfES-0187-2006
Some schools are great to work in; others aren't. It's not so much the pupils or the building but whether they're the kind of places where people help each other develop that makes the difference. Such places are "professional learning communities" (PLCs), and research has shown that, as well as having a positive impact on staff morale and practice, they make a difference to pupils' engagement and learning.
No one would argue with the idea of schools developing as learning communities, but getting there is hard because it requires the culture to be changed. And here is where this clearly presented and well written pack of 16 documents is a godsend to professional development coordinators.
After activities that help deepen understanding of PLCs, the pack gives step-by-step suggestions on how to audit your school or organisation and plan its development; ideas for action; and suggestions on how to monitor and evaluate your PLC. Activities include reading short articles, auditing current practice, and sorting quotations that describe various characteristics of PLCs. Defining your school culture is a sensible place to start, and these materials suggest imaginative ways to do it, such as looking at what messages the entrance area conveys, asking pupils to take photos, and getting staff to think of metaphors for their learning community. How about a lava lamp with blobs of oil (departments) rising and falling?
There's a lot to draw on in this pack for professional development sessions using self-evaluation, reflective enquiry, dialogue, collaborative learning and problem solving. It offers an excellent, accessible, well thought through path of activities for school leaders who are developing their most important resource: their staff.
Sara Bubb lectures at the London Institute of Education. Her latest book, Helping Teachers Develop, pound;15.99, can be ordered through the TES bookshop.