September 15, 2016
Why is professional learning so critical in the education field? As teachers, it is important to continue our own personal growth. This fosters a culture for learning and growing. Professional development is an opportunity to learn research-based practices that will have a positive impact on student learning. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, defines professional development as “an integral local strategy for building educator capacity to help students succeed with high academic standards. Just as important, the definition says professional development must be ‘sustained’, (not stand-alone, 1-day, and short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, [and] classroom focused.…” (Crow, 2015).
Professional learning and development opportunities can have a positive impact on teacher efficacy. A teacher’s sense of efficacy, or personal confidence, in his or her ability to impact student learning continues to be a topic of discussion around professional learning and research circles. Researcher John Hattie recently ranked Collective Teacher Efficacy as the number one factor positively influencing student learning and achievement (Donohoo, 2016). In other words, how confidently teachers, as part of a school staff, feel they can make a difference and have an educational impact for their students...truly matters.
Review of the research on teachers with a strong sense of efficacy describes teachers who:
- Tend to have strong planning and organization skills
- Are open to new strategies and willing to experiment with new methods to meet student needs.
- Are more persistent and resilient when they make errors; and
- Are less inclined to refer a difficult student for special education services. (Jerald, 2007)
One way to improve teacher efficacy is to develop Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), also known as Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s). PLC’s are groups of teachers that share and critically interrogate their practices in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, and growth-promoting way to mutually enhance teacher and student learning (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, and Thomas, 2006).
3 Timely Tips
1. Ensuring That Students Learn
Schools that are successful (defined as schools that are accredited, have high student engagement and high graduation rates) have proven that shifting from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning has significant impact. Successful PLC’s continually explore the following questions:
- What do we want each student to learn?
- How will we know when each student has learned it?
- How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
2. A Culture of Collaboration
Educators building a PLC recognize they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture (DuFour, 2004). Successful collaboration includes the following:
- Analyzing data to improve classroom practice
- Engaging in ongoing questions to promote deep team learning
3. A Focus on Results
Every teacher team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing a goal to improve the current level, working together to achieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress (DuFour, 2004). Formative assessments are an effective way for teachers to identify how their students are performing on any given skill or concept. The following resource offers several strategies for creating effective formative assessments. For more information about formative assessments, visit the VDOE website.
2 Teaching Tools
1. Teacher collaboration and sharing are hallmarks of effective PLC’s. Visit All Things PLC to explore a variety of tools and resources useful in establishing or strengthening existing PLC’s.
2. This assessment helps determine school readiness to establish and support effective PLC’s.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers
is the chance to work hard
at work worth doing."
26th US president
Crow, T. (2015, December 10). Learning Forward - Professional Learning for Student Results. Retrieved August 29, 2016, from http://www.learningforward.org/
Donohoo, J. (2016, July 13). Corwin Connect. Retrieved September 9, 2016, from www.corwin-connect.com/
DuFour, R. (n.d.). What Is a Professional Learning Community? Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may04/vol61/num08/What-Is-a-Professional-Learning-Community¢.aspx
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning.
Jerald, C. D. (2007). Believing and achieving. Washington, D.C.: Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement.
Protheroe, Nancy. (2008, May/June) Teacher Efficacy. Retrieved September 9, 2016 from https://www.naesp.org/resources/1/Pdfs/Teacher_Efficacy_What_is_it_and_Does_it_Matter.pdf
Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., and Thomas, S. (2006). Professional Learning Communities: A Review of the Literature (PDF). Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258.
Vega, V. (2015, November 1). Edutopia. Retrieved August 29, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/