So we started the teacher learning communities here at Godolphin in September 2016 and the reason was, we wanted a way, a forum to encourage people to discuss ideas about teaching and learning, but in a way that was open to any member of staff across the school, whether there was a academic deputy, all the way down to a beginning teacher or a NQT.
So we started off with three teacher learning communities, they’ve proved really popular and we now have five and they’re based on the model of Dylan Williams, who’s done a lot of work on teacher learning communities, specifically with assessment but we’ve sort of branched out to do things on assessment, metacognition, we’ve got something on vocabulary and scholarship and academic writing this year, thinking still so a lot of different focuses for our teacher learning communities.
So we will have half termly meetings, we will have some research to read and the thing I think I’ve really enjoyed is staying on top of research, you do your PGCE, you might do some more in your NQT year but quite quickly it’s hard to keep up with research and if you stop learning and you let that drop, you know, it’s very easy to get stuck in your ways and and just, you know, not learn yourself and I think it’s important as a teacher that you understand that every day is a learning day. Last year, I undertook the British Computer Society certificate of teaching computer science at a secondary level.
It did originate from the TLC and we’ve been exploring the EEF’s research into metacognition and that seemed like a very useful framework with some clear actions that I could pick up on and investigate further as part of my project so I was really trying to hone in on you know what aspects of metacognition could I try and bring more into my teaching in my classroom. Last year, I was on a teacher learning community - teaching for learning, it was called.
My role is not in the front of the classroom so it gave me a really excellent way to connect in with what’s really happening in classrooms and now this year, I’m leading one called Redefining teaching and learning with technology, so with this one, we’re looking to have interesting discussions about ways that we can take the technology we’ve got and use it to support the sort of metacognition strategies, retrieval practice and all the sorts of things that we spoke about in the TLC that I was on last year but then sort of in a more applied way with the technology.
Last year’s TLC was on assessment so with different teachers we tested out different methods and how to assess students so I used Nearpod, that’s how I got introduced to it, other teachers may have used multiple-choice questions and so that really helped out because we use different assessment methods during every lesson and then we all meet up we discuss the strengths and weaknesses and then we decided which ones fit most our personality and our lesson and that’s why I think most teachers that have attended a TLC then the following year attend either a similar one to the one they did or something new because they find it useful.
Every meeting now will be an article or someone will feed back from a conference or discussing a journal or a blog post, there’ll be something that’s outside of the school and then you can discuss that to see how it fits in with our school context and then people will go away and try something in between the meetings and then I’ll come back to the next meeting and feedback, so it’s more of a cycle of here’s some new things, here’s us discussing it and trying it and seeing whether that idea does work in our context.
Each meeting, everybody enters an action plan into a shared Google sheet and commits themself to applying what we’ve discussed in some way and by making this kind of public declaration in front of your peers that this is what I’m going to do and this is how I’m going to follow through with it and we’re going to talk about it next time I see you, it creates that, kind of you know, internal professional pride and pressure to follow through with it.
You want to contribute to the learning of others, you know, you want to contribute to not just student learning but teacher learning so it’s an incredibly effective tool and it’s a confidence-booster because there’s someone else there that you can say that went completely wrong and they’ll offer you support and say well I tried this, have you tried that? And that’s very helpful.
We have a staff meeting every year when all of the teacher learning communities feedback to the rest of staff body so that’s the way just I think it’s more to get conversations going in the staff body and if you get those conversations going than other people inspired to try something even though they might not be on that TLC.
I think peer support is essential for teaching and I think the more that you do together as a group you know you can really benefit from everybody else’s experiences so you’ll have a scientist, you have a linguist, you know, you’ll have a variety of people in that TLC and it’s amazing how many shared ideas you can get from science across to French, you know, that there’s a lot of mixed or good, kind of shared practice there, you know, it’s a very inspiring environment really.