24 Professional learning communities

Rebecca Dooley

I wish there was a community of practice where you could talk to other educators who are experiencing similar challenges. The fact is, we’re time-poor, dispersed, and in many cases, we’re each other’s competition. To bridge that gap and focus on some of our big issues will be how we have our impact. Given the challenges in our sector, how can we create communities of practice for early years’ educators interested in multicultural education?

Professional learning communities

This activity involves teachers and educators regularly engaging in a ‘teacher meet up’ also known as a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) with teachers and educators in the local area. These meetings can be organised through school to school contact i.e. email or telephone. These ‘teacher meet ups’ will be in a formal setting hosted by a different school each time, making it fair for teachers from all areas taking into consideration the need for travel time. By being able to connect and reach out with other educators interested and teaching the same content allows for opportunity for every educator to express and share different ideas, knowledge, experiences and skills of various sectors.

To ensure that everyone is learning something new in the multicultural section of education a task for each ‘teacher meet up’ could be set for the school hosting the meet up, to find out information about a set multicultural aspect of education to then inform the rest of the educators at the meet up. That way, at each ‘meet up’ all teachers and educators are learning about multicultural education from a different perspective. To ensure that each ‘teacher meet up’ is a success some rules need to be outlined. First of all, before beginning these ‘teacher meet ups’ it is essential all teachers and educators involved develop and establish positive partnerships to ensure that everyone involved feels accepted, valued and respected. It would also be prudent to outline and identify a shared end goal – whether that be a topic of discussion (in this case multicultural education, or sharing ideas and knowledge about different culturally diverse backgrounds, and/or pedagogical strategies that have been successful for particular diverse needs), encouraging and giving each other positive feedback and constructive criticism which fellow teachers can then reflect on and implement into their future teaching practices. Also, it would be beneficial to have a host for the meeting to ensure that all needs are met, all topics of discussion are attended to, all questions are answered and most importantly ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard.

For quick tips on successful Communities of Practice please visit the link below:
https://learningforward.org/journal/december-2016-issue/6-key-features-of-a-successful-community-of-practice/

Rationale

Connecting with other educators within the same educational sector has many positive outcomes. A Global State of Digital Learning Survey was conducted and more than 30% of teachers and 50% of administrators state that teacher collaboration is of high priority for them (Davies, 2019). In schools, a professional learning community (PLC) incorporates collaboration, sharing and ongoing critical interrogation of teaching practices (in this respect, multicultural education) in line with professional teaching standards (Australian Institute for Teaching & School Leadership, n.d.).

Professional Learning Communities are designed to not only be a resource for teachers to communicate and connect with different teachers in the local area, but also to enhance the learning and pedagogical development of teachers so they can strive for further positive achievements and learning outcomes for all students. It is evident that, as the teachers have mentioned, they are time poor, however if teachers enter this experience with a positive and open mind, focusing on finding new information and providing their students with new knowledge and resources, they will be sure to find the time spent worthwhile. Another concern stated above is that some teachers may think of other teachers (and early educational settings) as competition. However, when the PLC is established equitably with the shared goal of improving multicultural education across the locality, this concern should be minimised. And whilst it is obvious that not all teachers are going to agree upon every practice, suggestion or decision, all teachers are encouraged to accept their differences and go into the PLC acknowledging the characteristics that ensure collaborative success; focus on the clear goal, provide a shared vision and allow time for reflective learning and teaching (Mattatall & Power, 2019).

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Gems and nuggets by Rebecca Dooley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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