Tags: CPD for NQTs | CPD for support staff | CPD Week | Mentoring

In this issue we explore ways of utilising PLTs to further the development opportunities in your school. We also take a close look at changes in the world of geography teaching and learning.

Quote of the Week “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can − there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”

− Sarah Caldwell

Practical Tips Professional Learning Teams

In order to improve the quality of teaching and learning on offer, schools need to have the capacity to ‘learn professionally’. This is usually undertaken on an individual basis through the effective management of professional and personal development, but it is also advantageous to take a collaborative approach in the form of professional learning teams (PLTs). The concept of PLTs is by no means new, but it’s useful to revisit in order to explore the ways in which they might be used, or made better use of. One fundamental question to explore as a school with regard to PLTs is: What can we do as a community to improve our professional learning? There is no single way to set up PLTs in schools. As usual, you should choose the way that will best serve the needs of your school (see below for useful further information on this). Typically, PLTs have a leader of learning who can direct the PLT strategically and systematically to ensure focus. This isn’t about generic development, but about specific targets and desired outcomes and roadmaps to achieving them. It’s about what, how, from where, and why questions, and the way in which a school responds to them through its goals, pedagogy and progress. Like anything in life, there is usually an element of chaos on the path to development, not least when setting up or enhancing collaborative professional learning. If this is something you want to explore in more depth in your school, these ideas may help as a springboard for your own solutions:

  • If you set up a PLT in your school, the key features for a greater chance of success are: keeping the team small enough to be workable (four or five members seem to work well); creating it to be inter-disciplinary and from every level of expertise/experience; having a clear research and development focus; meeting regularly.
  • Clearly identify the expectations of each member of the PLT. Make sure that these are agreed and shared.
  • Make sure that the PLT has a properly trained facilitator to support it. Alternatively, share the role of facilitation.
  • Keep meetings action orientated.
  • Make improvements in teaching and learning the general focus of the PLT.
  • Develop the habits of regular reflection and mutual support.
  • Carefully identify any training needs which might exist within the PLT.
  • Make sure that the work of any PLTs is made open and accessible to other members of staff.
  • Keep the work of PLTs fully embedded in the jobs they are designed to support. Their effectiveness is limited to the extent to which they draw from and give back to teaching and learning.
  • Above all else, always keep in mind your reason for learning, and for doing so as a team.

Find out more…

The National College for School Leadership document Professional Learning Teams: Building capacity for improving teaching and learning can be downloaded here

Over to you…

Do you use PLTs in your school? Do you have a success story you can tell us about?

Email us at info@teachingexpertise.com and we may feature you in a future issue of CPD Week.

Issues and Information Seismic shift in geography

Schools Minister Jim Knight MP recently announced an extension to the action plan designed to revitalise geography in schools, with the primary aim of increasing the numbers of pupils studying the subject. So-called ‘hard to teach’ topics (such as fieldwork, climate change and social cohesion) will, interestingly, be supported by interactive resources. Other initiatives within the plan include:

  • continued development and enhancement of the Geography Teaching Today website www.geographyteachingtoday.org.uk/ through targeted new resources, tutorials and CPD modules
  • local networks of support for primary and secondary teachers
  • expansion of the Geography Ambassadors programme to cover the whole country by 2011 − this involves graduate and professional geographers working with schools to demonstrate to pupils the importance and relevance of geography beyond the classroom;
  • targeting teachers and schools not yet engaged with the Action Plan to encourage them to participate and to join local networks − user guides for teachers not previously engaged will be included on the Geography Teaching Today website;
  • continuing development and expansion of the two professional recognition schemes − Chartered Geographer Teacher status and the Geography Quality Mark.

The new Key Stage 3 geography curriculum will start from September 2008 and promises to give teachers greater freedom to teach topical, contemporary and relevant issues like climate change and globalization, to engage pupils and encourage them to continue studying geography at GCSE and beyond. This flexibility to teach topical issues relevant to young people’s lives could increase the numbers choosing to specialize in geography and help to make more effective links with other curriculum subjects.

Find out more

You can find out more about the Action Plan for Geography from the Geographical Association here

The Royal Geographical Society here

Geography Teaching Today here

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.