EDS 111

The Professional Learning Community as the Driving Force for Professional Growth

ejournal 8 / module 3e

This week’s module emphasized how lifelong learning, SoTL, and being an active member of a professional learning community can improve teacher effectiveness and professionalism.

I think the most important component of professional growth discussed in this module is active membership in a professional learning community. Elements of lifelong learning and scholarship of teaching and learning are necessary for individuals comprising the learning community. However, continuous lifelong learning and employment of SoTL practices does not guarantee that a teacher is contributing to or involved in a professional learning community in a constructive manner.

In the discussion forum for Module 3e, I expressed some disappointment with my schools lack of a solidified and functional learning community. However, as an individual teacher, I have engaged in lifelong learning – both for the benefit of my career and to satiate personal interests and curiosity. The very fact that I am studying for my Professional Teaching Certification is evidence of my ongoing education. My choice to join the PTC program was in part due a desire to strengthen my own skills and qualifications in the classroom and also influenced by a government policy asking for evidence proving my ongoing professional development. Other ways I’ve continued my education include specific training to improve my ability to use the phonics program prescribed in my school’s curriculum. Although I, and probably many of my colleagues (I can’t be sure – we don’t talk about it!) are practicing, lifelong learners, the school as a whole is not benefitting from our experiences because they aren’t being discussed.

DuFour (2004) mentioned several barriers to a successful learning community, which included not giving teachers sufficient time to collaborate and work together. Another impediment to learning communities is the isolation of traditional teaching, in which an educator might feel possessive of ideas, materials, and strategies rather than wanting to share them for the greater good of the learning community.   Teachers who engage in lifelong learning cannot surmount these obstacles alone. There must be a community of sharing, collaborating, support, and accountability.

A pervasive emphasis on the educator as an individual rather than a team member is further seen in SoTL. While SoTL is commendable for its goal of addressing problematic or challenging issues in the classroom through critical review and enquiry, it focuses an individual teacher on his/her own individual classroom rather than promoting a more universal initiative within the grade level or school community. Like continuous, lifelong learning, a teacher’s engagement in SoTL is an independent venture is doesn’t foster a professional learning community without opportunities for teachers to share their values and ideas. School administrators must provide educators with ‘the autonomy, the opportunity, and the time to meet that they need to decide about improving teaching and learning.’ (Roberts, 2009). It is important to note that even with these opportunities in place, staff may feel resistant to opening up and will need time to develop trust and security before they are able to discuss, share, and collaborate in meaningful ways.

I believe fully committing to one’s role as a professional teacher requires letting go of the usual focus on individual teaching and prioritizing universal learning within the school community. A teacher who is part of a PLC is taking her individual knowledge, skills, learning experiences, and ideas and adding them to the collective expertise of the staff. Through collaboration and discussion, the group can transform and multiply the strengths of individual teachers to create a super power that can impact student learning with greater strength on a larger scale.

Center for Engaged Learning (Producer). (2013, August 16). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning vs. Scholarly Teaching [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eedxoj1CPnk

Costa, A. (2008). Teachers as continuous learners. Teachers Matter, 8-10.  PDF retrieved from http://www.escofcentralohio.org/Achievement/Documents/Teachers_as_Continuous_Learners.pdf

DuFour, R. (2004). What is a “Professional Learning Community?” Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6-11.  PDF retrieved from http://www.allthingsplc.info/files/uploads/DuFourWhatIsAProfessionalLearningCommunity.pdf

Haigh, N. (2010). The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning: A practical introduction and critique. Auckland, NZ.  PDF retrieved from https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/download/ng/file/group-4/the-scholarship-of-teaching–learning—a-practical-introduction-and-critique.pdf

Helterbran, V. R. (2005). Lifelong learning: A stratagem for new teachers. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 9(4), 250-254. Retrieved from http://rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/6jan3151z5.htm

Roberts, S. & Pruitt, E. Z. (2009). The Professional Learning Community: An overview (Chapter 1). In Schools as professional learning communities: Collaborative activities and strategies for professional development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, pp. 1-25.  PDF retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/27683_Roberts_Chapter_1.pdf

Soni, S. (2012). Lifelong learning – Education and training. FIG Working Week 2012, Rome, Italy.  PDF retrieved from https://www.fig.net/pub/fig2012/papers/ts05i/TS05I_soni_5945.pdf


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