Mary Ann Baxter and Kathy Paterson, teachers from Hamilton Girls' High School, describe how their staff developed as a professional learning community through incorporating the key competency – managing self, with e-learning and ICT.
Mary Ann Baxter:
In the time that Kathy and I have been in the school we’ve been part of developing a professional learning community further, I mean it was in the school but developing it probably more deliberately.
So there’s been a strong team cross-curricula that have worked together to advance e-learning, to talk over ideas, and to be quite forward thinking in what they’re doing.
Mary Ann Baxter:
We’ve got a philosophy within the school where we’re lifelong learners. So we’ve taken what’s in the curriculum and said it actually connects with all of us.
What’s really important for us is to look at what it means in terms of the curriculum, and then from a senior leadership and management area is to also look at such things as the structures which can either be, ensuring we can do what we want to do, or (which) can actually be restricting. And so things like building critical inquiry where our staff as a group have developed as a professional learning community.
So we decided to really explore key competencies, and we have taken managing self, and of course what could be better to then be bringing e-learning and ICT into it at the same time. So we’ve been able to use those, so the staff have actually been upskilling themselves with their ICT at the same time as they’ve actually been thinking a lot about managing self.
We work very much with this notion that we have professional conversations, and so our staff can choose whomever they want to work with.
They find another colleague, and really the main premise is that they have to come up with something they want to explore in their own practice, and the concept is around what difference – what positive difference – can we make for our girls learning with whatever we’re looking at.
Whether it’s questioning skills, (or) whether it’s looking at what we do around assessment.
One of the things this year when we were looking at our critical inquiry was also looking at the fact that we had the registered teacher criteria. And so we are saying to the staff we can run these together, they oughtn't to be separate things, because what we’re hoping is in terms of reporting our registered teacher criteria we will all set up our own e-portfolios, which of course as our staff have that confidence to do it themselves we then can see it will become much easier for them to feel they can be doing it with their girls.
Because one of the things we’ve learnt along the way is that we needed to take time to be learners ourselves.
We’ve seen huge growth in each and every one of the staff in terms of their buy-in to ICT and e-learning, and their ability to put it into practice in the classroom. So it’s no longer an add-on ‘when am I going to use it’, it’s ‘this is the best tool for the job’.
Mary Ann Baxter:
And so what we’ve come to is that we really want deep, rich learning. And you know that’s part of the dilemma we have when we start to look at the curriculum and how we’re working with it. And what is good is of course it doesn’t just have to be from us.
As we get more and more learning tools, and as we get more confident about managing self, what we’re seeing is that our girls, our staff can be doing it and we don’t need to be restricting it.