Thursday, August 3, 2017

How Professional Learning Communities Can Innovate Through Inquiry

Professional Learning Communities -- or PLCs -- are structures through which teacher teams collaboratively learn and work to improve practice and increase student achievement. While we use the term "PLC" in our district, it's not the name but the teamwork that defines us.

When school starts in a few weeks, FHPS teachers will be re-engaging in our inquiry cycle:

Across our district, all teacher teams formally began using this inquiry cycle during 2016-17, although many had already used some variation in prior years.

So, how does this work lead to innovation? Here are a few excerpts from the research of Timperley, Kaser & Halbert (A Framework for Transforming Learning in Schools: Innovation and the Spiral of Inquiry, 2014):

"Although reformers like to argue the relative merits of improvement, innovation and accountability, these distinctions are not relevant to practitioners struggling to make learning more engaging at this moment in their particular context."
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"What works in one setting does not always work in another. There are nearly always competing demands -- creativity or strong basic skills -- sometimes set up as dichotomies when they are best integrated because both are important. This is why we are inviting educators to engage in a process of systematic and disciplined inquiry that results in real changes to practice that helps address these challenges. As educators we all want to engage with ideas and work that makes a big difference."
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"[A]s teachers become more confident with the inquiry process, and with co-creating their own learning, they become increasingly curious about other strategies and approaches to meet the needs of their learners more effectively. From new learning comes new action -- and innovative practices begin to multiply."

As we begin year two as a collective whole, the experience and confidence of each of our PLCs within the inquiry cycle continues to grow. And, as our teachers progress with exploring the impact of changes in practice on student learning, their collective expertise and successive iterations will lead to more and more innovative practices that are real and contextualized for learners. As the authors note, once educators "experience the power of inquiry to change their learning environments and make education a more rewarding experience, it is impossible to stop. Inquiry is not a 'project', an 'initiative' or an 'innovation' but a professional way of being."

Join the conversation...
How has the inquiry cycle led to innovative practices in your teacher team?

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