Professional Learning Teams

I think that we rely too much on the experts – they can’t do it all. I feel very strongly that the rest of us need to get together in little professional learning teams.

There is an interview on this topic in the Teacher Sourcebook/Fall 2007 ( with Anne Jolly. It is an interesting article in the light of the recent thread about research.

Talking about the growing importance of professional learning communities, Anne says:

“When a team starts out…[it] needs to look closely at whatever summative data is available on students…but as their work proceeds, teams should be looking more at … formative types of data – basically evidence of whether teaching and learning is changing for the better as a result of the team’s work. This might consist of customized classroom assessments, classroom observations, or videotapes of lessons. The process should become a real study of the art of teaching.”

I agree with Anne’s idea of what research should be, and I agree with her idea that it is through little groups of like-minded people working together that the new changes in education will occur.

Expressions like “evidence… of change for the better”, “classroom assessments”, “classroom observations”, “a study of the art of teaching” are encouraging to read, as opposed to the more traditional summative approach to research. At least in Rick Dufour’s community of learners, we are seeing a move away from pure data, toward small
groups of people working together, with less reliance on the experts and more on themselves, etc. Carmen and many others have spoken beautifully to this point in the last weeks.

Further, I think Anne is implying that these groups kind of have to want to be together, to take down their own affective filters, and roll up their sleeves and take some risks. Legislated meetings, forced collaborations such as those we find in inservices, aren’t working – we all know that. As someone said, “If I die, I hope it is during an inservice, – the transition between life and death will be more subtle.” Sorry I can’t site the source – I don’t remember it.

Anyway, maybe TPRS learning teams could work. The teams could talk less about the “what” of TPRS and more about the “how” and get in each other’s faces a little bit so we can experience that fear that is so common to all of us with the method, look each other in the eye, and grow to be better TPRS teachers.


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