Teacher Learning Communities

 

“The teacher is the most important influence on student achievement. Students who get the best teachers learn twice the rate of students taught by average teachers. Greater improvement in teacher quality can be obtained, at a lower cost, by investing in teacher learning. The research on learning shows that teacher learning communities provide the most effective process for teacher change.”
Wiliam, D, 2006
Teachers need to be knowledgeable in ever-changing contexts, ongoing professional learning simply must be part-in-parcel of their work (Wood, D, 2007). They need to be “a mechanism for development, knowledge building and implementation” (Aubusson, P, 2007). However there are difficulties in creating Teacher Learning Communities. The way in which teachers learn, and the way training is provided, constructs the relationship between the teacher and their knowledge of teaching (Wood, D, 2007). There formation is more complex than simply giving teachers a project or shared curriculum and asking them to work on it (Aubusson, P, 2007). Calderon, M (1999) agrees that ‘simply placing teachers in teams does not necessarily generate collegiality’. Leopp, F (1999) identifies that in order for a successful implementation of Teacher Learning Communities, teachers need to shift to constructionist teaching, developing skills to facilitate small group discussion and experiential learning.

Teacher Learning Communities have many opportunities for staff development in schools. Teacher Learning Communities offer opportunities for teachers to re-engage professionally with their profession through systematic observations, analysis of classroom practical and ongoing collegial dialogue (Wood, D, 2007). Teaching Learning Communities offer the opportunity for new teachers to bridge the gap between their inquiry orientated training to teaching (Meyer, T, 1998). Teacher Learning Communities offer the opportunity for increased curriculum integration within secondary school settings (Loepp, 1999) . Teacher Learning Communities offer the opportunity to link teachers across vast distances as well as within small communities of a school or group of schools, linking together via computer networks. (Laferriere, T, 2000) The alternative form of teacher development of Teacher Learning Communities is the establishment of critical friendships with other, more experienced, members of staff (Meyer, T, 1998)

At the heart of Woods, 2007, argument in Professional Learning Communities: Teachers, Knowledge, and Knowing, is a “vision of teachers not only as users of pedagogical knowledge, but also as creators, disseminators, and preservers of it”. Peter Aubusson (2007) offers us a model of teaching learning communities to achieve this vision that includes peer observation and action learning. These models have been successful in most schools promoting teacher development. Tom Meyer (1998) also offers us two successful model of teaching learning communities that shows the inclusion of new teachers in the communities is beneficial to all parties involved. Margarita Calderon (1999) also offers us some models that show excellent practice and some precautions that need to be considered. Therese Laferriere (2000) offers another different model using teacher learning communities across vast distances and in rural areas by linking up through computer networks.

The areas of greatest agreement, although mentioned the least, was the need for Teaching Learning Communities. Wiliam, D (2006), Woods, D (2007) and Aubusson, P (2007) agreed that teachers need to be knowledgeable and be in a position to examine and improve their practice and they all agree that Teacher Learning Communities are an excellent way to doing so.

Another area of agreement was in the difficulties that face anyone wanting to set up Teacher Learning Communities. Woods, D (2007) states that the relationship between a teacher and their training needs to be carefully constructed as it shapes their approach and attitude towards their teaching. Aubusson, P (2007) and Calderon, m (1999) develop this though further and point out that it isn’t just as simple as putting teachers into one room and getting them to work together. As Leopp, F (1999) points out that teachers need to shift to a more constructionist approach, developing small group discussion skills and experiential learning to suit Teacher Learning Communities.

The areas of least agreement within the abstracts are on how Teacher Learning Communities can develop teacher’s knowledge, understanding and practice. Woods, D (2007), Aubusson, P (2007) and Wiliam, D (2006) agree that Teacher Learning Communities are a path towards re-professionalising the profession of teaching. Whereas Meyer, T (1998 & 2002) argues that Teacher Learning Communities are best for integrating new teachers into the school system. Loepp, F (1999) argues that Teacher Learning Communities are the best way of improving or initiating integrated curriculums. Laferriere, T (2000) argues that Teacher Learning Communities work to improve teachers when they are in a rural location and unable to attend whole-school or national based training.

There are also five different models of Teacher Learning Communities offered. Aubusson, P (2007) offers a model that involves peer observation and action learning. Meyer, T (1998 & 2002) offers us two models where the inclusion of new teachers has been beneficial to all parties. Laferriere, T (2000) offers us a model that uses networked computers to bring teachers in rural locations together. Calderon, M (1999) also offers a different model that offers us precautions for future Teacher Learning Communities.

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