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Collegial teacher learning


Jeanette Duffy – Deputy Rector Teaching and Learning 

We’ve really tried to move to “no one is the expert.” The danger, I think, of having a leader is that often people look to them as the expert, and "you will tell me the answer". And probably, in our first couple of years of the professional learning groups, that’s where a lot of the groups sat. "You’re the expert, you tell me how to do it. You might model it for me, and I’ll go away and have a little bit of a go". Whereas now, really trying to say "Actually it’s about expertise within a group, knowledge and experience within a group". We all can comment on one another’s inquiries and critique and put, you know, be quite brave and put things out there. And it doesn’t matter that we’ve got a fourth year teacher leading a group that has the principal in it. That shouldn’t matter because we all bring our expertise to the group.

Serena Lawrence – TiC Drama 

I think facilitation is not about you being in charge and forcing the flow. It is about making people feel comfortable and sharing what it is that they’re bringing to the table. And we always come back to our philosophy in our group, which is “We’re in this together, we’re in the waka, as it were, together”. And so it’s not about me leading – it’s about me helping us all to grow and to learn together.

Peter Hicks – Co-HoD Science

If you’re not prepared – and we expect all our boys to be prepared for lessons – if you’re not prepared to learn, then things will go nowhere, and that’s really not good enough. So we’re trying to move ourselves on, you can’t stay in one place. That you got to try and make yourself better, so you’ve got to be prepared for that. 

Serena Lawrence – TiC Drama

The purpose of us coming to this PLG is that we become better practitioners in the classroom. That we take ownership over what it is that we’re doing, and we really examine “Are we doing the right thing for our students, and are we open to change and growing?”. So we discussed how it was that we would work together within that. 

Peter Jones – HoD Commerce

I think it’s probably better to actually have the professional learning groups actually inside the school. Where you can actually work with your colleagues, and bounce some ideas off them, and be a bit of a risk taker. Take some stuff into your classroom, give it a go, review it, ask the students how they feel. If it doesn’t work, go back and try something different and give that a go. 

Simon Fordyce – HoD English

What we did as part of our PLG is we took independent research topics, which we explored. And one of the things that struck me was that it was an absolutely brilliant way for us as professional colleagues to develop as teachers and also as leaders. And what I found was that, when I was reflecting on it at the end of last year as part of my appraisal, I realised that that was actually the process that I wanted to use as a HOD as well. I’ve got 10 other colleagues who have got huge expertise, and what I want to do is tap into that. And that’s very much the change for me as a professional learner and a professional leader, that I want to tap into that expertise that’s there, so that we’re all going to benefit rather than me just simply managing the department. 

Serena Lawrence – TiC Drama 

One of the things I think that really helps with making people all feel safe in that situation is that idea of the critical friend. I think that’s a really crucial part of the PLG process, is that you have someone that can sit alongside you and help you through any questions you have.

Simon Fordyce – HoD English

One bit of advice for a school sort of toying with the idea of doing it this way, I would say whatever it is you look at, whatever your research be, make it practical and useful for you as a teacher. Because if you don’t do that, you’re just wasting time – you’re doing it for the sake of doing it. Whereas if you say to yourself:"What is it I really want to know, what do I want to find out about my class, about my teaching practice, about my department?". Pick something that you know is of intrinsic value to yourself, and then anything else you do after that is just going to be a bonus.

Peter Jones – HoD Commerce

At the end of the day, we want the best outcomes we can for our students. We’re here for the students, and if we can learn ourselves and develop as teachers along the way, which assist our students to get better learning outcomes, then we’re doing our job.

Simon Fordyce – HoD English

That cycle of reflection – I mean this is our third year on it, and I think now as a school we’re starting to understand what that means. It’s not doing a big PhD on some really detailed topic – it’s just picking a little area that you want to explore and then just following it, and saying to yourself: “What is this showing me?”. And bringing it back and just keep going around in that inquiry cycle. And it’s an amazing form of PD, and it’s a brilliant way to bring the school, and the staff, and your department together.

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