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Professional Learning Groups - Waiuku Primary Reflective Summary

Professional Learning Groups - eCircles

What was important for us?

  • To establish small professional learning groups – PLGs (called eCircles) for the first time at WPS.
  • To offer teachers a choice and range of professional learning opportunities each term to suit their varied abilities and needs.
  • To establish a school-wide framework that allows staff to reflect upon their professional learning.

What did we do?

eCircle Professional Learning Groups

In 2011 we established Professional Learning Groups (PLGs), called eCircles. Each term we offered 4 choices of PLGs to staff. These were facilitated by an eLeader or the DP with responsibility for eLearning. The eCircles were scheduled 3 times each term, during timetabled staff meeting times, for an hour and a half each session.

Our choices for eCircles were based on a combination of eLeader strengths, staff identified needs. Choices were offered to staff via a Google Form along with a short abstract containing information about what would be investigated. Staff then elected a first and second choice of eCircle.

Topics/areas offered so far in 2011 have included:

  • ePortfolios
  • Developing an Inquiry Matrix for Higher Order Thinking
  • Developing a Personal Online Teacher Resource Wiki
  • Enhancing your Maths Programme with Mathletics
  • Sharing Learning Globally with your Class Blog
  • Making Numeracy Planning Work
  • Thinking Skills and Tools
  • Scaffolding Independent eLearner Students

eLeaders as Facilitators and Learners

At WPS we have 4 eLeaders as well as a DP with responsibility for eLearning. It was important when organising eCircles to ensure our eLeaders were not only leaders of professional learning but also given the opportunity to be a participant in a PLG. When scheduling and organising eCircles, we ensured that all 4 eLeaders had a term off from facilitating an eCircle. This allowed them a chance to further develop their own learning and be a participant in a PLG of their choice.

Reflection Model

Teachers were new to being asked to formally reflect. We know that taking the time to reflect on experiences means we get more from those experiences. It was therefore important for us to establish a school-wide reflective framework for use by all teachers in conjunction with our eCircles.

After research the simple “What?, So What?, Now What?” reflective model (based on the experiential learning cycle) was chosen. This, accompanied with several question stems, provided teachers with a school-wide framework for reflection.

A copy of our reflection model and question stems used is below:

—What happened?
—What did you observe/do?
—What were you trying to achieve?
—What issue is being addressed?

So What?
—Did you learn a new skill or clarify an interest?
—How is your experience different from what you expected?
—What more do you need to know about this?
—What have you learned about this?

Now What?
—How can you apply this learning?
—Now what can/will you do?
—What are you going to learn more about, related to this project or issue?
—What follow-up is needed to address any challenges or difficulties?
— What will be a goal in this area for the future?

What happened, as a result?

In Terms 1, 2 and 3 teachers chose a different eCircle area to develop over the 3 hour and a half learning sessions. Teachers worked in their elected eCircle groups to develop their strengths and skills in a different area each term. Confidence levels grew. Conversations between staff members were focused on professional learning and teachers enjoyed both learning from and challenging each other. In between eCircle meeting times, teachers worked on projects or activities resulting from their PLG.

eLeaders developed confidence as facilitators and worked to accommodate individual needs of staff at each eCircle session. Staff shared skills, helped each other willingly and problem solved, often taking leadership roles themselves within an eCircle group.

What have we learned?

Staff enjoyed the differentiation of professional learning opportunities and being able to choose or elect an eCircle option for the term. The variety of groups offered allowed for varying skills and needs of teachers. Scheduling the eCircles in pre-determined staff meeting times meant priority was given to teacher professional learning.

Ensuring staff selected a first and second choice of eCircle allowed for us to make sure PLNs were small and groups were not overcrowded. eLeaders enjoyed the opportunity to ‘take a term off’ facilitating and soley be a learner and a participant in an eCircle.

What are our next steps?

We will continue to offer a choice of rich professional learning each term via eCircles in 2012. Time in our meetings schedule will continue to be prioritized to ensure eCircles are timetabled to happen regularly each term.

We will continue to work with the strengths of our eLeaders and couple this with staff needs and future directions in eLearning when deciding on eCircle PLG content each term.

The “What?, So What?, Now What?” reflection model established this year will continue to be used and built apon in 2012 to ensure staff have a framework upon which to establish their goals and next steps for learning based on their eCircle area.

We look forward to building upon the successful model established this year and continuing to challenge our thinking.