How healthy is your school's professional learning culture?

Posted by Rosie Neill on February 10, 2017

Developing a culture takes time and effort. It can't be imposed or imported overnight. That being said, there are things that school leaders can do to create an environment where teachers want to learn. 

Make your school a place where positive professional learning can flourish. Get started by reflecting on the following 7 questions.

1. Does your school have a shared vision? 

Is everyone working towards a common goal that's learner-focused? What is this goal? Can you articulate it? Once you have this, your teachers will be able to develop individual goals for their professional learning that will contribute to achieving your school's shared vision. Only then will you be able to work towards whole school improvement.

2. Do you know what type of culture you want? 

This should link to your shared vision; you want a culture that will help you achieve your vision. So, have a think about the type of culture that you need to achieve your vision 1) in your classrooms and 2) for your professional learning. These should be consistent and enhance one another. So if you want teachers to take informed risks in their professional learning, arguably this should also be allowed to happen in the classroom. 

3. Is your professional learning ongoing?

Research has proven that one-off training opportunities do not have significant impact on teaching and learning. The presentation of new theory needs to be blended with other learning opportunities, including reflection, observation, feedback and collaborative learning. This means that the most effective CPD is job-embedded and ongoing. Can you say this about your school's professional learning? positive professional learning culture

4. Is your professional learning research-informed?

Is your professional learning driven by a mixture of evidence from the classroom and academic research? How do you know that the activities you're doing are going to help you make sustainable improvements to teaching and learning? You can read about the research into effective professional development here.

5. What do your professional learning project groups look like?

Are they hierarchical? Or small and peer led? For project groups to be as effective as possible, established hierarchies might not work. The most suitable leader is not necessarily the most senior. Are your groups organised with this in mind or do members tend to adopt the same roles they always do?

6. Are teachers empowered?

Do teachers feel in control of their own professional learning? Do they feel able to take informed risks without fear of judgement or failure? Just asking teachers how they feel might not be the best way for you to establish this. There's a chance that they could tell you whatever they think you want to hear. You may like to consider an anonymous survey to try and dig a bit deeper. 

7. Do you share challenges and celebrate success?

Are teachers aware of each other's accomplishments? Big or small. You might also like to consider how you can involve the wider community by sharing developments and achievements with parents, governors and local schools. Tools for communicating these could include social media and using secure video as a powerful collaborative tool.

Is there anything else you'd include in this list? How do you reflect on your school's professional learning culture? Let us know in the comments section.

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guide to creating a positive professional learning culture