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Tool: Sustaining the work

Purpose of this tool: This tool will help you and your colleagues take stock of and build upon your efforts to develop a professional learning community that will support teachers’ and students’ learning.

How to use this tool:  This tool is best used during a meeting of your professional learning community. We recommend that individuals come to the meeting having read the list below of the characteristic of teachers’ professional learning communities. Discuss them and then use the Learning Community Analysis to identify the “best practices” and “on-going challenges” of the group.

Characteristic of teachers’ professional learning communities

Research on teacher and student learning suggests that the most effective teachers’ professional learning communities share the following characteristics:

  • Focus on student learning and well-being
  • Go beyond talk and emotional support
  • Support the exchange of multiple perspectives and informed dissent
  • Involve teachers in solving problems related to their practice
  • Help teachers develop a shared language, practices and tools for examining and improving teaching and learning
  • Examine multiple types of data on teaching and student learning
  • Involve teachers in identifying their learning needs and the process to meet those needs
  • Provide teachers opportunities to make explicit and discuss the beliefs about teaching, content and students that inform their practices

Learning Community Analysis

Having considered the characteristics of effective learning communities for teachers, work with your colleagues to reflect upon the following questions and statements:

Appointing a facilitator will keep the analysis focused and productive.

  1. Reflect on and write a short description of the “Best Practice” of your learning community.  Note what it is about the practice that makes it so successful. (5 minutes)
  2. Each member shares her or his “Best Practice” and the group discusses what makes the practice so successful. (10 – 15 minutes)
  3. The group compiles a list of “Best Practices” on a piece of chart paper. (5 minutes)
  4. The work begins again, but this time the focus is on “Challenges.” Each member reflects on and writes a short description of a key challenge the learning community faces and why it is important for the community to address it. Complete the same steps as above, ending with creating the list of challenges on a piece of chart paper. (20 minutes)
  5. The whole group reviews the two lists and discusses what was learned by the analysis and what the implications are for the learning community. (5 – 10 minutes)