The Importance of Growth: Professional Learning at Garden International School | GIS Blog

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The Importance of Growth: Professional Learning at Garden International School | GIS Blog

Garden International School blog Professional Learning Cycle


Garden International School blog Professional Learning Development

At GIS we are committed to developing a professional learning culture where every teacher is given opportunity to grow and learn. Our Professional Learning Cycle is based on research that tells us, that to be effective professional learning it must allow autonomy and time, and it must have a sense of purpose: for this to happen effectively, professional learning at GIS needs to be built on a model of trust (Pink). As a result, to further develop the quality of our teachers and meet the strategic goals of the school we have developed a personalised programme of professional learning consisting of Personal Learning Time, in-house Professional Learning Courses, Strategic Focus Groups and Well-being sessions.

We know that improving the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom has the biggest impact on student learning. Our Professional Learning programme then is strongly focused on learning. Staff review themselves against the GIS Teaching Standards and set their own Professional Learning Goals. By identifying their own strengths and also areas they want to develop staff are encouraged to become reflective practitioners who are responsible for their own professional development. Through learning conversations with a colleague, staff are encouraged to review and reflect on the GIS Teaching Standards and create Individual Professional Learning Plans that drive their professional learning. The principles of collaboration, self-organisation, self-direction and regular reflection shape this process. By beginning with the end in mind, by responding to the needs of learners and explicitly identifying what change they want to see, the focus is kept on improving the quality of education we provide to all learners.

From the outset we recognised that teachers are at different points in their professional development and that a one size fits all model would not be able to meet the needs of all teachers in a large international school. Throughout the Professional Review and Learning Cycle, staff are given opportunity and supported to make their own learning choices. Our personalised Professional Learning Programme provides a detailed suite of collaborative and individual professional development opportunities that enables staff to learn strategies and master new techniques.

Central to this belief are Professional Learning Courses. Professional Learning Courses are designed around a needs analysis. With over 20 PLCs running each year, all staff are able to participate in a professional learning course aligned to their own personal learning goals. They are able to collaborate with others, engage with research and reflect on the impact of new strategies in a supportive and low risk atmosphere. The focus is on creating professional learning communities that allow school-based learning and greater pedagogical autonomy.

This level of autonomy and personalisation also helps the school to identify individual strengths and empower staff. The Professional Review and Learning Cycle enables the school to leverage the strengths of staff who lead these PLCs and further develop our teachers as future leaders.

Throughout the year, ongoing conversations for learning allow staff to discuss their personal learning goals, review progress and reflect on the impact of new strategies. Coaching conversations encourage staff to reflect on their progress and evaluate the impact on learning: both on their own professional learning and the learning of students. A key aspect to achieving this culture of growth, development and innovation is the need for staff to feel safe whilst trying new initiatives and taking risks. As an aspirational school, staff are encouraged to take risks and challenge themselves; but given support and opportunity to learn. Taking risks and not immediately achieving the desired outcome is expected. The real focus is on the critical reflection of new strategies which in turn, radically increases the success rate of future interventions.

Through quality professional learning and the constant application of professional judgement and reflection on their work in the classroom, teachers are in a process of moving towards a better version of their professional selves, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better (Williams) . By embedding a level of meaningful choice in our professional learning cycle staff gain real ownership of their professional development and responsibility for their own learning. As we move forwards, our focus now is to further evaluate the effectiveness of our professional learning programme and gather data to assess the impact on quality of teaching and learning.

GIS Professional Learning Cycle

Garden International School blog Professional Learning Cycle

Garden International School blog Professional Learning Afternoons

A school is only as good as the quality of its teachers. This rings true both empirically and through the research that has been conducted within the area of professional learning. The OECD states that all teachers should be receiving around 100 hours of professional development per year. That’s a lot. To help us to meet this target we created 2 hours every Friday (within the school day) of professional learning time for all of our teachers. We are now in our second year of Professional Learning Afternoons and we are starting to see a real impact.

This is GIS Learning Culture.

To download a copy of our iBook “Enjoy the Journey – Creating a Learning Culture at GIS” please click here. Kindly note that the link will only open from iOS device, provided the device has  iTunes U and iBook installed.

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