Specialised Programmes to Strengthen Professional Learning Communities
Assisting leaders to break away from the Professional Development Cycle
We offer a range of tailored Professional Learning Programmes designed to meet the needs of the schools and centres we work with. We realise each school or centres’ context is unique. It means we work with a ‘best fit’ mindset. We take best practice but work with you to make it fit – to ensure effective outcomes for everyone.
People we work with are prepared to look outside the square. They are looking to do what is right – not necessarily what is comfortable.
These people are interested in developing themselves and their organisations. Often this interest centres on ‘change’ (both personal and organisational) and trying to clarify the dynamic and complex issues ‘change’ surfaces. We want to build a relationship with those who want focused organisations, who want positive staff, who value personal growth and learning and who strive to enhance student achievement. It means that we deal with real situations and we develop competence, confidence and commitment to excellence. It is on this basis that this information is been provided.
Because we understand the fields of Adult Learning and Development and Human Resource Management we have an obligation to ensure our programmes provide participants with a balanced diet of knowledge development, skills development and ability development.
To improve in anything we do as human beings (take a range of things like swimming, writing, running, public speaking, teaching, parenting and even leading) our ability to perform in each is inextricably linked to our Knowledge, our Skill level and our Ability. Human Resource practitioners refer to these as the KSAs.
A high quality professional learning programme must focus on developing all three areas if improved human performance is desired. Focussing on just one or even two will not lead to improved performance. All of our in-school development programmes have built into them, knowledge, and skill and ability development.
The ‘KSAs’ explained and how they impact on Professional Learning
To perform a task successfully a person requires knowledge to perform a task, skills to perform the task and ability to perform the task. In terms of leadership it is the same – leaders require all three.
Knowledge refers to what one needs to know – which is usually a relevant body of information. Traditionally, new knowledge is gained by attending conferences for example. However, attending a conference without developing additional skills or abilities does not improve leaders’ performances. The same applies to reading a book on leadership, or cycling or running marathons. Reading a book on how to lead, how to ride a bicycle or how to run marathons does not make you a better leader, cyclist or marathon runner. Gaining knowledge is an important part of improving but you still need skills to do all three well. Knowledge alone does not lead to improved human performance.
A skill is what someone currently is able to do. It is usually an observable competence to perform a learned act. Strictly speaking skills refer to a psychomotor act and are perfected over time and with practice. Skills are developed usually through coaching, modelling and vicarious experiences. As skills become more complex usually more strategic and planned professional learning needs to occur for skills to be developed. Just knowing the difference between being a manager and being a leader for example, does not make you good at either. The individual needs a range of skills to be effective. For example, a high performing leader may have developed a range of skills which makes them highly effective. These may include skills in classroom observation and being able to facilitate a range of professional conversations including feedback, courageous conversations, critical and reflective conversations and be able to move freely within professional conversations from discussion to dialogue. They should also be able to modify each type of conversation to take into account the career stage of each teacher they are working with. These skills take a lot of practice and cannot be improved by reading a book or attending a conference. It takes deliberate acts of practice and action.
Ability is one’s inherent capacity or potential to do something. Abilities tend to be developed overtime and with experience. A well known and often debated ability is mental ability – or intelligence. Skills tend to be task specific and tangible while abilities are more abstract and not obviously linked to a task. Skills are learnable but ability, being dependent on one’s innate capacity is believed to be relatively invariable and lasting, once developed. You can have leadership knowledge and skills but that is not enough. Leaders must have ability too.
To develop your organisation as a Professional Learning Community your teachers require knowledge, skills and abilities to support the development of this culture. After all your school’s culture is simply a conglomeration how your teachers transact daily between themselves, their leaders, their students and members of their community. If teachers don’t have the KSAs they won’t demonstrate the behaviours required to support the Professional learning environment you seek to develop. Deprive your teacher’s opportunities to develop these critical competencies and your school remains a Professional Development Community.
The types of skills teachers require will be a mixture of the following depending very much on what you wish to focus on as a first step to strengthening your school as a Professional Learning Community.
Depending on where you want to start – teachers will require all or a combination of the following skills:
- move professional conversations from discussion to dialogue;
- to ask profound reflective questions of others which challenge the beliefs and assumptions colleagues may have about their practice;
- to ask higher order (synthesis & evaluation) questions designed for adults rather than children, which require colleagues to pull apart their lessons to determine the answer;
- undertake Walk Throughs so that teachers can become fully informed and inquire into their practices and the practices of others before engaging in reflective dialogue;
- facilitate tailored professional reflective conversations for colleagues who are at differing levels of performance and at different stages of career;
- make conversations safe;
- keep colleagues in conversations when they feel unsafe;
- speak influentially – not brutally;
- encourage others to voice their thoughts;
- use a range of different communication styles to best meet the needs of each listener.