When examining a few professional learning communities, I noticed that some had the three elements that Watson (2014) suggests a PLC should have: shared value and vision, learning, and a community (Watson, 2014). On the other hand, some communities were simply places for people to brag about their own work, or as Watson states, "episodic, decontextualized professional development conducted in isolation of practice" (Watson, 2014). Through my investigations, I was able to locate both types of communities described above.
I had been asked to join professional learning communities in other courses, but this time, I thought I would deliberately investigate professional learning communities that would relate to my own three domains of curriculum design. The first being the learner (learning to become a better teacher to reach my full potential as an educator), the second, the society and culture based/problem-based design. Lastly, the subject-based design. Below is a visual on how all of these come together and the specific learning communities that relate to each curriculum domain.
The Problem-based design:
Recently, our department has introduced “Teaching Circles” where faculty from our department can meet and discuss issues and learn from each other in an on-going basis. The idea is to have one person per meeting show other faculty something that could improve our teaching practices. The first meeting on February 4 was informative, however, I would have liked if we could have discussed on-going problems as a team, instead of a lecture on teaching practices. This is why I volunteered to be the next speaker on March 6. I hope to outline what I have learned in this course so far about curriculum design, but instead of acting as the expert, I wish to ask my colleagues, what we are struggling with in curriculum design from a planning, instruction, and assessment aspect. First, I will organize the members into groups to come up with one major problem with our current curriculum design and then the second part will be to discuss how we can start to address the problem from a planning, instruction and assessment level of curriculum planning. I will also ask my colleagues for their permission to share their responses for module 5.
The Learner-based design:
The goal of these professional learning communities are for self-improvement as an educator. I was able to locate many professional learning communities for teachers in higher education looking to connect and share information on Linkedin. Two that I have investigated so far are “International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association” and “The Teaching Professor”. I found that “The Teaching Professor” group had some interesting and helpful posts for educators, although it lacked a sense of community that the “International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association demonstrated. Here is a recent post on interdisciplinary learning that I responded to:
It seems there was a lot more interaction and discussion in this group instead of everyone just posting a digital billboard of their own work.
The Subject Based Design
The goal of joining these professional learning communities is to learn more about the subjects I currently teach (Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel). Specifically, I want to join these communities to learn what others struggle with and how educators can help. I found two communities through Facebook, “Let’s learn MS Excel and PowerPoint” and “Microsoft Excel Solution”. Just liked the LinkedIn I was worried that these communities would simply be spam pages, or personal, digital billboards for others sharing their work. The “Let’s learn MS Excel and PowerPoint” group was absolutely like this. This was a space for people to post their own work without interacting with others. The “Microsoft Excel Solution” group was different in that it was a place for people seeking help to solve a problem, and many users would jump in to offer help or advice. This is the type of community I would like to be a part of, one that is designed to help others and promote discussions.
I have learned through this experience that professional learning communities should be based on mutual learning experiences through discussion not a one-way lecture on what one person has to share with the group.
Watson, C. (2014). Effective professional learning communities? the possibilities for teachers as agents of change in schools. British Educational Research Journal, 40(1), 18-29. doi:10.1002/berj.3025