Looking at what members of the working groups said about their experiences, and in the light of what we've read about Professional Learning Communities, there appears to be value in what we did through the working groups in at least 3 ways:
1. Nurturing a professional community
Our role as outsiders, but not as 'experts', seemed to be important here:
"So we'll say, 'This is our problem', and they'll come back and say, 'Well is... could this be a possible way of doing it?', and then we'll work with them to adapt that. And then you'll sort of reflect on that. So you'll come back at the next meeting, and you'll say, 'How did that go? What worked well? What could be improved on?' So there's kind of a constant dialogue in between sessions"
"The project has been really sort of democratic. It's kind of like a two-way street."
"There was never a sort of promise that there would be... they would have answers and that, that wasn’t the premise on which we did it. They were quite keen for us to bring our own angle, and our own understanding of what Critical Reading was and is and writing. And then, share those and compare and contrast them"
2. Developing individual teachers
Our interest in coming into teachers' classrooms seemed to be important here:
"All professions or institutions can be really sort of closed worlds. Having somebody who's there to either come in to watch what you're doing, or to like give you some feedback on how it's gone, or to model something, you know, actually gives you the confidence to try those things out yourself as well."
"So it's actually made me, not only try things in class, but then try and ask them how did they... the students feel about it."
"Almost forcing me to see it from the students perspective a lot more and how, what I am asking them to do in terms of reading or writing, or analyse a source which you sort of take for granted and you realise well I can do it. It has made me think about actually, it is not as easy for them
"I've never done anything that's had as much improvement in terms of my teaching practice, and the impact that I've seen with students in the classroom."
3. Improving students' learning- confidence, motivation, performance
Obviously not in anyway robust measures of impact, but positive indicators nonetheless...
"I had a revision class yesterday, you know students are bringing up spontaneously some of the stuff that I'd brought in, and saying, 'Oh, I want more of that'.
"The perception was it was a weaker A2 Lang and Lit group, and they did better on the particular question, where we brought in the critical stuff.‘compared to last year I can see their working this material in much much more than they were previously."
"What you could find them doing was picking up a book, you know, themselves, knowing where to read it, being able to read much more quickly, and much more critically."
"They were achieving above their target grades, the majority of the class, which is something that they hadn't done in previous years."
"I don’t know what the exam results are going to be like, but certainly in terms of lessons and what students could produce in lessons, there were definite improvements."
For a very good overview of Professional Learning Communities (and pointers to where stronger evidence is needed) see:
Vicki Vescio, Dorene Ross, Alyson Adams (2008) A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 24 pp 80-91