01 SES 03 A, Evaluating Professional Development
The idea that the primary goal of assessment might be to promote students’ learning emerges worldwide (e.g. Wyatt-Smith, Klenowski, & Colbert, 2014). Furthermore, assessment data can also be used to develop and improve teaching, which means to promote teachers‘ learning. Timperley (2014) argues that teachers need to learn, that assessment information shows in the first place what students have learned as an outcome of the quality of teaching. Such an approach needs a shift in attitudes towards assessment and professional development.
In order to create settings that support learning processes as described above, this paper builds on the diversity of cooperative learning and the necessity for (prospective) teachers to work in groups (sense of community) in order to be able to learn, develop, question and recognize transformation as transition, enrichment and (learning) resource by experiencing consensus and dissent. An effective and self-dependent professionalization in the form of learning communities and networks is needed in order to work professionally with data (reflection and proflection), to generate information and knowledge and consecutively derive actions and interventions for the school. In the context of evidence-oriented quality development, professional learning communities and learning networks have proved effective (Stoll & Seashore Louis, 2007; Brown & Poortman, 2017).
Learning schools understand themselves as stabilizing, optimizing, target-oriented, developing and value-oriented organizations. They are social systems, which are able to learn. The idea that organizations and (social) systems can only learn through people (Dalluege & Franz, 2015) forms the starting point. It begins with “people, who have ideas – ideas that unite” (Sprenger, 2018, p. 188). In this sense, developing school quality is considered an assignment for all people involved, which develops through their actions, tasks, presence, relationships and mindset. Thereby, it is not possible to delegate school quality work to single persons, a quality department or the management. School development is a process of system and organizational learning and is cyclical, sometimes circular, but often of helical or spiral form. Thus, this can lead to improved and continuously growing knowledge about and understanding of one’s own school and its (progressive) development (Fiol & Lyles, 1985).
Organizations can only be set into motion through people. Therefore, personal learning forms the core of organizational learning. On the other hand, learning has to take the structures and processes, strategies and targets, visions and values of the organization into consideration and has to develop a deeper understanding of professional evaluative judgement. Thus, professional learning communities are a prerequisite for evidence-oriented quality development in schools. They are the impetus. Different persons’ various approaches form the ideas, conceptual designs and prototypes.
Evidence-oriented quality development in schools needs a variety of concepts. In order to shape effective changes in a school system, in schools and in class, an adequate understanding of change and the balance between stability and instability is needed (Wheatley, 1999). Kruse (2004) and Schratz (2009) distinguish between functional optimization on the one hand, and changing patterns of process in the form of development according to Argyris and Schön (1978) who distinguishes the principles of single-loop learning (improving, optimizing) and double-loop learning (changing patterns). The research questions guiding the analyses in this contribution are as follows: How can different concepts on cooperative learning in the context of professional quality development in schools be used and integrated so that they support professional development based on evidence? Which ways are there to assist teachers in developing their teaching based on assessment results they produce in class? What kind of models promote learning in both ways, optimization and changing patterns (see above)?
This contribution aims at conceptualising professional learning communities to help overcome existing barriers in developing quality in schools. We build our designs on the core principles („big ideas“; DuFour, 2004, p. 6) of existing concepts. Thereby, we would like to argue that it is necessary to understand different aspects of learning in cooperation, to establish criteria for professionalism for successfully developing the quality of schools and teaching by an evidence-oriented approach, and to promote professional learning communities across schools (Brown & Poortman, 2017). We pick up three designs, Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1991), Professional Learning Communities (Senge, 2000) und Research Learning Communities (Brown, 2017), and analyze their focus, strengths and weaknesses for improving and developing teaching based on students’ assessment data. Communities of Practice are oriented towards the theories of knowledge management (Cheng, 2017, p. 101) and aim at improving individual, practical, professional and organizational performance. Professional Learning Communities are based on the core idea of the learning organization. This concept directly refers to work done by Argyris and Schön (1978) by focusing on broadening thinking (in regards of beliefs, attitudes and values) and broaching the subject of subtle thinking systems. The third concept is relatively young. Research Learning Communities are based on the principle of research-informed teaching practice, are formed across different schools and aim at including research evidence (Brown, 2017, p. 393). Focusing on schools and their needs in regards of evidence-oriented quality development, we combine elements from those different concepts for learning communities in order to create a solid basis, which supports learning as improvement as well as learning in the form of change.
In order to raise performance, systems and people react with the attempt to “improve knowledge and skills within the scope of existing functionalities” (Kruse, 2004, p. 19) („improvement learning“). According to Scharmer (2009) for every sustainable realignment a change of patterns is needed, because core principals, values, beliefs have to be reflected, proflected (Fischer, 2007), changed and transformed in order to establish profound development. The idea of meta learning describes a process of exploring, what, how, when, and why has or has not been changed in regards of actions (single-loop learning) and what, how, when, and why has or has not been changed in regards of values, beliefs, assumptions, mindset and norms (double-loop learning) (Argyris & Schön, 1978). Those three learning concepts – single-loop, double-loop and meta learning – are of equal value. We argue, that the integration of different concepts, models and theories into an integrated model of professional reflection work is essential in order to improve and develop a school because the strengths of one concept can counterbalance weaknesses of another concept and vice versa (see also Brown & Poortman, 2017). In order to develop a model of structure and process that enables schools as learning organizations both to improve in a structured way and to change patterns we integrate the various approaches. Following the concepts and integrating their strengths, eight steps for improvement can be derived. Going further, we enhance those steps for single-loop learning, which focus on optimizing actions and strategies, with a component, which facilitates double-loop learning and a change of pattern. This approach can be seen as working on culture and values (in the sense of transformation of and by leadership culture) by enhancing the eight steps in a way that enables to develop schools “from the future as it emerges” (Scharmer, 2009).
Argyris, C. & Schön, D. (1978). Organizational Learning. A Theory of Action Perspective. Reading: Addison Wesley. Brown, C. (2017). Research learning communities: How the RLC approach enables teachers to use research to improve their practice and the benefits for students that occur as a result. Research for All, 1 (2), 387–405. DOI https://doi.org/10.18546/RFA.01.2.14 Brown, C. & Poortman, C.L. (2017) (Eds.). Networks for learning: effective collaboration for teacher, school and system improvement. Oxford: Routledge. Cheng, E. C.-K. (2017). Leveraging Knowledge through Communities of Practice. In Kong, S. C.; Wong, T. L., Yang, M. Chow, C. F. & Tse, K. H. (Eds.). Emerging Practices in Scholarship of Learning and Teaching in a Digital Era (pp. 91–104). Singapore: Springer. Dalluege, C. A., & Franz, H. W. (2015). IQM – Integriertes Qualitätsmanagement in der Aus- und Weiterbildung. Selbstbewertung für EFQM, CAF, Q2E, DIN EN ISO 9001, DIN ISO 29990 und andere QM-Systeme. Bielefeld: Bertelsmann Verlag. DuFour, R. (2004). What is a “professional learning community”? Educational Leadership, 61(8), 6–11. Fiol, M. & Lyles, M. (1985). Organizational learning. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 10, No. 4, 803–813. Fischer, F. (2007). Proflexion und Reflexion. Philosophische Übungen zur Eingewöhnung der von sich reinen Gesellschaft. Wien: Passagen. Kruse, P. (2004). Next Practice. Erfolgreiches Management von Instabilität. Veränderung durch Vernetzung. Offenbach: Gabal Management Verlag. Scharmer, O. (2009). Theorie U. Leading from the future as it emerges. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler. Schratz, M. (12 2009). „Lernseits“ von Unterricht. Alte Muster, neue Lebenswelten – was für Schulen? Lernende Schule, 16–21. Senge, P. M. (1990). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (1. Auflage). New York: Broadway Business. Sprenger, R. K. (2018). Radikal digital. Weil der Mensch den Unterschied macht. München: Verlagsgruppe Random House. Stoll, L. & Seashore, L. K. (Eds.). (2007). Professional learning communities. Divergence, depth and dilemmas. Maidenhead: Open University. Timperley, H. (2014). Using Assessment Information for Professional Learning. In C. Wyatt-Smith, V. Klenowski & P. Colbert (Eds.), Designing Assessment for Quality Learning. Volume 1 (S. 137–149). Heidelberg: Springer. Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (New Ed.). Cambridge, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. Wheatley, M. J. (1999). Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (second ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. Wyatt-Smith, C., Klenowski, V., & Colbert, P. (Eds.). (2014). Designing Assessment for Quality Learning. Volume 1. Heidelberg: Springer.
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