01 SES 11 A, Leadership of and for Learning: Professional Learning as Critical Enquiry to Further School Improvement and Inclusive Practice
In this paper, we critically explore a new collaborative approach to supporting learning for whole school improvement: Professional Learning as Critical Enquiry (PLaCE). PLaCE is supported by Scottish Government funding aimed at enhancing school-university partnership working to support high quality teacher learning and school improvement. Linking to the conference theme of educational research (re)connecting communities, this paper explores how PLaCE focused on the school as a learning community to reconnect teachers and learners by drilling down into teachers’ understanding of teaching and learning. The design of PLaCE reflects international calls for more theoretically informed, collaborative, deep, situated and transformative approaches to professional learning designed with and by teachers (Korthagen, 2017; Kennedy, 2014). PLaCE focuses on examining and understanding practice through critical enquiry, developing pedagogical expertise and teaching to progress learning. PLaCE foregrounds the importance of the school as a learning community and staff developing collective expertise. Rather than emphasising individuals investigating their own practice, this is about developing a critical mass and collaborative approach to build capacity and lead to sustained change. For the 2019-20 academic year, the eight schools involved with PLaCE (3 secondary schools; 5 primary schools) committed staff development time and adopted the PLaCE approach to address a key aspect of their improvement plan. University colleagues, working collaboratively with Senior Leadership Teams, provided strategic support and whole-school professional learning about pedagogy and enquiry. A collaborative research group was established with representation from each school to explore the emerging influence of PLaCE on whole school improvement and teacher learning. The aim of the research reported on in this paper was to capture the experiences and perspectives of stakeholders (teacher educators, teachers and school senior management) as they engaged with the PLaCE approach. To build a rich picture of stakeholders’ experiences and perspectives we adopted a case study approach. Data were gathered through: Focus group interviews with each stakeholder group; Teacher educator data walls, one for each school, encompassing teacher educator reflections on the PLaCE process; Ongoing feedback on PLaCE (e.g. from professional development sessions and research group meetings); and audio recordings of PLaCE research group meetings. The paper will draw on the data to discuss stakeholder perspectives of the PLaCE approach, supporting factors and barriers to engagement. Whilst situated within a Scottish context, the insights emerging reflect the challenges and aspirations for professional learning within the European and wider international context.
Kennedy, A. (2014). Understanding continuing professional development: the need for theory to impact on policy and practice. Professional Development in Education, 40(5), 688-697. Korthagen, F. A. J. (2017). Inconvenient truths about teacher learning: towards professional development 3.0. Teachers and Teaching, 23(4), 387-405.
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