Start 2019 with a whole-team plan for learning experiences, pedagogy and assessment using the PLC Practical Guide.
In the Develop and Plan phase of the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) Improvement Cycle, schools spend time developing and planning their curriculum, pedagogy and assessment to ensure students achieve their learning goals.
At Brandon Park Primary School, teachers use their professional learning community (PLC) time to plan and develop curriculum and pedagogical approaches for differentiated learning.
This use of PLC time encourages teachers to think critically about students' learning and how they can provide targeted support and extension for students. They also discuss and develop formative and summative assessment strategies to enhance student learning growth and develop their professional expertise.
Learning specialist Kerrie McFadden, PLC instructional leader Marina Vovos-Hernandez and teacher Henrika Quinlan explain the process their school took to develop and plan curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in their Foundation Year PLC.
Problem in practice: Learning about reading in Foundation
While all students come to their first year of school with varying knowledge, after looking at student data, the Foundation PLC found that there was a group of students who needed extra support with letters and sounds to meet learning standards.
The PLC used their time in the Plan and Develop phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle to plan for a differentiated approach to cater to the needs of these individual students.
Use student learning data to determine what to plan and who to plan for
'Every time we plan, every week when we have our two planning sessions, we look at that [student learning] data, we discuss what our children need,' Marina said.
Data analysis allows teachers to monitor student learning progress and to target teaching to differentiate the learning experience for students.
'We quite quickly realised that we had a group of students [in Foundation Year] who weren't quite confident in their letters and sounds. We needed to give them some extra support,' Henrika said.
This knowledge of the students and their learning progress gave the PLC their focus when planning and developing their approach.
'Then we say: 'OK, what strategies do we need to look at to look at accelerate their learning? What strategies do we need to refocus on? And, do we need a new strategy?' Marina said.
Collaborative planning and execution is essential
After a process of deliberation and brainstorming, the PLC decided that using multiple exposures, and high-impact teaching strategies would be the best way of supporting learners in their first year of school.
'The wonderful thing that I find in a PLC team is that we've all got different experiences. So when we were looking at how [we were going] to deal with these students who need extra support… we can share our ideas,' Henrika said.
'We collected all these ideas to develop an activity kit.'
The activity kit developed by the team had a blended learning approach to engage students, which combines place-based classroom activities with interactive online activities. All Foundation teachers were then able to take advantage of the toolkit's games, cut-out activities and web applications to build consistent engagement across the year.
However, collaboration does not necessarily mean total agreement and compliance, and teachers can differentiate the activity kit or any other curriculum document even further to suit the needs of their particular students.
'If students are not progressing in their learning we say: "Look, this isn't working, it didn't work for my class, and I'm going to change it up". So even if we do have a set plan, as teachers… we make evidenced-based professional judgements and we can refine it and make it right for our children,' Marina explained.
Harness the expertise of knowledgeable others
Teachers must build their own expertise as practitioners during this phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle. The Foundation PLC team at Brandon Park Primary School also looked toward experts to aid their professional development: namely Kerrie, who specialises in Literacy.
Kerrie shared her practices in reading with her colleagues across the school through team teaching and working alongside teachers in their classrooms. She also engaged in teacher peer observation.
'The staff would ask me… 'could you come into my class? Can you come and watch me? Can I come and watch you?'. So I would go in and demonstrate reading in their class.'
Kerrie's guidance also developed the collective expertise of the Foundation Year PLC, other than the teachers she observed directly. 'They would go back to their PLC and discuss it with them'.
Resources to support effective PLCs
The PLC Guide: Implementing FISO with precision, collaboration and inquiry helps school leaders, instructional leaders and teachers like those at Brandon Park Primary School to navigate the Develop and Plan phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle through key impact questions, indicators of success, key actions and tools and resources.
Plan and develop teaching in your PLC
Part of the Professional Learning Communities Practical Guide