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maintain momentum

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This section explores how senior leaders might maintain momentum and support teachers to develop learning friendly classroom cultures.

Developing students as better learners is a long term innovation. It requires far more than an Inservice training day and ‘away you go’, it has implications not just for pupil learning, but for staff learning too. Teachers’ habits as learners have to become part of the picture – how they go about changing is as relevant as what changes they want to bring about.

This section offers a brief overview of how the development of staff mirrors the development of students as learners, involving not just new knowledge but changes in teaching habits.


Why changing teacher practice in relation to classroom culture is difficult.

When teachers want or need to change classroom culture it actually involves them in changing their teaching habits. It’s not just about knowing new stuff, it is about doing what you do differently. That’s much harder. It involves changes to:

  • what you know – knowledge;
  • what you believe – feelings or attitudes;
  • what you can do – your skills;
  • what you actually do – putting it all into practice.

So changing how you teach is a delicate, complex process……..that’s why it’s hard!

And the hardest thing isn’t getting new ideas into teachers’ heads . . .

It’s getting the old ones out…….that’s why it takes time, effort and practice.

It takes time and practice to undo old habits and become graceful at new ones……that’s why this is based on how adults learn and the researched Professional Development approach of teacher learning communities.


How schools can support teachers to develop their practice and maintain momentum.

What are professional learning teams?

Professional Learning Teams, or more generically, teacher learning communities have the potential to provide teachers and support staff with the information and support they need to develop their practice in deep and lasting ways. Furthermore these communities are designed to build school capacity to support individual and whole school change over time.

Teacher learning communities provide a forum for supporting staff in converting the information and ideas in the online module into “lived” practices within their classrooms. They provide a safe forum in which to:

  • kick around ideas from the online content;
  • unpack it’s meaning when it’s unclear;
  • consider what’s do-able and appropriate for students;
  • make plans for what and how you might incorporate the ideas into practice;
  • share and unpack what has been tried in the classroom;
  • relate triumphs and tribulations;
  • reflect on what might be done differently.

Because teacher learning communities are embedded in the day-to-day realities of classrooms they provide a time and place where staff can hear real-life stories from colleagues that show the benefits of adopting these techniques in situations similar to their own. They provide local reassurances. As they adjust their practice, they are risking both disorder and less-than-accomplished performance on the part of students and themselves. Being a member of a community of teacher-learners, engaged together in a change process, provides the support they need to take such risks.


How do PLTs sustain momentum?

 Teachers’ habits as learners have to become part of the picture; how they go about changing as well as those changes they are aiming to bring about. In other words, staff learning has to undergo the same sort of shifts as students’ learning. So the school has to think of professional development in terms of ‘what’ has to be learned and ‘how’ it might be learned.

Professional Learning Teams serve to deepen and sustain dialogue and empower staff to experiment and create their own solutions. Such teams meet together regularly to deepen their understanding of an approach, try out new things and reflect on and share data from their experiments with each other. As a consequence, a spirit of openness and enquiry increasingly pervades the school. This is research with a small ‘r’ – not the capital ‘R’ Research undertaken at Universities, rather small-scale action research projects as teachers learn their ways forward together.

Momentum is maintained by PLTs when:

  • Pedagogy is paramount, collaboration helps it to spread, innovation moves it forward, professional learning takes it deeper, and leadership helps it to grow.


It’s the development of staff through Professional Learning Teams that will prove to be the engine of change, and will help to maintain momentum in transforming classroom culture.


Ask yourself

  • How you might organise your staff into professional learning teams – phase related? subject specialists? cross curricular? triads?
  • Who will lead and coach each team?
  • What impact would professional learning teams might have on:
  • how we organise CPD;
  • the directed time budget;
  • the weekly meeting cycle.

Make a note of…Little_r

  • The changes you might need to make to create time for professional learning teams to function.


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