Five professional learning beliefs that Hawker Brownlow Education embrace
All educators both need and want professional learning to enhance their capabilities, skills, and knowledge to stay current. It is also critical for a profession that has learning at its core.
But what type of professional learning has the biggest impact on educators, and inspires them to use what they’ve learnt?
Educators thrive when they are treated as peers and experts in their own right. Highly effective professional learning underpins the research on what effective adult learning looks like – which is very different from the strategies behind teaching children – while honouring the context in which the learning takes place. This service-oriented approach to professional learning enhances the chances for impact.
Here are five ways Hawker Brownlow Education authors – and their associates – approach professional learning.
1. We see educators as being capable
We recognise that educators can create their own direction. If this is ignored, the chances of professional learning becoming truly transformative are seriously diminished.
We presume positive intent as we work with teachers and leaders, and we springboard from where they truly are rather than assuming they’re not even close. Honouring the current reality of any school and using this knowledge to help educators move from good to great is critical.
Our approach supports teachers and leaders to change what they focus on in their work and helps school leadership teams enlarge their frames of reference, using different approaches and structures that are most likely to increase student achievement. For instance, when we work with schools to embed the Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Work® process, we assume they are already a PLC that simply needs refining and fine-tuning, helping school staff to deepen their understanding of what collaborative means when it’s actually impacting learning at a higher level.
2. Tapping into educators’ own experiences
Everyone comes to professional learning from a different point and has a unique prism of experiences through which they define their thinking.
As part of the PLC at Work process, we help schools develop team norms – an agreed standard of professional behaviours to be used in meetings – based on their specific lived experiences. We encourage educators to identify all the behaviours in meetings that they believe are getting in the way and making meetings less productive than they could be. Together, we prioritise which of these behaviours seem most prevalent and create a norm, or set of norms, that will be most transformative for their team.
It’s important that every team does this because even different teams within the same school will have different lived experiences – and will need different norms. As their experience grows, their learning about what really constitutes working collaboratively also evolves and so will the outcomes from professional learning.
3. The power of social context
We have witnessed the power of using social context in professional learning, where educators learn from each other and engage in meaningful group work. The needs of people come before any innovation can take hold, so it’s crucial that we use each other as resources to help us do the work required.
At Hawker Brownlow Education, one way we do this is by providing schools on their PLC journey with access to the All Things PLC website, which is a platform for educators and administrators to share knowledge, ask questions, get expert insight into the issues they face and learn how other schools have made it work for them.
We connect educators from different schools with one another. With the PLC at Work model, we go to great efforts to cultivate a collaborative culture and provide the content before asking participants to make their own decisions on where to next.
4. Straight from the horse’s mouth
When an author leads professional learning, you’re getting the real deal. That’s because a book is really an extension of an author’s brain, including their background, experiences and research.
The advantage of an HBE author presenting professional learning is that they’ve already gone through the process of determining their work is credible. Their book has been published and reviewed by their peers to ensure it genuinely helps educators address specific challenges. And you’re getting the thinking behind those words straight from the horse’s mouth.
In helping schools become effective PLCs, our authors are able to be very transparent about where the work has come from, and the research and books that have helped us formulate the PLC at Work process.
5. Connecting to individual differences
For professional learning to have an impact, the differences between educators, their roles, schools, experiences and ways of working must be considered. As professional learning leaders, we use processes, compelling stories and different approaches to ensure that different people’s perspectives are honoured, challenged and worked with.
Some key ways of connecting with individuals include eliciting high-level dialogue. There’s plenty of checking in, opportunities to interact and chances for presenters to hear how educators are connecting the ideas with their own context. In a PLC at Work, professional autonomy is critical – even when it’s part of a broader common approach.
A long-term partnership
Professional learning works best when there’s an ongoing partnership between the provider and the school or individual. Rather than being delivered as a one-size-fits-all moment in time, the long-term professional learning HBE provides is made up of many different approaches (including more intensive coaching) delivered over a significant period in a variety of ways.
We have worked with some schools across many years and have seen the impact. We are able to learn more about their context and pitch learning to their level of readiness, which has been particularly helpful for two schools that we are supporting to re-culture and restructure as professional learning communities. Applying our knowledge when these schools are ready is far more effective than turning up once or twice and then leaving them to work it out for themselves.
The same occurs for other bodies of work delivered by HBE, such as A Framework for Understanding Poverty, which helps communities and schools successfully work with students from under-resourced backgrounds, and The New Art and Science of Teaching, which assists systems and schools to use an evidence-based common language of instruction to support the strengthening of teaching and learning.
A unique benefit of authors and certified associates conducting professional learning is that participants can dip in and out of the book their learning is based on after (and even before) the sessions to preview, solidify and operationalise what they’ve learned. You can carry the author’s knowledge around in your pocket – and what could be better than that?
Research suggests that ongoing coaching is one of the best ways to help transform organisations and individuals through professional learning, leading to potential increases in performance and engagement. If schools or individuals can’t afford or get access to a coach, referring to the book and applying it to their context could be the next best thing.