An interesting initiative in Ontario is “the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program” (TLLP) which started in 2007. The government is funding grassroots projects developed by experienced classroom teachers so that their personal knowledge about how to improve one or more aspects of student learning or teacher learning can be developed and shared with their peers. The program has covered 401 projects with 2,400 teachers during the first four years of existence. The Ontario Teachers’ Federation (the umbrella union for over 120,000 teachers) is also involved in the arrangement of conferences for new project participants and they “summit” sessions where project participantes who have finished the one-year action research phase share their learning with other teachers, schools and school boards (Clark, 2012). The goals of the TLLP are:
- to support experienced teachers who undertake self-directed advanced professional development related to improved student learning and development;
- to help classroom teachers develop leadership skills for sharing learning and exemplary practices on a board-wide and/or provincial basis; and to facilitate knowledge exchange.
- to facilitate knowledge exchange by building a provincial network for the sharing of teacher expertise
According to Clark (2012) participants have been extremely positive about the experience, and projects have addressed new approaches to all teaching subjects, innovative programs to improve literacy, numeracy or education for students at risk, and action research into improving professional learning communities in schools (Some of the work is documented in Ontario Teachers’ Federation DVD Taking the Lead). Both this program and the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) are putting the emphasis on individual professional learning and networking rather than on PD days. Further research should explore if teacher learning is enhanced by the shift away from externally-designed traditional professional development programs to ongoing, collaborative, teacher-selected and job-embedded learning activities (Clark, 2012).
Other countries working in a similiar way
Another similar program INSTEP (InService Teacher Educator Practice), has been in place in New Zealand since 2004. Accoring to Clark (2012) both this project and the Ontario TLLP program resemble the Japanese “lesson study” and Chinese teachers’ research group approaches that Schwille and Dembele (2007) describe as exemplary teacher-focussed professional learning models. All these programs share some common features:
- they use the teachers’ own classroom as laboratories for professional development.
- they emphasize teachers working together.
- they use target lessons to discuss and investigate broader goals of schooling.
- they rely on action research with teachers writing reports to disseminate their learning.
- they emphasize the need to understand student thinking.
- there is a balance between individual teacher initiative and leadership, and outsider advice and guidance (Schwille and Dembele, 2007: 112–113 in Clark, 2012).
One idea in the future can be to use wiki environments to support this kind of knowledge sharing.
- Clark, Rosemary (2012). Professional control and professional learning. Some Policy Implications (ed.). Clark, Rosemary; D. W. Livingstone & Harry John Smaller. Teacher Learning and Power in the Knowledge Society. http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-94-6091-973-2_8.pdf