Time to Celebrate; Building a Fellowship for Professional Learning through CollectivED
This week we have confirmed our first twenty CollectivED Fellows, and it has been a pleasure to provide positive news to colleagues in education at a time of such uncertainty. The CollectivED Fellowship status is an approach to celebrate the work and impact of individuals in supporting the professional learning of others, to build our networks, and to support Fellows in connecting with each other.
Each of our new Fellows has already made a valued contribution to a CollectivED event or working paper. In their application they also articulated how their own practice and or research aligns with the purposes and values of CollectivED, and gained the validation of a colleague, peer, mentee or coachee. Applications have been reviewed by members of the CollectivED Advisory Board, and individualised feedback has been provided. Even getting to this stage represents a pro bono commitment by both applicants and reviewers stimulated by a shared desire to put professional learning through coaching, mentoring and other collaborative approaches such as lesson study on the map
Our first successful CollectivED Fellows live and work in the UK, Canada, the USA, Belgium and Brunei. It is wonderful to start to build this community as we mean to go on; it is already inclusive and international. Our Fellows are teachers, school leaders, researchers, and those working through local and national organisations to support educators in their professional learning. We have also already created a Fellows network working across sectors, from primary, secondary and further education as well as higher and community education. It is appropriate to share something of the work of each of our fellows, because this space legitimately belongs to them. So, let’s get inside some of their thinking and work through their own words.
Ann Litchfield captures her motivation as follows ‘Growth does not have to be about promotion, in teaching it is more essential than ever that we grow professionally – intrinsically as well as extrinsically. The former is arguably the most important, our future school leaders should be in a position to help others up the ladder as well as help them remain and progress as teachers.’ This is echoed by Natasha Stokes, a senior leader in a large secondary school who believes ‘that staff flourish when given the support – and also the trust – to pursue development opportunities which align both with their own values and needs, and those of the academy’.
Professional learning is a continuous journey, mapping on to career stages and individual directions of travel. This is articulated by academy leader Claire-Marie Cuthbert, who recognises the need to develop all staff and ‘understand the importance of retention and growth of talent as emerging leaders’. Primary headteacher Victoria Carr’s research and practice includes a focus on school leadership, ‘both how it can be maintained and sustained, and also how we can retain the most skilled and experienced in our workforce and thus enhance the training and engagement of the current and future generation of teachers and educational practitioners’. Trista Hollweck, whose work straddles the academic and practice domains through co-developing and researching a unique Teacher Induction Programme in Western Quebec School Board also recognises how important it is to understand and incorporate ‘the perspective of various district stakeholders (district leaders, administrators, mentor-coaches, new teachers, and teacher union executive)’ to ensure success and sustainability of professional learning.
There are lots of innovative ways to support this professional growth, at both school level and beyond. In the primary school where she is co-headteacher Paula Ayliffe has ‘seen confidences grown, skills fostered and developed and, most importantly, outcomes for children improved’ in part ‘Tea and Chat’ sessions and ‘Lesson Chats’ which have provided opportunities for ‘reflective peer coaching’. She embraces the fact that ‘teachers, teaching assistants and others have come together to think and discuss learning focusing on current research and literature as well as listening to and talking with others.’ There is also clear value in learning from other educative contexts, and Tom Leeder’s work ‘in understanding how sports coach mentors learn and develop’ illustrates the desire that ‘mentors (regardless of the domain) can begin to create contexts which support inclusive career-long and profession-wide learning’.
Beyond individual schools this creative thinking is illustrated by Gary Handforth who has ‘worked with Local Leaders of Education, developing and facilitating ‘Storytelling and Sense-Making’ sessions throughout the year, practitioner to practitioner development at a system level. Similarly, Lewis Fogarty has developed a ‘pedagogical framework of reassuring relationships, clear communication, continuous curiosity and enabling environment’ underpinning his leadership in the Early Childhood Education and Care. In the state of New York Jim Thompson has been ‘inviting teachers to use video reflection and confidential/non-evaluative instructional coaching to impact learning’ drawing on the work of Jim Knight’s Instructional Coaching Group. Casey Kosiorek, working at district level recognised ‘that video coaching requires a commitment of district resources’ and ‘wanted to develop a greater understanding of how the program was working’. As Jim Thompson writes they ‘concluded that trust was the underlying foundation of any relationship working with teachers’ and that ‘trust can only be sustained if there is a real partnership between folks’.
Sometimes the work we do with others nudges people out of comfort zones or works at points of tension (individual or systemic). Ruth Whiteside suggests that coaching is ‘about empowering the coachee to dig deep into their own learning’ and uses her ‘interest in emotional intelligence and how we can use it more purposefully to understand our self and therefore our behaviour’. In acknowledging these tensions it can be helpful, as suggested by Daniel Duke, to use pedagogic tools such as Nancy Kline’s ‘Thinking Environment’ methods of ‘Thinking Pairs’, ‘Timed Talk’ and ‘Thinking Rounds’ which ‘provide the space for the people to critically explore their own cognition, beyond superficial perceptions, leading to profound comprehensions, which sit at the very core of their ‘struggles’.
This necessary challenge of sustaining good practices in coaching is further demonstrated by Kerry Jordan-Daus, who recognises the need to be explicit in her ‘intention to create a safe space to explore and examine the feelings and meanings we give to our professional lives, where vulnerability to express doubt and uncertainty is validated as a learning trait not a weakness’. She draws on the stance articulated by bell hooks ‘I do not expect students to take risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share’ (hooks, 1994, p21). These tensions need to be addressed to achieve positive outcomes, but as Naomi Ward’s work demonstrates ‘when more educators have access to enabling, empowering and collaborative conversations, their capacity will increase and the ripple effect of that is exciting’.
One of the wonderful aspects of supporting collaborative professional learning is that the learning works both ways and is inclusive. This is beautifully captured by Claudia Gillberg who found ‘the experience of reciprocal learning was exhilarating and proved one of the most empowering phases of my own professional life’, and who also valued the friendships which ‘developed and grew’. This shared learning was also experienced by Vincent Andrew, who valued the ‘interactions and collaborative conversations’ generated through his role of facilitating lessons study with teachers in Brunei.
Headteacher Jeremy Hannay draws inspiration from the model of Professional Capital (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012), and the significance of ‘re-professionalising teachers by connecting them, giving them scope and agency to redesign professional learning with direct influence over pedagogy and practice’. Ultimately supporting professional learning for educators is about ‘valuing all learners; staff and students alike’ as explained by Melanie Chambers, who goes on to say that it is about ‘valuing their well-being, valuing the roles of both teacher and student voice and building professional capital through skill, knowledge, reflective practice and enquiry’. Fleur Hoole sums this up perfectly when she reminds us of the importance of sharing ‘enthusiasm for learning as a route to teacher confidence and agency’ through which we ‘may be our best for ourselves and as role models in our communities’.
You can read more about the work of our new CollectivED Fellows through the working papers that they have contributed to following the hyperlinks below. You can find out more about our Fellows through the twitter hashtag #CollectivEdFellows and we will also be developing new approaches to celebrating and sharing their work more widely. We will work to support the Fellowship community to sustain positive impacts on the lives of educators and outcomes for learners and we will invite Fellows to be proactive in developing approaches to this. The full list of CollectivED Fellows confirmed in April 2020 is here. We look forward to working with them because they are an inspirational group of educators. You can find out more about becoming a CollectivED Fellow at our website.
Vincent Andrew @vsumping CollectivED Working Papers Issue 10
Paula Ayliffe @PaulaAyliffe CollectivED Working Papers Issue 8
Victoria Carr @headofwoodlands CollectivED Working Papers Issue 10
Melanie Chambers @BSBMelanie CollectivED Working Papers Issue 8
Claire-Marie Cuthbert @Clairecuthbert9 CollectivED Working Papers Issue 2
Daniel Duke @Daniel_s_Duke CollectivED Special Issue Mentors Matter
Claudia Gillberg @DrCSGillberg CollectivED Working Papers Issue 10
Gary Handforth @garyth66 CollectivED Working Papers Issue 4
Jeremy Hannay @ThreeBridgesSchool CollectivED Working Papers Issue 9
Fleur Hoole @hoole_fleur CollectivED Working Papers Issue 10
Casey Kosiorek @Casey_Kosiorek CollectivED Working Papers Issue 2
Tom Leeder @tomleeder CollectivED Working Papers Issue 5
Ann Litchfield @cionann CollectivED Working Papers Issue 6
Natasha Stokes Moor End Academy CollectivED Working Papers
Jim Thompson @schoolguy CollectivED Working Papers Issue 2
Naomi Ward @naomi7444 @purposeful_ed CollectivED Working Papers Issue 7
Rachel Lofthouse is Professor of Teacher Education in the Carnegie School of Education. She has a specific research interest in professional learning, exploring how teachers learn and how they can be supported to put that learning into practice.