Toolkit on Teaching for Diversity - How can you create professional learning communities in schools?

 

It can be very beneficial for teachers and school leaders to share information on practices (both successful and unsuccessful) in their schools.  A good way of doing this is to create professional learning communities in schools, where teachers and school leaders can share a school-wide vision of making the most of their diverse students, and work and learn collaboratively. Professional learning communities permit answers to such questions as:

  • How well do teacher strategies for handling classroom diversity work? 

  • How can other teachers learn about this and apply successful strategies to their own classrooms? 

  • How can school leaders help create a supportive school environment that supports such a professional learning community?

A professional learning community sets aside regular time to engage in discussion and collaborative work.  A proactive approach can help avoid situations where school leaders convene to discuss a difficult situation as an emergency response – or worse, after-the-fact.

The importance of feedback, monitoring and evaluation

When teachers use strategies for making the most of diversity in their classroom—whether they are common, agreed-upon strategies in the school or strategies they have devised on their own—it is very useful to formally monitor and/or evaluate  progress in their classrooms.  Not only will this help each teacher to learn about what is working and what is not, but it also provides evidence of progress to share within a professional learning community.

Monitoring progress in classrooms is essential to knowing about students’ achievement levels.  This gives teachers necessary information to know how best to use their time and individualize interventions, and gives school leaders important information on the requisite support elements for a diversity-friendly school culture. Supportive school environments can strongly contribute to academic engagement and school performance of diverse students.

Constructive feedback is also indispensable to productive collaboration. When it is done properly, feedback is a very specific kind of communication: it focuses on sharing with another person the impact of their behavior and its purpose is to help that person become more effective.

Professional learning communities can be useful in fostering a diversity-friendly school environment. This can then help set the stage to discuss other key school development needs, such as: attracting and retaining good teachers (including diverse teachers); connecting with parents and communities; and different ways to create an appreciation of diversity school-wide.

Web Resources and Further Reading:

 

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