Sharing Our Practice: How to Learn from Each Other
At Yew Chung International School of Beijing, the importance of collaboration is understood and reinforced in our teaching. But while our students are collaborating with and learning from each other on a daily basis, how do we ensure our teaching staff are too? Ms Eurika Foster, Professional Development Coordinator, discusses Wednesday’s course on “Sharing Our Practice”.
What is “Sharing Our Practice”?
The idea of allowing staff to learn from one another is not a new idea, but to ensure that it happens meaningfully and effectively, at the start of each year we put on an evening for teachers during which they share their techniques and practices with each other.
There were six practical sessions on Wednesday, including topics such as “guided reading strategies”, a “SMART notebook how-to”, and “hacking project-based learning”. Each session was led by a YCIS Beijing teacher who has amassed several years’ experience here.
Sharing EAL Practice
One of the particularly important sessions was Ms Rebecca Flavin’s “EAL Strategies in the Classroom”. This year, we have revised our approach to EAL so that students who are learning English language are still kept in the mainstream classroom. This ensures that they have full access to the curriculum, but also requires all teachers to provide specialised EAL support. Ms Flavin’s session reinforced strategies for ensuring that language learners are given every opportunity to participate in lessons and show their understanding.
Each session was fast-paced and super informative. They are designed to spark an idea and thought, which teachers can then follow up with each other. I hope that teachers will continue to explore the topics that they learned about, ask questions of each other and try out techniques in class.
We are now working on implementing “Open Learning Community” sessions, so that teachers can drop in on lessons and see these strategies in action.
We have also sent out a survey to our teachers asking them to volunteer to become mentors. This will help keep momentum up for continuous professional development.
How Does the Learning Community Support Collaboration?
The organisation and layouts of our Learning Communities mean that collaboration really lies at the heart of what we do. The co-teaching model allows teachers to plan together and provide feedback, the open plan spaces mean that teachers can see other’s teaching in action, and the teacher collaboration room means that, even when classes are not taking place, teachers can talk and support each other all day long.
Three Tips for Teachers Looking to Learn
Professional development is an active process and, as a teacher, you must seek out opportunities to learn and grow.
- Firstly, find a role model. Watch and learn from how another teacher works. Then don’t be shy to ask them questions and ask for their feedback.
- Secondly, combine new ideas with previous experience. I’ve been teaching for 15 years now. Over that time, I have developed a lot of knowledge and experience. Draw on this experience when trying out new and exciting things.
- Finally, be open to change. Education is an evolving area and you must proactively and enthusiastically seek out new techniques and ideas to help your students.