Making a cultural shift from teaching to learning. Why is this necessary?

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Where high functioning professional learning communities, collaborative planning teams or learning teams are in place, invariably you find school leadership has made provision for staff to effectively collaborate. These provisions include; time to meet within corporate time, established and agreed to group norms, data to analyses and inform decision making and educators committed to making a difference and a willingness to share and question their practice. Above all of these however that is often overlooked in the need for teachers to make a fundamental philosophical and cultural shift from a focus on the nature of their work from teaching to learning. Schools need to work on a cultural shift that sees staff development, professional learning and dialogue between staff shift from teaching to a prime focus on learning. How student learn, what they have learnt and what teachers need to do in order to improve learning and ensure that failure is unacceptable. Continuous improvement by all students requires teachers to carefully analyze student performance and identify pedagogical improvement to address the needs of individual learners. Historically schools have been essentially teacher-centric, organisations where educators have dispensed knowledge and students have been the empty receptacle ready to absorb this knowledge. Teachers teach and student learn! This cause and effect relationship is tenuous at best, and at worst totally non-existent. This structure may work for adults or proficient learners with the ability to assimilate this knowledge, create new understandings and with the motivation to succeed. However as a model for schools and young learners I don’t believe it has a lasting impact on the learning of ALL students. Many hit the ceiling of failure and never recover. As educators we owe future generations the right to succeed to be ‘taught’ by teachers who understand their needs and who do not accept failure as inevitable. High functioning collaborative teams deeply committed to ensure all student learn and achieve success who are willing to first question pedagogical practice as a reason for a breakdown in the link between what was taught and what was successfully learnt will make a difference. When the focus of dialogue is on what was learnt and not just on what was taught then a significant cultural shift will occur and student learning outcomes will improve. PLC’s are student-centric and transparent. Do a quick reflection on your interactions with the leadership team in your schools and with fellow colleagues. Take a moment to think about the topics of conversations or any professional learning undertaken; What was the focus of your conversation? Did you discuss student data? Were specific student needs discussed? Did you solve problems independently or collaboratively? Who owns assessment data, teachers or students? Did you plan explicitly to address the needs of individual students? Is you classroom designed for instruction or learning? Do support staff work with all students in the class or just those with special needs? Is there a teacher’s desk at the front of the room? Are all students working on the same task at the same time? The answers to these questions will hopefully stimulate you to think about ways I which you might work with colleagues to develop your capacity to work with others collaborative as a high functioning team member. By continually stretching yourself professionally and by making the time to understand where you and your colleagues are on the journey to continuous improvement you will be a part of the cultural shift that needs to happen if schools are to make the shift from teaching to learning.

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