Professional Learning Communities: in Action

Thursday 20th June 2019

Recently, we provided four of the PLC groups an opportunity to share their initial thoughts and action points in their respective areas of interest.

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This article is the fifth in the Re: Teaching & Learning series of articles that explains the staff professional development programme and how this programme is having an impact on the development of the boys at the College.

The teaching and learning environment at John McGlashan College is designed to prepare our students for the diverse challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing world.

Innovation and Creativity Collaborations

“Benches, Brochures and Bequests” 

This is the catch cry of a collaborative project between Agri-business, Arts, Materials Technology, and Mathematics students in year 12 and 13. Agri-tourism is a big industry, especially to those families whose farms border the Otago Rail Trail. The students of John McGlashan College will be given materials and technical training to build benches out of recycled railway sleepers, train wheels and other related materials. The goal is to provide these resting places along the rail trail chosen in conjunction with the Department of Conservation. Digital and printed brochures will be created to advertise the rail trail, and the significant history of the region as well as the significance of the locations of the benches that the students of John McGlashan College will build. It is hoped that these benches will be a life-time legacy for the College and the students who built them.

Integrated Project Based Learning

Who did it? It certainly was not me. 

Project based learning takes an immense amount of time and effort to set up. Getting to the point where effective learning occurs despite not being in a classroom, where students are able to show agency of their own learning; is part of the plan for the Integrated project based learning group. The members of this group have devised an integrated cross-curricular learning opportunity for year 9 students for term four. The year 9 students will be tasked with solving a murder mystery using inductive and deductive reasoning. They will conduct scientific analysis in the Science laboratory and be tasked with writing up victim statements and scene reports based on the evidence they collect from the witnesses. Hopefully they will solve the mystery of who murdered the administrator.

Digital Teaching and Learning Environments

How effective are we being with technology usage in our classrooms? 

It is an absolute privilege for our students and staff to work at the College with the amount of investment that has been made in this area. The key here is to ensure that all staff and students are empowered to use the technology effectively to ensure the maximum learning opportunities are being met. This PLC group are exploring what common approaches and understandings are essential to get the best out of the technology available in the most beneficial way.

Curriculum Design

What are the essential skills that our students need to be able to thrive in the workplace in the future? 

This is the question that many futurists and the teachers within this PLC group want answers to. The World Economic Forum (2017) came up with the following list of essential skills: 

  • Complex problem solving, 
  • Critical thinking, 
  • Creativity, 
  • People management, 
  • Coordinating with others, 
  • Emotional intelligence, 
  • Service orientation, 
  • Negotiation, and 
  • Cognitive flexibility.

We are mindful that we have to provide our students opportunities to exhibit and develop these essential skills. It’s not just content knowledge; it’s an understanding of how the content can be applied, manipulated, and extended to different contexts.

The next article in this series will outline the outcomes and action points from the remaining three PLC groups not featured in this article. 

The students of the College are benefitting from the positive outcomes from the re:focus on teaching and learning.