Gary Punler – Deprivatising practice

Gary Punler describes how teaching practice in his school is no longer personal and private to the teacher concerned. The quality learning circles, which are held two or three times each term, reinforce the expectation that teachers have a professional obligation to each other and to the profession to share their work with others and to learn with and alongside others.



What I have now is that I’ve got leaders at every level. It’s not just me, or my senior management team, talking about teaching and learning. At times, I’m the learner. And the teachers are the leaders. I think there are now higher quality judgements around their own teacher practice because of the kinds of questions they’re getting, and because we lift it to a new level when we’re doing the summaries.

The other idea that I think is important here is the notion of what I call collegial obligations - that everybody believes that we’re a profession and that we work in teams, so that’s another key point. The big point for me is around this reflective inquiry and discussion and deprivatising our learning and our teaching. I’ve said to the staff in the past that sitting in your own classroom, you don’t know what’s going on necessarily. And if you’re going to be a cohesive team moving forward trying to achieve school goals, we need to find a way that we can get what’s going on inside a teacher’s head out, for other people to learn from. And so this process helps us do that.

It’s part of what we do, so PD, (like anything) should be integrated into the work that we do, it shouldn’t be something that’s added on as an extra and so we make time for it. In terms of the entries on to the web diary (our school’s a little different, maybe, to some in that we’ve got accessibility to our server and our support technology here through our remote server) so people can work on it at home. They can put in an entry any time of the day if they wanted to. Most of them could use their CRT time. That’s perfectly legitimate use of CRT because we value this kind of work.

When they get together we’ve scheduled in at least two, sometimes three meetings per term on a Tuesday afternoon. So we’ll alternate between team meetings, which we have every fortnight and then we’ll alternate having a QLC meeting and a whole staff meeting. So we make time for it.

Collaborative v. private practice

This grid explores the differences between collaborative and private teacher practice. The discussion questions following will help you to explore your own professional practices.

In “private” practice teachers… In collaborative practice teachers…
Are isolated in individual classrooms and work alone Are in frequent contact with other teachers
Determine their own goals and expectations for student learning Commit to shared goals and expectations for student learning
Have sole responsibility for the learning and behaviour of the students they teach Share responsibility for the learning and behaviour of all students in the school
Do not feel at ease having other teachers observe their teaching or sharing their student work with other teachers Have a shared expectation and structured time to observe and reflect on each others’ teaching
Do not have access to offer or receive feedback from peers Act as critical friends to improve practice
Plan and devise their programmes on their own Jointly share with others the challenge of creating programmes that meet the needs of students
May have friendly relationships with others, but do not have conversations that can impact on the teaching of others Have purposeful conversations such as creating common assessments, discussing and moderation student work, analysing student data
Are not encouraged to share dissenting views about contentious issues Disagreements are expected and teachers learn to positively address differences of opinion

Discussion questions

  • In our school is teacher practice essentially private and their own business or is there genuine collaboration with others?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of our approaches to teacher practice?
  • Is there a need to move towards more collaborative practices?
  • Is our school mission statement something that all staff are committed to? How do we know?
  • How might we move forward to improve the learning opportunities that all students receive?

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