Engagements with Provincial Officials, Districts Officials and principals in three pilot districts have culminated in the establishment of twelve Inter-School Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in the Free State, Northern Cape and the North-West Province. The PLCs started in July 2017 and three sessions per PLC have been held to date. Sessions will continue in 2018. The PLCs are being piloted as a CPTD model for improving inclusive teaching and are comprised of a mix of Special Schools, Full Service Schools and Ordinary Schools.
VVOB is playing a facilitating role in the PLCs. Topics are determined by the needs in the classroom and teachers are free to share their challenges. Discussions focus on strategies to address challenges and increase opportunities for sharing and collaboration. Teachers are encouraged to use the strategies shared in PLCs in their classrooms and give feedback on implementation.
There has been much to celebrate in the PLCs. Sessions have seen a sharing of resources, ideas to support learner-centred teaching and strategies to support the learners who have barriers to learning. These include discussions on classroom management and discipline. Issues such as sourcing additional support in the classroom to deal with large classes and learners who struggle have been discussed extensively. Teachers have highlighted the importance of tracking learners’ progress informally and feeding into the SIAS process to obtain additional support. The mix of schools in the PLCs has provided for excellent learning opportunities and sharing of resources. In the PLCs where Special Schools are members, there is a sharing of expertise and a focus on strategies to deal with children who have barriers, and enable them to learn in the mainstream classes.
There are a few challenges that can be flagged in the sustainable roll-out of PLCs. Some of these challenges include logistical issues which might need to be reworked in some cases. These include the travel issues in some PLCs and numbers of teachers in others. Systemic issues that need innovative solutions have also been raised including the disparity in teaching and learning methods in township and rural schools and former model C schools.
A monitoring and evaluation process has been started and in the third sessions of the PLCs, researchers attended the sessions to observe and interview the PLC participants. District Officials have been part of the monitoring to allow for the reflection on the use of PLCs as a CPTD model for teacher development.
More pictures can be found here.