Collaborative learning in communities

From Dan to Eilat, the learning communities’ processes at DemocracyEx

Something interesting is happening all over Israel, the concept of professional learning communities is gaining momentum and connecting with participatory learning processes.

In the northern district, a group of supervisors of Jewish state schools decided to turn the pyramid upside down. Instead of determining for the managers what to learn in their professional development courses, they allow them to choose for themselves. This choice has generated a fascinating learning process for 180 principals + 10 supervisors + many additional Northern District sources, including experts and members of the communities who have joined the project. And thus, ‘Michmoret- Northern Network- a community of happy, professional, learning executives’, was born.

Amir Michael, a district supervisor and deputy district director, led the program along with Mali Netz, who is responsible for professional development in the district, and Yaeli Arma Oren, a general inspector. They received Dr. Orna Simhon’s blessing and were accompanied by Avni Rasha.

An exciting meeting took place between Shani Marchevsky from the Democratic Institute’s DemocratEX, and the group of supervisors. They met with open minds, open to change, and an open heart, for creating enjoyable and redeeming work and meaningful learning processes.

The idea of professional learning communities is a well-known concept in the education system and in professional development frameworks, but now we also attribute it with progressive concepts of self-managed learning and organizational mechanisms of a learning organization.

In addition to the professional development of the principals, for the past three years the Institute for Democratic Education has been accompanying a community of teachers in the north of the country, led by Dr. Tali Be’eri, as part of a project called “Kadima Mada.” (Science Forward).  The community took Tali’s pedagogical model of ‘learning whilst solving problems’ and implemented it in many schools in the north through Kadima Mada. The teachers’ community is a platform for defining standards, indicators, peer consultation, and planning and developing the model.

Also, all the way in the south, in Eilat, another great pedagogical model is developing connecting the processes of teacher assessment with the ideas of a professional learning community. The Ministry of Education is currently welcoming change and transforming the teachers’ evaluation process from a process of final evaluation into a formative evaluation process.

Ronit Beit-Halahmi, Director of the PISGA Center, initiated an innovative but much needed connection, between the goals that teachers set for themselves and ways to improve those goals, through the official tool for teachers’ evaluation and learning about these goals in the framework of the teacher’s lounge.

These models tell a simple story: adults know what they need to learn in order to develop professionally and to improve, they also know what is the best learning method for them.

Will the education systems provide them the space to do this, or will the real professional development continue to exist outside working hours?