The London Schools Excellence Fund Project, ‘Professional Language Networks’, has sown the seed of what we call a “teacher learning community” which I believe is effective and cohesive. Through the networks created during the LSEF project, teachers: shared and discussed ideas; exchanged worries and reinforced good practice throughout local seminars, university workshops and conferences. They used the network to support good practice, create new practice, and gather evidence and materials for wider use. All of this activity was designed in a bespoke way to meet teachers’ interests and needs.
Teachers used action research methodology together with reflective practice that allowed them the “thinking space” to become better practitioners. Teachers also shared their experiences amongst small local groups of teachers and also contributed to the dissemination of the LSEF project by presenting their action research projects, writing case studies and blogging. This constructive approach enhanced teachers’ understanding of the principles underlying language teaching and learning and strengthened their commitment to delivering excellent teaching which is constantly being reflected upon and improved.
This constructivist approach contrasts with the “transmission” approach to which most of the teachers have traditionally been exposed, characterised by teachers being trained in practices that had already been developed. This transmission approach has led to changes in teachers’ practices that were consistent with the aims of the training but does not allow for the refreshing of practice from new ideas and the reflection of the teacher themselves on their practice.
I take the opportunity to call on leadership teams to urgently engage with learning communities that offer the powerful roots to create and grow something together. A transmission approach- just telling the teacher what to do and what he or she needs to cover – will not help in creating the “fertile ground” in which teachers can grow new ideas and refresh their practice through reflection – on the contrary, it can lead to teachers simply doing what they have been told without believing in what they are doing.
Thank you to everyone involved in the Network for Languages London who made this learning community possible.
Written by Mònica Pérez, Minerva Academy, City of Westminster – London School Excellence Fund Project participant (LSEF)
Mònica’s main teaching experience has been in the UK. She started teaching Spanish language clubs and later she had the opportunity to develop a thematic approach to language learning. Mònica is doing a Masters at the IoE (UCL) and has recently moved to Cambridge where she still teaches Spanish. Mònica is a good ambassador of Barcelona and has a great passion for teaching languages with technology.