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Teacher Learning Circles: Communities of Support in Crisis

Continuing professional development to improve teacher competencies, motivation, retention, and student outcomes.

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“Intrinsic motivation is a key factor of effective teacher professional development. If we can support teachers to feel their own experience is worth reflecting on and sharing, and forms part of planning for student success, then we are reinforcing the professionalism of teachers. This helps them to strengthen their practice based on a variety of feedback sources, including peer input and self-reflection even in poorly resourced and fragile systems this should be possible...Teachers, no matter what their situation, need professional support and time to collaborate, in order to progress in their practice and gain satisfaction in their work.” Kate Shevland, Principal, New Zealand (INEE, 2015)

This is the opening of the chapter on creating professional development opportunities that promote teacher collaboration in the INEE publication Where It's Needed Most: Quality Professional Development for All Teachers. Teacher learning circles (TLCs) are just one aspect of teacher collaboration but I think it is an under utilized tool that encourages teacher ownership and agency of their professional development. Here are a few points as to why TLCs make a difference:

1. Create a community of practice, improving school climate, improve teacher competencies, strengthen life skills of the teachers, restores teachers sense of agency and control, boost teacher motivation, professionalizes teachers, models effective pedagogy, reduces dependency on NGOs, encourages innovative responses, can reduce stress levels, help teachers be less overwhelmed...

2. In settings where there are limited material resources and not enough funding for continued interventions, TLCs offer an alternative model for continuing professional development throughout the year, supporting teachers with the tools and services that will encourage them to take agency for their needs and for their students needs. 

3. The actions supporting collaboration between teachers (i.e. support from school leaders, access to  are also expertise, and belief that everyone has something to contribute) are the actions and steps needed to create a more stabile and resilient school. There are also  This not only positively impacts the teachers but also the students. Teachers become part of a professional community, focused on improve and support. 

4. Often times teachers in refugee contexts have been through experiences that teach them not to create relationships with others. Reestablishing ties and normalcy within a community can positively influences resilience levels and help with recovery after a trauma.  

For further reading on TPDs in crisis situations, specifically on effective TLC programs go to:


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