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Building Community

“PD leaders need to nurture the relationships between participants so teachers feel a commitment to their own learning and that of their peers.” Terry Saba


A strong a sense of teacher community in a school is correlated with higher than expected student achievement (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001; Langer, 2000; Lee & Smith, 1996). When teachers learn and grow together, their students do, too!


Here are a few ideas of how to create and sustain a sense of community amongst you and your participants:

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Share your passions and interests with the group so they get to know you as an individual. Encourage participants to do the same. Use inclusive, collective language. (“We are working on…” vs. “You are working on…”)
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Position teachers competently. When we assume people in the room are smart, competent, and good people they are likely to prove us right. :)
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Share interesting and positive news from the school, board, or Ministry. This helps people feel like they are on the “inside track.” (“Did you all hear that Anne just retired? We miss her at Langdon High!”)
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Share impressions about how the workshop is unfolding in a transparent but positive way. (“It seems like we are all struggling with this concept. It is a really tough concept!”) Sometimes, it can be helpful to share vulnerabilities. (“I was really nervous about this workshop today, because…”)
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Provide opportunities for teachers to get to know each other and collaborate together. The more difficult the work is that people do together, the more likely they are to develop community. (“So next week, Teresa will be visiting Ali’s class to give her feedback on conferencing. We look forward to hearing all about it!”).
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Check frequently for disagreements to ensure that all voices are being heard. (“Are there any reasons you think this strategy might not work with kids?”)


Activities that Help Build and Maintain Community


Here are two examples of activities that PD leaders can use to foster a sense of community:


 


References


Langer, J. A. (2000). Excellence in English in middle and high school: How teachers’ professional lives support student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 397-439.


Lee, V. E., & Smith, J. B. (1996). Collective responsibility for learning and its effects on gains in achievement for early secondary school students. American Journal of Education, 104, 103-147.


McLaughlin, M. W., & Talbert, J. E. (2001). Professional communities and the work of high school teaching. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.