School Case Study
Integrated Distinct Governmental Language School
A Community of Practice
A community of practice refers to a team of persons who learn, work and develop professionally together. According to Etienne & Beverly Wenger - Trayner (2015), “communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” So it is important for a CoP to share a concern and a passion to develop work. Christopher Hoadley (1998) supports the idea of sharing practices in addition to knowledge and ideas. A community of practice helps to change theoretical ideas into applicable practice. It helps to put similar ideas onto one track. It helps to explore different ideas. It helps to support teachers’ professional development systematically. It helps to give a professional role model of CPD for other teachers.
At IDGL School (Shebin El-Kom, Monofia), Community of Practice 3 or CoP 3 is established by us based on Teachers First Professional development Program initiated by the Presidential Council of Education and Scientific Research. Since 6th of October 2015, we have gone through CPD Theme including two topics; communities of practice and reflective teacher. Before Teachers First PD, we have worked together for about 5 years. We have finished four out of six courses of Educational Diploma of Leadership at AUC besides many other training programs and courses in Egypt and England. So, we usually have similar experiences, ideas, concerns, motivation and commitment. We are teachers of English at IDGL School (Integrated Distinct Governmental Language School), a big governmental language well-equipped school in Shebin El-Kom, the capital city of Monofia Governorate in Nile Delta (80 kilometers to the north of Cairo). There are four stages; KG, primary, prep or middle and secondary or high stages. There are 120 long-experienced and well-trained teachers and staff members.
Based on Teachers First PD first workshop of CPD, we have started CoP 3 by discussing and agreeing on the community’s core value, vision, mission and ground rules (See Appendix 1). CoP 3’s core value is “CoP 3 .. Ours, not mine”. It stresses the ideas of teamwork, cooperation, collaboration and communication. CoP 3’s vision is maintaining a community of practice that helps to support CPD. CoP 3’s mission includes: establishing and maintaining the community of practice, supporting the continued professional development and developing teaching, learning and CPD at IDGL School. We agreed on some ground rules for meetings, discussions, online contact, class visits, individual work, pair work and group work. We arranged for starting our own closed Face Book Group “CPD” to develop 24/7 communication besides Teachers First Website. We agreed to have a different online spokesperson every two weeks. The online spokesperson was to start posting on CPD Group, contact Teachers First trainers and collects and uploads CoP 3 Action Plan of each theme.
Throughout October, November and December 2015, we had regular meetings based on Teachers First PD workshops to discuss what and how to implement different strategies and techniques based on Teachers First PD eight themes including; CPD, learning, teaching, assessment, environment, lesson planning, conduct and behaviour. We discussed the topics and behaviors of each theme. We draft CoP 3 action plan of each theme that clearly stated how to implement and modify different strategies and techniques in primary, prep or middle and secondary or high stages at IDGL School. We went to our classes to implement and assess how applicable and effective the different strategies and techniques (See Appendix 2). We considered how applicable and suitable these different strategies and techniques are in public schools with large classes as we all worked in big public schools before working in a governmental language school which is quite different from public schools. We made use of Teachers First Website and CPD Facebook closed group to share ideas, practices, challenges and reflective journals. Teachers First Discussion Area of CoP 3 and CPD Facebook closed group helped us to have 25/7 contact to complete our evaluation and reflection on the action plan of each theme (See Appendix 2). We implemented, discussed, modified and shared a lot of activities and techniques collaboratively. We learned from each other greatly. We made use of the teachers’ smart card and Teachers First Website to share practices and to have self credits, peer credits and assessor credits based on working on different behaviors.
The systematic flow of CoP 3 work helped to avoid some problems and to face different challenges, but still there were some simple obstacles that might affect work. The busy tone of life, family matters and daily responsibilities were somehow hindering the ongoing of the community sometimes. However, the Consensus and harmony among the members of CoP 3 helped to get over these challenges as we were completing each other and fulfilling the requirements cooperatively (See Appendix 1). While building the CoP, we faced also some stops at the beginning as some of CoP members were stuck to their ideas and opinions and not accepting others’ opinions. But ongoing teamwork helped us to listen to each other. We were even more eager to hear each other to seek, elaborate and build upon different ideas such as having a complete picture out of different pieces of a puzzle. This happened out of the belief that each one of CoP 3 member has different and unique skills, ideas, mentality and experience that help to build a complete and skillful CoP based on different but compatible mentalities and common concern of members.
On November 2015, we started to extend the idea of CoP among IDGL School teachers. We talked to many teachers about a CoP and how important it would be. We discussed how Teachers First would help teachers to change their teaching behaviors towards better teaching and learning. We talked about how Teachers First PD would help teachers to be change agents in “Egypt Learning Society”. Finally, 14 IDGL School teachers were fully interested in joining extended CoP. We invited extended CoP 3 new members and school principal to a meeting. We introduced the idea of CoP. We took turns to introduce Teachers First PD program themes. Then, we had an open discussion. The questions and discussions showed how new CoP members would be very interested in Teachers First PD themes and topics based on their experiences, motivation and commitment in a supportive school.
On 5th December 2015, we had the last face-to-face workshop of Teachers First PD program. However, behavior change and professional development did not come to an end. We continued to have meetings as possible as we could. We continued to implement, modify and share ideas and practices. We continued to spread the idea of CoP among IDGL teachers based on our experience of Teachers First PD and commitment to develop teaching, learning and professional development at IDGL School. We sometimes disagree on some ideas, but we practiced how to listen to and respect different ideas. We sometimes had too little time to have face-to-face meetings, but we made use of Teachers First Website and CPD Face Book closed group to have ongoing contact and feedback (See Appendix 3). Our community has helped to prove that we can make difference to develop teaching, learning and professional development at school(s).
• Having similar ideas and concerns helps a CoP to work well to get common goals. • Having different skills and experiences helps a CoP to learn from each other. • Having regular meetings helps a CoP to discuss and modify applicable activities. • Using ICT to have 24/7 contact helps a CoP to share everything at any time. • Listening to different ideas helps to respect and develop better ideas. • Working together helps a CoP to develop teamwork skills.
Lengo!A short story by: Samir Omara
As the prep school principal Mrs. Ahlam watches the second floor classrooms, she encounters something different; the forty-year old senior teacher of maths Mr. Aref sits at the back of the classroom where the thirty-year-old teacher of maths Mr Basem delivers a lesson to "Class 1 B"! The teacher of Arabic and Teachers First CoP member Mrs. Amany goes through the corridor. The principal asks her about that situation. Mrs. Amany says, "This is a part of our CoP Action Plan for CPD Theme that we develop together to do change behaviour by exchanging class visits and feedback". At 11.00, the old brass school bell rings. The lesson is over. Mr. Aref and Mr. Basem go out of the classroom, they go to the staff room where they have a professional and friendly discussion on using "role play" to teach "Mode, Median and Mean" in "Class 1 B". Mr. Aref gives a "peer credit" to Mr. Basem using the "Lengo" application installed on his smart phone! They agree on the next lesson when Mr. Basem is going to attend "Class 3 C" to watch how Mr. Aref is going to use "Traffic Lights" to assess learning of "Ratio"! Mrs. Ahlam goes back to her office to welcome the supervisor of maths Mr. Hakeem. She tells him about teachers' exchange of class visits, feedback and "Lengo" application. They decide to head for the school library to take part in main CoP meeting with extended CoP members to present installing and using "Lengo" application.