Passion, lifelong learning, experience, leadership, and creativity: What do these words have in common? They describe the work of 24 members of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society who are the Teacher-Led Learning Team (TLLT). Members of the team—who are active teachers and principals themselves—collaborate to design workshops that bring learners together in meaningful ways with practical content and interactive experiences. The workshops are half or full-day sessions, offered at school sites or divisional PD days. The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has a tradition of supporting teachers teaching teachers as a valuable mode of professional learning; TLLT continues this trajectory through innovative recruitment and training, focused team development and continuous collaborative inquiry (Lipton and Wellman, 2012).
A year ago, MTS approached Dr. Cathryn Smith from Brandon University to study the key features of the professional learning initiative, determine what was learned during the first two years of operation, and characterize the impact of the team on its members. A participative action research methodology (Stringer, 2014) was used to collect and analyze qualitative data sources including a focus group with volunteer TLLT members; an interview with the TLLT Coordinator; material used to develop, propose, recruit, market and report on TLLT within MTS; TLLT workshop participant packages and facilitator materials; and all data collection tools including a sampling of workshop feedback from participants and reflections from facilitators. Findings from analysis of the data are articulated in the Final Report (Smith, 2018) and include the following highlights:
On the content:
- In their first year of being offered, TLLT workshops generated 94.5% positive responses from workshop participants.
- Training seminars for the team reflect three main features of high calibre professional development: quality content, attention to learning design and implementation, and planning for sustainability and support development (Campbell et al., 2016).
- Professionally prepared workshop materials paired with knowledgeable and reflective practitioners satisfy TLLT workshop participants and create ideal learning conditions.
On the process:
- Although team members initially felt a lot of apprehension about their ability to collaboratively develop a quality product on a tight timeline, the training and vision engendered confidence amongst team members that they would be successful in developing and facilitating workshops.
- Team members felt supported in their role as “ambassadors for MTS”. They felt well prepared with their training, fully equipped with a complete kit of materials, emotionally and personally supported, and valued by MTS.
On the impact of TLLT on team members:
- TLLT members have developed their identity as teacher leaders and are adopting a teacher leader narrative (Sinha and Hanuscin, 2017).
- TLLT members show increased skill and knowledge in leadership as a result of their training sessions; many team members described their TLLT training as the best PD they have ever experienced.
- TLLT members operate as change agents within the province, demonstrate both capacity and context beliefs, participate in organizational improvement, influence their colleagues to adopt research-based practice and are changing the professional learning opportunities for their teaching colleagues.
TLLT is a highly effective and innovative Canadian, union-based, professional learning initiative. Currently in its third year, the TLLT continues to grow with 64% and 30% increases in workshop requests in the second and third years respectively. The workshop content and team design and development processes are continually evolving based on research into practice built on a foundation of collaborative professionalism (Fullan and Hargreaves, 2016, p. 9). Ongoing research will focus on the impact of TLLT on teacher practice, for members of the team, participants in the workshops and school communities.
Campbell, C., Osmond-Johnson, P., Faubert, B., Zeichner, K., and Hobbs-Johnson, A. (with Brown, S., DaCosta, P., Hales, A., Kuehn, L., Sohn, J., and Steffensen, K.). (2016). The state of educators’ professional learning in Canada: Executive summary. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/the-state-of-educators-professional-learning-in-canada-executive-summary.pdf
Fullan, M., and Hargreaves, A. (2016). Bringing the profession back in: Call to action. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/bringing-the-profession-back-in.pdf
Lipton, L., and Wellman, B. (2012). Got data? Now what? Creating and leading cultures of inquiry. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Sinha, S., and Hanuscin, D. (2017). Development of teacher leadership identity: A multiple case study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 63, 350-371. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2017.01.004
Smith, C. (2018). Final report on the evaluation of the Teacher-Led Learning Team (TLLT) of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) 2015-2017.
Stringer, E. (2013). Action research (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Dr. Danielle Fullan Kolton is the TLLT Coordinator and Department Head of Professional and French Language Services at The Manitoba Teachers’ Society. (email@example.com).
Dr. Cathryn Smith is Assistant Professor at Brandon University in the Department of Leadership and Educational Administration and prior to this worked for many years as a teacher and principal in Manitoba schools. (firstname.lastname@example.org).