The year 2015 marked a turning point for the Fabindia School in Pali district, Rajasthan. It was the year the Professional Learning Program for teachers was launched. Teachers began to feel empowered and transformation began to steadily unfold.
Prior to 2015, teacher professional learning at the Fabindia School was limited and traditional. Teachers worked in isolation, as with other schools in rural India. Even though English was the medium of instruction, teachers did not use English extensively for their own learning or working together. There was little, if any, use of technology.
What is the Professional Learning Program in India?
The Professional Learning Program (PLP) is an extended and profound learning experience. It immerses members in a model of inquiry and problem-based learning that enables them to meet their learning objectives through a collaborative learning environment—all with the support of experienced coaches. The PLP is also grounded in the concepts of transformative learning and collaborative inquiry in Schools Can Change (Corwin, 2013) and in the high-quality professional learning concepts outlined in Standards of Professional Learning (Learning Forward, 2011).
The PLP is a three-year certificate program during which teachers engage in workshops, webinars, staff exchanges with partner schools, and eLearning exercises to find solutions to teaching and learning challenges. The minimum time required to participate in the program increases from 90 hours in year one to 150 hours in year three. Educators divide their time between structured training sessions and self-directed professional learning with increasing amounts of self-directed time as they progress from year to year. Teachers voluntarily put in extra time and effort.
Building an All-India Learning Community
Creating an All-India Learning Community was the first step towards fostering ongoing collaboration—the true foundation of learning. People from different walks of life and different parts of the world encouraged participants and worked alongside them to take their learning to the next level. Administrators helped create the Professional Learning Program and provided workshops for teachers. They also supported transforming the school’s governance, operations, and culture.
In 2016, educators who started the PLP joined with others to launch Learning Forward India, an affiliate chapter of Learning Forward, to promote high-quality professional learning throughout India. In 2017 Learning Forward India adopted the PLP and later expanded it to include educators from other Indian schools.
Teacher Teams Happy at Work
As the saying goes, “Happy teachers lead to happy students.” The PLP helped promote teacher happiness by evolving the program design and content to meet teacher needs and expectations and by giving teachers the freedom to design and implement personalized PLPs. School culture changed to incorporate teacher voice in planning and decision-making as teachers worked with stakeholders to improve student learning outcomes.
A PLP team at work – Monica Vaishnav, Vimmy Rajpurohit, Prema Rathore, Urmila Rathore
What did the teachers choose to focus on? They established these key areas of focus for each year:
- Year 1: Teachers developed their collaboration skills, improved their proficiency in English, and learned how to use technology to support their learning.
- Year 2: Teachers focused on building action teams and developing staff leadership. Teams worked to resolve the challenges they faced in rolling out the My Good Schools program (the personal and social development of students, recognizing that service, skill, sport and study all provide equal opportunities for learning and promoting experiential learning) and on identifying student needs.
- Year 3: Teams focused on preparing students to strengthen the skills that would help them beyond the prescribed curriculum. First, they analyzed students’ performance to determine which students were having difficulties. They then developed relevant classroom strategies, such as those that involved peer learning, flipped learning, and formative assessments, to ensure understanding and learning. Finally, they met regularly to discuss students’ progress.
Embracing Social Media and Technology
Social media accelerated teacher learning throughout the PLP. Using social media, teachers developed better communication skills, became active learners through self-reflection and expression, and transformed into a community of learners. Teachers now post regularly on a “Brewing Knowledge” blog and on the school’s Facebook page. They all use Skype and WhatsApp to share resources and ideas and to make class blogs that encourage students’ writing.
Technology strengthened learning communities within the school and enabled the school to connect with experts across India and overseas. Teachers are using PowerPoint presentations, videos, radio shows and role plays in classrooms and sharing materials with students via Google Drive. Students learned technology skills through computer workshops and successfully competed at events with other schools.
Results of the Professional Learning Program
17 teachers successfully graduated in 2018 from the first 3-year PLP. The graduates and the PLP leaders have observed the following:
Changes in teachers:
- more proficient use of technology and social media
- more confident use of English in the classroom, during professional learning and when working with each other
- more confident in their ability to work together
- more actively engaged in their own professional learning
- more in-depth understanding of the My Good Schools program.
- more collaborative, especially in working on a book celebrating The Fabindia School’s 25th anniversary.
Changes in classrooms and with students
- Teachers take into the classroom what they learn and do in their PLPs
- Teachers more actively engage students in interactive discussions
- Teachers use technology to support student learning
Keys to Success
We attribute the success of the 3-year PLP to these three factors:
- Building an All-India Learning Community of resources
- Fostering the teachers’ happiness by empowering them to create their own Professional Learning Program
- Embracing social media and technology
The first PLP successes are the basis for new efforts to strengthen and expand the work:
- Qualified staff will be the trainers for new PLP cohorts in 2018
- The PLP graduates have established a Learning Forward India Chapter at Bali to expand PLP access for local area schools and have launched, with Learning Forward India, new chapters and PLPs in central and southern India—this is part of the Learning Forward India’s plan to build both a local My Good Schools network and a national network.
- In 2019 the first PLP graduates will continue their professional learning with The Skillful Teacher (rbteach.com).
The PLP Experience in Their Own Words
“Compared with other schools, educators here are more confident, with no hesitation, empowered as they know their opinion will be valued, have started writing a blog, confidently use technology and handle social media, like posting on their own newsweekly and professional writing.”
–Rajeshree Shihag, Principal, The Fabindia School
“After successful completion of the PLP, I feel more confident as an educator. I’ve transformed myself into a teacher equipped with core values (soft skills) and a user of technology for personal fulfillment and enrichment of mind and soul.”
–Ajay Vijayvargi, Teacher
“PLP in our school encouraged me to connect my teaching with real life situations. My confidence level for presenting views and ideas has improved and it helped me to think about changing my way of teaching.”
–Byju P. Joseph, Teacher
: We would like to acknowledge Ms. Bharti Rao, Ms. Prerna Rathore, Ms. Devyani Dutt, and Ms. Devanjali Dutt for their assistance in developing this blog post and acknowledge Ms. Deepika Tandon, the former principal at the Fabindia School, for her leadership at the inception of the PLP.