A Professional Learning Community Approach for Teacher Development and OER creation - A toolkit/Planning the PLC-OER program

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A Professional Learning Community Approach for Teacher Development and OER creation - A toolkit
PLC-OER model of TPD Planning the PLC-OER program Establishing ICT infrastructure

The aim of the PLC program is to support TPD, integrating ICT so as to meet the vision of TPD as discussed in the NCFTE

The PLC program of TPD aims to enrol all teachers working in school education in a state. The vision for TPD needs to encompass every teacher in the school. There is no subject/area, where the teacher will not benefit by participating in virtual professional learning communities, for sharing experiences, resources and learnings. In every area, there is a need for supporting the development of learning materials that can address diverse and local needs, and digital tools could help in this. Every teacher should be a co-owner of the school ICT lab.


However, the ICT Infrastructure within the education department will not usually be available to cover large number of teachers. It is very important to build the ICT infrastructure in-house so that it is available whenever required by teachers. Depending on external ICT Labs will not allow this flexibility and will also be expensive. It is better to phase the program over 3-5 years, to include all teachers in the schools. This will support better quality. Hence the program would need to be conceptualized as a multi-year program, since it would not be feasible for all teachers to be enrolled in a year. This will also support the development of capacities for designing and conducting this program over time.

Secondly, it is important to begin with the highest classes in the school system and gradually include lower classes in a phased manner. In Karnataka, where the school system comprises lower primary schools (grades 1 through 5), higher primary schools (grades 1 through 7 or 8) and high schools (grades 8 through 10), the program began with the high schools. The reasons for this are simple - the high schools tend to be fewer and have better overall infrastructure, as well as larger absolute number of teachers. Comparatively, the lower primary schools on the other end tend to be many more in number, spread out in more remote areas, with fewer teachers and poorer overall infrastructure. The support required to maintain ICT infrastructure and scaffold teachers' learning to integrate ICT into their work, is of a higher order for the higher and even much more for lower primary schools. Hence, after professional learning communities of high school teachers have been built, higher primary schools could be taken up. The PLCs of high school teachers could in their own geographies, support the PLCs of the higher primary school teachers. Likewise PLCs of higher primary school teachers could in their own geographies, support the lower primary school teachers. PLCs across these types of schools could be created, supporting the development of virtual school complexes over time, which could also link to the teacher support institutions in those geographies to develop the .

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The Education Commission, 1964-66 observed that a school complex "would have several advantages in the helping to promote educational advances. Firstly, it would break the benumbing isolation under which each school functioned; it would enable a small group of schools working in a neighbourhood to make a cooperative effort to improve standards; and it would enable the state education department to devolve authority to functional levels.” The 1986 National Policy on Education, broadened this concept to 'educational complexes' which would include teacher education institutions and other school support institutions, apart from schools in the geography.

Thirdly, it is important to focus at a time on a few subjects, rather than all. In larger states, it would be better to identify one subject at a time, and build PLCs for those subject teachers. Having a larger number of teachers of one subject being enrolled in the program will provide more traction to the interactions amongst the teachers, than working with smaller number of teachers of different subjects. Working on one subject at a time also puts lesser pressure on schools, as only the teacher(s) teaching that subject would need to pulled out of school.

However, the vision should encompass every teacher in the school. There is no subject/area, where the teacher will not benefit by participating in virtual professional learning communities, for sharing experiences, resources and learnings. In every area, there is a need for supporting the development of learning materials that can address diverse and local needs, and digital tools could help in this. Every teacher should be seen as a co-owner of the school ICT lab.

The sequencing of the program components can vary, based on state and local priorities. Any of these could be could be undertaken as the first step

  1. Setting up the PLCs - this enables a large network of practitioners comfortable with ICT integration in TPD and classroom transactions, post which OER, Textbook and OER repository could follow.
  2. Building a large-scale collaborative OER creation, revision and sharing model can be initiated after building the PLCs. The group of OER creators can be small to begin and gradually increase by enabling more interested teachers to learn OER creation, revision and sharing/publishing. As a part of this OER program, developing the text book and hand book for classroom transaction; having the text book and hand book can provide a firm basis for the design and implementation of the PLC program of TPD. This component would also include building the state OER repository, which can support PLC building and OER creation which could feed into the Textbook development.

Karnataka began with PLC and then initiated the OER component. Telangana began with collaborative OER creation and text book development followed by PLC. Each state will need to customise the phasing, of the program based on geography (starting with select districts) and subject (starting with select subjects), depending on contextual factors such as number of schools, teachers, districts, state of ICT Infrastructure, current awareness to ICT etc. In terms of subjects, Mathematics teachers, from our experience, tend to be the most 'technology-savvy' of all subject teachers and Mathematics also tends to be an challenging area requiring greater support, hence it would be a good idea to begin with Mathematics teachers, then expand the program to inclulde Science and Social Science subjects, and continue with languages and other subjects.

In any of these scenarios, the development of blended learning courses should be one of the last components, as it requires a large body of teachers who have digital literacy (which is a PLC outcome) and curricular resources (which is an outcome of the OER and textbook components). Some states have started on-line courses / blended courses without building universal digital literacy in teachers, this is unlikely to be effective.

Perspective plan

Since the STF is likely to be a multi-year program, a perspective plan would be useful to prepare. This plan would discuss the vision of program, identify priorities for the state, recognizing the contexts and challenges in TPD. The plan would also provide direction in terms of the components being prioritised and the subject teachers covered for participation in the PLCs. The plan would also include the phased development of in-house ICT infrastructure, in schools as well as in the teacher education institutions at state, district, block and cluster levels.

The coverage of teachers and the provision of ICT infrastructure can be dovetailed, such that teachers from schools, where the labs are being provided can be included in the teacher education for that year. This can avoid situations where there are labs in schools, whose teachers' digital literacy capacities have not been built, or where teachers are trained, but their schools do not have ICT labs.

Preparation of Annual Work Plans (AWP) every year

The detailed planning and budgeting for the program would need to be done as part of the AWP processes. Since the program is envisaged as as a part of the regular in-service teacher education of the government, funding would be secured from Central (RMSA/SSA) and state government budgets. The AWP would discuss the specific objectives of the program for the year, investments, risks/challenges and expected outcomes.

The PLC program envisions building ICT integration capacities in all teachers in the school system. As mentioned, this will take a few years time, since teachers can be covered only in a phased manner. After all teachers are enrolled into the PLCs, the method of the teacher training, can be continued, with focus of the training changing, as per priorities. Essentially, the PLC approach requires access to an ICT lab, where teachers can access resources pertaining to any topic. Secondly, teachers learn digital tools and methods which will help the deepen their knowledge or transact or create curricular resources for that topic. Thirdly teachers become part of virtual networks, which aim at continuing the learning on that topic, beyond the workshop.

This means that after 'subject teacher forums' are established and all teachers are enrolled in their respective subject forums, the same model can be used to build PLCs on other important issues such as gender, adolescent education, vocational education etc. Thus PLC can be seen as a method of in-service training, into which different areas of knowledge/ learning can be incorporated. This model will allow for richer learning during the face-to-face workshops by allowing access to the web during these interactions. It will also allow continuity of learning after the workshops are completed. By ensuring a teacher:computer ratio of 1:1, the number of teachers in any workshop is kept to a manageable number which can allow for more meaningful learning.

Thus the PLC program can continue indefinitely as a part of the in-service teacher education program of the state.

Establishing state and district level design and implementation teams

The PLC program requires a robust structure, at state and district levels, to provide academic and technological support to the teachers, after the workshops, for co-designing and implementing the program. The groups can comprise teachers and teacher educators.

At the state level, a steering committee needs to be established for the program. It could have sub-groups for the PLC and OER components. The convenor/chair of the committee can be the head of institution of teacher education at the state levels. The steering group will oversee the set-up of the infrastructure, teacher training as well as curriculum and syllabus aspects. The steering group can have different sub-groups for review of syllabus and curricular resource materials, designing and development of teacher training programmes as well as infrastructure maintenance and support. The steering group could include members from SCERT, partner organisations implementing the ICT programmes as well as from academic and teacher training institutions.

A second component would be the Technology support team at the state and district levels, this will need to be created from the teachers, who are interested in developing technology skills and are trained on technology maintenance and support. The second component was part of the Assam STF, where teachers are much less exposed to ICT, but not in Karnataka, where most teachers have had some exposure to ICTs. This component will be very useful to sustain ICT use, specially where the uptake of ICT is poor.

At the district level, resource groups for PLC and OER components need to be established, this would be third component of the program structure. These groups can be formed from the Master Resource Persons for each subject. The responsibility of this team is to provide techno-pedagogical support to the other teachers in the district.
Check list for identification of teachers/teacher educators: Teachers and teacher educators can be enrolled into the state and district resource groups, using some of parameters listed below:

  1. Subject knowledge
  2. Interest in learning ICT (expertise in ICT is not required)
  3. Interest in being a teacher educator / faculty in the workshops
  4. Experience in facilitating teacher education programs / workshops

In Karnataka and in Telangana, most of the district teams comprise of teachers. Very few teacher educators are members. This is because, the program has focused on high school teachers and teachers as practitioners tend to be more comfortable in integrating ICT for subject teaching and for resource creation, as compared to teacher educators from DIETs and CTEs.

The department should also identify community organizations promoting free and open technologies at state and district levels and encourage their support to teachers in adopting FOSS tools in schools. In Kerala, the NGO SPACE provided support to the department in supporting teachers adopt FOSS and initially provided the custom distributions of the FOSS platform and applications for their IT@Schools program. In Karnataka and Telangana too, not for profit organizations including the Free Software Foundation, Free Software Movement of India have participated and supported ITfC in the teacher training workshops and also subsequent implementation in schools.


The preparation of a perspective plan is necessary to provide a continuity of thought and action with respect to the program. However, there is a high probability of changing priorities, including due to changes in the role of senior officials in the department. This may lead to the program not proceeding as per the perspective plan, with short or longer disruptions likely. Nevertheless, a perspective plan will provide a sense of direction to the program, and progress over time can be assessed with respect to this plan.