Teachers are the pillars of every education system, and their continued professional development is considered a key prerequisite for successful education reform. Research shows that professional development can sustainably improve the quality of teaching and learning, while enhancing the effectiveness of education, thereby enabling continuous development for the whole of society.
Learning communities as an innovative form of contextualized professional development provide teachers to work on improving their daily pedagogical practice through independent work and research, but also through discussions and experience exchanges with colleagues. In this learning process, teachers exchange information of different kinds, allowing for a better flow of information within the school as well as individually between teachers. In this way, the opportunity to easily see and solve many issues related to everyday work and the school in general. Learning communities start from the assumption that all of its members have leadership capacity regardless of their status or formal position of authority, thereby promoting an inclusive approach to work. They are in fact a model of a professional community of practitioners – both teachers and professional services, who create and nurture a culture of professional learning, of peer-to-peer knowledge, of dealing with practical challenges and creating practices relevant at the local level.
Recognizing the benefits of this type of learning, in order to provide them to as many teachers as possible, the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia in partnership with the Foundation Step by Step and the Directorate for Promotion of Education in the Languages of the Communities, establish learning communities in 10 schools where instruction is in Turkish, Serbian and Bosnian. These learning communities included more than 130 teachers and representatives from the school’s professional service.
This learning process in each of the communities is currently led by a mentor assigned by the project that guides the learning community members according to the Teacher Leadership methodology at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education but adapted to our conditions. The idea is for the learning communities to become a regular practice and part of the everyday life of the schools, to be organized by the teachers themselves and the professional school services, enabling the improvement of the quality of teaching and the functionality of the schools.
The learning communities are created within the concept “Education of the Smaller Ethnic Communities” of the Foundation Open Society – Macedonia.