Why a teaching & learning leader uses peer learning for PD

Richard Driscoll is excited that a team of 30 SCIE teachers will join PeerSphere communities in September.

By LeeAnne Lavender, PeerSphere Storyteller

Richard Driscoll, the Academic Deputy Principal at Shenzhen College of International Education (SCIE) in China, is leading a team of 30 teachers and non-teaching staff from his school to participate in this year’s PeerSphere communities. Why is he so passionate about getting this many staff members involved? Because he knows the peer learning experience will create tangible and deep learning opportunities for his team. 

Richard was part of last year’s ACAMIS community focussed on professional development, led by PeerSphere co-founder Ewen Bailey. Richard even led a session with that group where he presented an evidence-based online module called “Great Teaching” to support teacher PD about effective teaching strategies and onboard new staff members. 

“I asked for feedback and suggestions for evaluating the impact of the module and we were able to assess and discuss it,” says Richard. “The network model is so helpful for reflecting and learning. I was able to take away some excellent feedback and ideas from the group, and others were also able to take away ideas from what I had done. It was such a reciprocal experience.” 

PeerSphere co-founder Michael Iannini had visited SCIE a few years earlier, which provided the opportunity for Richard to meet him and become aware of the ACAMIS professional learning community (PLC) that Michael was creating. 

“We were changing ideas of assessment at our school at the time, and we wanted to focus more on formative assessment. Through the PLC that year about assessment, I was able to learn about new approaches and bring those into our school, and I also benefited from Ewen’s sessions about developing middle leaders. Those sessions also led to new practices at our school,” says Richard. 

Richard has worked at SCIE for nine years and has channeled his love for sociology and social studies into professional development and high quality learning for his team. He’s also working on his master’s degree through the University of Bath and may focus on continuing professional development (CPD) for his thesis. 

After seeing so much tangible evidence of the impact of peer learning at SCIE last year, Richard is excited to lead a team of 30 SCIE educators and staff into the PeerSphere realm this year. 

“This year I will be joining a new community myself for deputy heads, and the rest of my team will be involved in a variety of communities,” says Richard. SCIE is growing rapidly and many new staff members have been hired; the PLC experience will provide Richard with continuity and engagement in his onboarding process with new teachers, and will also provide him with ways to offer meaningful learning experiences with non-teaching staff, as well. 

“Last year we had one of our librarians participate in a PLC and she was so enthusiastic that she created a Wechat app for our library and designed activities for World Book Day influenced by other members of the peer community. This year I will have another librarian join the group, and we have a new signup process so we can get the right people in the right groups,” says Richard. He will also encourage his teachers and staff to share their learning through committees at SCIE so the impact of peer learning amplifies and grows. 

Richard plans to bring all PeerSphere community members at SCIE together in December to check in, share and celebrate what they’re learning. He wants everyone to embrace the participatory nature of peer learning, and also create a culture at SCIE that celebrates and honours professional growth. 

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