Research Article 5

Leadership Issues When Sustaining Changes in Physics Teaching in Malta Through Professional Learning Communities

Stephanie Maggi-Pulis

University of Leicester

Abstract                                                                                           

This study proposes having Physics Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in Maltese schools wherein teachers work together in their school setting as a means of ongoing professional development throughout the scholastic year. It considers the leadership issues that leaders in Maltese education (particularly secondary school principals) face in developing effective Physics PLCs. A mixed method approach was used to investigate leadership issues. Interviews were conducted with three school principals in Catholic schools adopting a Physics PLC and two Ministry Officials responsible for Physics teaching to open up to a wider perspective relevant to State Schools in Malta. A sample of Physics teachers in State, Catholic and Independent schools also completed a questionnaire asking about their willingness to share their resources and classroom experience with colleagues. The findings suggested that this framework could potentially be adopted in Maltese schools for teachers’ ongoing professional development – most Physics teachers answered favourably to adopting sharing only within their own school on the various aspects of teaching. School principals showed that their input, especially in the initial stages of the PLC formation, was important. However, the study also established the need for ongoing support by the Senior Management Team (SMT) in a school, for teachers in a Physics PLC to be able to meet regularly during the scholastic year.   This support includes a common slot in teachers’ time-table, available premises and a shared leadership attitude in the school wherein teachers could themselves act as leaders of change through their teaching and initiatives. It was therefore concluded that it is possible to adopt the PLC framework in Physics teaching in Malta. Since a number of these teachers also teach other Science subjects and or Mathematics this framework could also be applicable to these subjects. When teachers are empowered to work together in their school, then it was established that the output they produce is superior to the sum of work which each one can do individually. Even if adopting this change is resisted initially by some teachers, in time, experience in Maltese Catholic schools revealed that it led to better students’ attainment in Physics in that school.

Keywords:

Leadership issues; Professional Learning Communities; Professional Development; shared leadership

6MaggiPulis2015Dec