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Teaching Learning Collaborative

The Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC) is a professional development strategy of the K-12 Alliance, a WestEd science and mathematics program. Developed in 1995, the TLC is based on the knowledge that the most effective professional development for teachers is that which occurs closest to the classroom (Loucks-Horsley 2003, Weiss, et al., 1999; Cohen & Hill, 1998). The TLC is such a strategy because it occurs in the classroom!

Why TLC?
Evaluation data (Loucks-Horsley, 1995) from one of the K-12 Alliance's National Science Foundation (NSF) funded programs indicated that only moderate changes in classroom practice occurred after "intensive" traditional institute training. In response to these data, K-12 Alliance personnel redesigned one of their key professional development strategies to focus more closely on learning sequence design for student conceptual understanding. The result is the TLC process.

What is the literature base for TLC?
As a long-term professional development strategy embedded in classroom practice, the TLC combines the most effective components of:
  • conditions for and characteristics of learning (Bransford, et al., 1999)
  • professional learning communities (Hord, 1997; Louis et al., 1999)
  • coaching and mentoring (Garmston and Wellman, 1999)
  • current pedagogical content knowledge specific to mathematics or science (Schulman, 1986)
  • lesson design (Bybee, 1997)
  • backwards planning (Wiggin and McTighe, 2005)
  • lesson study (Stigler, 1999: Lewis, 2002)h
The following chart briefly describes how each of the resources from the literature presented above can be found in the TLC as a TLC Component:

Literature Base
TLC Component
Key findings from How People Learn
Prior knowledge of students addressed in 5E
Conceptual schema addressed in development of Conceptual Flow
Metacognition of students addressed in 5E
Professional Learning Community
Examination of student work
Collaborative learning
Supportive conditions
Share personal practice
Coaching and Mentoring
Conceptual Flow
Learning cycle modeled through 5E
Levels of questions
Range of student understanding
Quality assessment
Lesson Design
Backwards Planning
Begin with the end in mind
Learning cycle modeled through 5E
Concepts and student understanding before activities
Lesson Study
Collaborative planning, teaching, debriefing, and adjustment of lesson

How Does a TLC Work?
The TLC focuses on specific content in science or mathematics identified through development of a conceptual flow (DiRanna, K., 1989; DiRanna, K., and Topps, J., 2004; DiRanna, K., Osmundson, E., Topps, J., Barakos, L., Gerhardt, M., Cerwin, K., Carnahan, D., Strang, C., 2008) and learning sequence planning via the 5-E lesson design (Bybee, 1997). Working in collaborative teams, guided by a facilitator, teachers "polish the stone" (Stevenson & Stigler, 1994) by teaching the learning sequence they have designed followed by a debrief of the effectiveness of the design that is supported by evidence collected during the delivery of the lesson. Teams analyze student work and other data collected during the lesson for indicators of the relationship between teacher decision in the learning sequence planning and student understanding. The learning sequence is then redesigned based on evidence from the classroom and taught to another group of students. The process of looking at student work is repeated and the learning sequence is refined in the following pattern:

plan, teach, debrief;
adjust, teach, debrief.

What is the TLC? What is it Not?

What It Is
What It Is Not
Coaching with a focus on lesson design
Coaching focused on individual practice
Observations focused on the interaction of teaching and learning
Observation focused on teacher behavior
Focus on the cause and effect of lesson decisions made by the teacher as evidenced in student understanding
Focus on logistics or classroom management
Focus on entire design of learning sequence
Focus on a specific skill (e.g., wait time)
Collaborative practice (everyone teaches)
Solo practice
Equalization of participant roles
(everybody is a learner)
Expert vs. novice
Trust building and collegial work
Lowers individual risk
Independent work
High individual risk
Veteran/novice teachers together
Generally novice teachers
Continuous improvement

What is the Effect of TLC on Teacher Practice and Student Learning?
The TLC has been an immediate success: teachers claimed it to be the best professional development they ever had. Teachers recognized changes in their practice: "The kids know that because I taught it" becomes "the kids know this concept based on my analysis of their student work that indicates their ability to explain and apply." "I have to cover this material" becomes "Teach in-depth." "The ratio of teacher talk to student talk changes dramatically to more student talk, less teacher talk." "I can't escape what the kids don't know."

Evaluation data (Young, M.J., 2000; Stiles, K & De-Long-Coty, B 2005, 2006, 2007; Benn, W., 2005) indicated true changes in classroom practice. When dealing with student misconceptions, teachers better understood the purpose of assessing prior knowledge, embedded assessment, and step-by-step concept development. In identifying the concepts to be taught, teachers recognized some of their misconceptions or limited understanding. The TLC process assisted them in "getting clearer" on the concepts so that they could more effectively facilitate the student learning. In 2008, the TLC is in use in 17 of the 64 California Math Science Partnerships.

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