Teachers Leading Teachers: The Saskatchewan Professional Development Unit's Facilitator Community

Researcher: Dr. Pamela Osmond-Johnson (University of Regina)
October 2018

Within this context, the purpose of this study was twofold. Firstly, the project aimed to explore the value-added component of communities of practice within the teaching profession by examining the SPDU’s Facilitator Community as an example of a network of teachers leading teachers. An initiative of the professional development branch of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, SPDU’s Facilitator Community supports the growth and development of teacher facilitators who design and lead professional learning for teachers. Drawing on interview and survey data from over 20 Community members, the project aimed to highlight the positive impact involvement in this network has had on its members in terms of the development of their professional capital, which Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) position as being imperative to the future of the teaching profession. They also note that building the collective capacity of the teaching profession to collaboratively examine problems of practice is a significant focus in many of the world’s most educationally successful countries. 

Secondly, by highlighting an innovative teacher leadership network housed within a teacher federation, the project also aims to create a counter-narrative to the notion that such organizations are only concerned with salaries and benefits. Drawing attention to the professional aspects of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and its professional development agenda is particularly important considering the recent establishment of the Saskatchewan Professional Teachers Regulatory Board. Teacher federations in Ontario, one of only two other Canadian provinces to have teacher regulatory boards, recently criticized the overreach of its regulatory board into other professional matters including professional development (OTF, 2014). In an age of union-bashing and neo-liberal assaults on education, it is imperative that teacher federations continue to advance and promote their professional mandate.

The paper begins with an overview of the professional learning literature and the movement towards teacher-led professional learning, followed by an exploration of the international and Canadian literature on the work of teacher organizations in this area. The construct of professional capital is then described as the conceptual framework for the study. This is followed by a description of the Facilitator Community and an overview of the study – its purpose, research questions, and design methods. Key findings around the impact of the program on the development of professional capital within its members is outlined, after which the report concludes with a discussion of the power of leading professional learning for developing professional capital and the important role teacher organizations play in promoting and advocating for professionally led professional learning.