Other Learning Experiences is one of the three major components of the Senior Secondary curriculum that complements the core and elective subjects (including Applied Learning courses and other languages) for the whole-person development of students. These experiences include Moral and Civic education, Community Service, Career-related Experiences, Aesthetic Development and Physical Development.
It is a way of organising the school curriculum around fundamental concepts of major knowledge domains. It aims at providing a broad, balanced and coherent curriculum for all students through engaging them in a variety of essential learning experiences. The Hong Kong curriculum has eight KLAs, namely, Chinese Language Education, English Language Education, Mathematics Education, Personal, Social and Humanities Education, Science Education, Technology Education, Arts Education and Physical Education.
Generic skills are skills, abilities and attributes which are fundamental in helping students to acquire, construct and apply knowledge. They are developed through the learning and teaching that takes place in different subjects or Key Learning Areas, and are transferable to different learning situations. Nine types of generic skills are identified in the Hong Kong school curriculum, i.e. collaboration skills, communication skills, creativity, critical thinking skills, information technology skills, numeracy skills, problem-solving skills, self-management skills and study skills.
A total of 20 senior secondary subjects, a wide range of Applied Learning courses and 6 other languages in the new system from which students may choose to develop their interests and abilities, and they open up a number of pathways into further studies and careers.
Subjects recommended for all students to take at the senior secondary level: Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies.
A learning community refers to a group of people who have shared values and goals, and work closely together to generate knowledge and create new ways of learning through active participation, collaboration and reflection. Such a learning community may involve not only students and teachers, but also parents and other parties in the community.
Assessments administered in schools as part of the learning and teaching process, with students being assessed by their subject teachers. Marks awarded will count towards students’ public assessment results in local examinations conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.
Booklet 10 Professional Development and Learning Culture - Building a Community of Practice
This is one of a series of 12 booklets in the Senior Secondary Curriculum Guide.  Its contents are as follows:
10.1 Purpose of the Booklet
10.2 Capacity Building and Professional Development
10.3 Making Curriculum Changes at the School Level
  10.3.1 Teachers’ understanding of change in school contexts
  10.3.2 New challenges to teachers as key change agents
10.4 Professional Development Opportunities
  10.4.1 Professional development for school leaders/ middle managers and teachers
  10.4.2 Professional development through different agencies
10.5 Building a Community of Practice
10.6 Planning for Staff Development
10.1 Purpose of the Booklet
To define the notion of professional capacity in schools and discuss the contribution of individuals, including principals and teachers
To set out the professional learning opportunities for teachers in a broader context
To suggest practical steps for developing and sustaining the professional capacity and learning culture in schools
10.2 Capacity Building and Professional Development
Enhancing the capabilities of teachers is fundamental to the realisation of the vision of the New Academic Structure in schools. To this end, a new culture of learning and teaching as well as organisational learning needs to be developed and sustained in the school. Capacity building therefore is not just a matter of providing short-term training courses or add-on activities for teachers, but a continuous and interactive process making a sustainable impact on schools. As leaders in developing a strategic plan for teacher professional development and bringing about organisational changes in the school, principals should:
understand and identify their teachers’ professional development needs;
link teachers’ individual learning to organisational learning in schools;
have knowledge of the range of professional development opportunities available; and
adopt appropriate strategies for nurturing a learning culture in their schools.
Principals need to put in place an effective long-term policy and strategies for staff professional development, making these an ongoing process rather than isolated events.  Schools can make reference to the following example in promoting professional development in school.
Example: Initiating Professional Development in School
After attending a school leaders workshop, the principal and vice-principals of School A organised a series of internal workshops for teachers during summer vacation with a view to:
familiarising teachers with the principles of managing change;
soliciting teachers’ views on the future senior secondary (SS) curriculum;
developing professional development plans for individual teachers; and
consolidating a human resources plan and an action plan for migration to the New Academic Structure.
School A held two pre-workshop meetings with the Key Learning Area (KLA)/ panel heads. The aim of the first pre-workshop meeting was to help the KLA/ panel heads to reflect on their role as manager of change in the reform process, as well as the difficulties that they might encounter. Sharing the same vision and understanding, they devised a plan to help colleagues to make the necessary changes in the migration years. In the second pre-workshop meeting, KLA/ panel heads designed the programme and the activities of internal workshops to help teachers in each department to:
familiarise themselves with the SS curriculum;
reflect on their current learning and teaching practices;
make proposals for the future curriculum of the school implemented in 2009 and suggest how the school would migrate to the new curriculum; and
design a school-based SS curriculum that best suits their students’ needs.
Following the pre-workshop meetings, all staff met regularly. They shared ideas, reviewed progress, discussed issues, and suggested possible solutions.
  Reflective Question
  What are the strengths of your school?  How can your school build on these strengths and develop a long-term professional development policy to build capacity and promote organisational learning?  
10.3 Making Curriculum Changes at the School Level
10.3.1 Teachers’ understanding of change in school contexts
To take forward the curriculum changes in school, all staff members need to understand and be committed to the rationale behind them.These include:
the reasons why the changes are proposed;
the nature of the proposed changes, and how they are linked to the societal needs and the vision and mission of the school;
how the changes will impact positively on students and on current learning and teaching practices; and
when they, as members of school, are expected to implement the changes.
Members of school should discuss the rationale and strategies during staff meetings, school development days, panel meetings, etc, whenever the need arises. The following example illustrates how a school designed its own plan.
Example: Introducing Change Strategically
School B introduced the SS curriculum change progressively, taking into account the different stages of development that the teachers would go through, from understanding the change to implementing it.  Different modes of staff development linked to the different stages of curriculum development were provided and summarised as follows:
Awareness-raising (“How am I involved in this?”) – A discussion item during a regular staff meeting
Basic information (“What is it all about?”) – A seminar conducted by the principal who had attended related briefing seminars
Personal issues (“How will these changes affect me?”) – A workshop led by the vice-principal(s) after attending the school leaders workshop
Managing your own teaching Part I (“How can people do this?”) – A seminar conducted by a university curriculum expert
Managing your own teaching Part II (“How can I do this?”) – A workshop led by a group of teachers who had undergone basic training for Liberal Studies
Sharing the ‘first fruits’ or success stories (“How is the change affecting my students?”) – A workshop conducted by teachers who taught Integrated Humanities in the junior levels, after the subject had been introduced in the school for six months
Need for more collaboration (“How can I relate what I am doing to what others are doing?”) – A seminar conducted by the School-based Support Services Office and co-ordinated by members of the new Liberal Studies team
Reflection and refocusing (“What might help the change to work even better?”) – A workshop led by the vice-principals to prepare teachers for the migration.
  Reflective Questions
  What strategies will your school use to enhance teachers’ understanding of the reform measures?  
  How can you shape a favourable environment in your school so that teachers can put their understanding into practice?  
10.3.2 New challenges to teachers as key change agents
The New Academic Structure aims at helping all students to become independent thinkers and life-long learners.  To achieve this aim, teachers are expected to:
adopt a pedagogical approach that can help to promote thinking skills and assist students to become more responsible for their own learning, including learning independently or in groups; and
use appropriate assessment methods to give feedback for the enhancement of learning.
There are different kinds of professional development programmes on subject content and on how to teach effectively to promote student learning, but it is important that teachers realise and contextualise what they have learned in the professional development programmes to suit their students’ needs, and sustain the reform measures through forming a critical mass.
Example: Capacity Building and Developing a Critical Mass in School
To build up professional capacity so as to prepare students better for the SS  curriculum, School C identified the following priority areas for their teachers’ professional development programmes:
students’ cognitive development
development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills, particularly in Mathematics, Sciences and Liberal Studies
group work/ teamwork
independent learning and self-reflection
student learning in authentic contexts
classroom interaction and dialogic teaching
effective assessment strategies.
To help teachers to share and put into practice what they had learned in the professional development programmes, this school adopted the following internal dissemination strategies:
Sharing of relevant resources
A resource corner for teachers was set up in the library to facilitate sharing of all resources related to the New Academic Structure.
The librarian was responsible for posting information related to the new resources on the school’s website and updating teachers regularly through internal electronic mails.
Realising the pedagogical changes
All teachers briefed members of their own KLA/ subject panel on what had been learned within one month after attending the professional development programme(s).
Following discussions in the last term’s KLA/ panel meeting, the panel chairpersons identified priority areas and tried to try out some of the pedagogical strategies on them.  The try-out was conducted in the term that followed and the panel chairpersons conducted a simple evaluation of the try-out after considering the feedback from teachers and students.  The evaluation results were discussed at subsequent KLA/ panel meetings for follow-up purposes.
  Reflective Questions
  What priority areas have your school identified in preparing teachers to teach the SS curriculum?  
  What strengths does your school have in these areas, and how will you prepare yourself as a teacher for the change?  
10.4 Professional Development Opportunities
10.4.1 Professional development for school leaders/ middle managers and teachers
Professional development plans are equally important for school leaders, middle managers and teachers although the focuses might be different.  The following show some possible focuses of professional development for school leaders/ middle managers and teachers in forming a community of practice:
School leader/ middle manager level
Developing a learning community in the school, i.e. where teachers and students learn together and from each other
Building leadership teams and sharing responsibilities among principal, vice-principals, committee heads, KLA/ panel heads, to strengthen planning and management structures in order to lead change
Managing change
  Developing the qualities for managing change
  Understanding the purpose and design of the curriculum
  Ensuring vertical continuity in school-based curriculum development
  Allowing flexibility in time-tabling arrangements for change to take place (e.g. collaborative lesson planning, provision of Other Learning Experiences (OLE))
  Providing guidance to students on their choice (e.g. elective subjects, OLE activities) to suit their needs, abilities and interests
  Human resources planning.
Example: Professional Development of School Leaders
The following were the major concerns identified by School D in its school development plan:
Preparing for the implementation of the New Academic Structure
Formulating a human resources plan to align with the school-based curriculum design
Creating an environment conducive to English language learning.
The principal appointed one of the vice-principals as the SS co-ordinator who, together with the PSHE KLA head, led the curriculum development of Liberal Studies at the SS level.  Priority support was also given to the Chinese Language and English Language KLA heads as they are core subjects.
To create space for the middle managers to attend professional development programmes, the principal recruited three teaching assistants and introduced the following measures:
The English KLA head was assigned to teach 2 SS classes instead of 3 for the whole school year.
Another teacher in the same panel assumed responsibility for an SS class.  Some junior level teaching and administration duties were taken over by one teaching assistant, who also helped to create an English language learning environment in the school, for example, by developing thematic reading materials, organising drama and public speaking activities.
Similarly, another teaching assistant was recruited to relieve the teaching load of the PSHE and Chinese Language KLA heads in the first term.  The third teaching assistant was asked to assist the Science and Mathematics KLA heads in the second term.
Building on the school’s strengths in adopting effective pedagogical strategies to implement their school-based curriculum (e.g. team teaching and flexible grouping across some subjects in the junior curriculum), the KLA heads were given enough space to attend professional development programmes.  The middle managers also took over the lessons of the teachers in their panels when it was the latter’s turn to attend the programmes.  As the SS co-ordinator, the vice-principal led the curriculum planning team which comprised all KLA heads.  Co-operation and networking with other schools to share experiences and develop strengths in different areas were organised, e.g. cross-curricular projects, life-wide learning activities and cross-level (junior and senior levels) activities.
With the use of the government grant to reduce teaching loads, respective KLA heads attended professional development programmes in order to lead change in their panels.
Teacher level
Understanding and interpreting the SS curriculum and assessment design, including School-based Assessment
Pedagogical change in the SS subjects
Developing better understanding of the need for professional development
  Knowledge for practice (formal knowledge and theories from literature)
  Knowledge in practice (practical knowledge embedded in teachers’ practice)
  Knowledge of practice (knowledge constructed when teachers enquire, experiment, reflect based on evidence).
Schools may help teachers to develop their own professional development portfolios to facilitate self-evaluation and self-reflection on teaching.
Example: Professional Development of Teachers
In preparing for the implementation of the SS curriculum, the vice-principal of School E, who was the SS co-ordinator of the school, conducted a survey to find out what SS subjects teachers would like to teach in 2009.  The SS curriculum planning committee reviewed the feedback collected, and each KLA head took the following actions:
Matched teachers’ strengths (e.g. relevance of qualifications, related experience and capabilities) with the subjects offered and drafted an initial deployment plan
Negotiated with the teachers concerned regarding their preferences, needs and aspirations for development, and the need to make adjustments in planning
Identified professional development needs for individual teachers
Formulated professional development plans (including timelines, focuses of development, priorities) for individual teachers to support the school-based curriculum planning (e.g. all Chinese Language and English Language teachers to attend programmes on assessment as early as possible).
The new SS co-ordinator and KLA heads also helped to develop a learning community in the school to enhance knowledge for practice.  In order to sustain knowledge for change, in-house staff development programmes were organised.  The following illustrates how this worked, first within the Liberal Studies panel and then across all KLAs in the school:
The Liberal Studies panel head and four teachers attended the professional development programmes for the subject.
They identified the need to strengthen some learning strategies (e.g. multi-perspective thinking skills in problem-based learning and respecting others’ ideas in collaborative work) in preparing both the teachers and students for change.
Apart from the funding support from the Capacity Enhancement Grant, the time-table was re-adjusted to make room for collaborative lesson planning so that try-outs could be effectively carried out in the junior classes.
Peer class observation was practised initially among potential Liberal Studies teachers.  With on-going evaluation and improvement, other KLA teachers were subsequently invited to observe in class.
Staff interflows, which encouraged cross-fertilisation of professional expertise across KLAs, were then scheduled for teachers to share experiences.
  Reflective Question
  How does your school involve middle managers (e.g. KLA/ subject heads) in the deployment of staff and in the development of staff development plan?  
10.4.2 Professional development through different agencies
To prepare staff for the implementation of the SS curriculum and assessment framework, it is necessary for the school leaders to liaise with teachers in drawing up individual professional development plans.  Various modes of professional development programmes organised by different parties should be considered:
The Education Bureau (EDB)
In collaboration with various institutions, EDB provides principals, middle managers and teachers with professional development programmes on whole-school curriculum management, and on the specific changes in each SS subject.
EDB has also set up the School-based Support Services (SBSS) Office with a view to providing a range of support services to schools.  The support services include:
on-site support for teacher development and school-based curriculum development with different KLAs and four key tasks as the entry point (the services can be in a variety of modes ranging from intensive collaborative lesson planning, action research, school-based workshops to a non-intensive consultancy service);
meetings to promote school management and leadership or district-based workshops with school heads and middle managers on school development strategies, school development planning and school self-evaluation; and
district-based or consortium-based sharing sessions with the Regional Education Offices (REOs) as the main agents, and in collaboration with other parties to promote the setting up of networks to sustain changes.
The ultimate goal of the SBSS is to:
develop a student-centred and self-directed learning environment conducive to the implementation of the SS curriculum reform measures;
establish a school-based system/ mechanism for teacher professional development and action learning; and
establish a system/ mechanism for curriculum resources and experience sharing.
Schools may contact their REOs or the SBSS Office for details and services for enhancing capacity for the implementation of the New Academic Structure.
  Reflective Questions
  Have you ever sought help from the SBSS for building up the professional capacity in your school?  
  If so, in what way did the support services contribute to school improvement? How might the services be further improved?  
The school
A range of in-house programmes (e.g. talks, seminars, workshops, inter-school visits) that suit staff development needs can be organised by schools, making use of the talents and expertise of individual staff members.  This can happen particularly in the pedagogical areas as teachers themselves are the best resources for leading pedagogical changes.
The following questions should be posed when planning school-based professional development programmes to cater for teachers’ needs:
What are the new knowledge and skills required in the SS curriculum?
What are the priority areas in your school, especially when the school is to offer a number of new subjects?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your teachers?
What professional development programmes can be organised in your school?
What should be learnt or acquired outside school? Where? How? By whom?
Networking among schools
Networking can also be established among schools in the same district, under the same sponsoring body, or offering the same learning programmes. Schools might also share their good practices and experience through electronic discussion forums.
Teacher education institutions
A number of tertiary institutions also offer professional development opportunities to schools to facilitate the implementation of the SS curriculum.  They are providing courses to pre-service and in-service teachers on the SS curriculum, and are keen to contribute to the curriculum reform by engaging in work with schools and in SS-related projects.  They are generating and gathering experiences on effective pedagogical and assessment changes, and establishing different modes of research to bring about paradigm shifts for teachers.
10.5 Building a Community of Practice
Distributed leadership and the leadership team
As the key change agent, the principal can make improvements and expand teachers’ professional capacity by sharing responsibilities among teachers, fostering and sustaining the conditions required for school growth through organisational change, and nurturing a learning culture at the school level.
The principal should promote leadership at the senior management level and among middle managers by grouping them into different leadership teams to share responsibilities.  Leadership teams will then be able to develop the capabilities essential for designing strategies, monitoring progress and handling the problems associated with curriculum change.
  Reflective Questions
  How can your school set up an effective team of middle managers to help to implement the SS curriculum?  
  How can your school motivate the middle managers and teachers to pursue and sustain ongoing professional development?  
Strategic human resources planning and action
Principals should develop staff profiles comprising information on subject expertise, qualifications, teaching experiences, learning profiles, etc. of individual staff members for effective staff deployment and human resources planning.  Schools should make effective use of their human resources in offering a broad and balanced curriculum to their students.
Schools should focus on existing strengths in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment for further development in curriculum planning for the New Academic Structure, apart from working out the administrative details for successful migration.
Example: Effective In-house Capacity Building
In order that teachers’ professionalism could be enhanced through re-deployment of internal resources, School F set up a professional development team comprising members with the expertise listed below to formulate and co-ordinate the development of staff development plans for teachers:
A member of the Liberal Studies panel who had ample experience in enquiry-based learning
A member of the Liberal Studies panel who specialised in project learning
The head of the Counselling team to advise on professional development related to OLE
The head of the Moral and Civic Education team to advise on values education
A member each of the Chinese Language panel and the English Language panel to advise on “reading to learn” strategies
The panel chairperson of computer subjects to advise on the use and development of web-based professional development materials.
In-house professional development programmes were conducted by this team to lay the foundation and relate pedagogical and assessment changes to the school context as far as possible.
The team was also responsible for setting up a web-based professional development platform to form the basis for in-house continuous professional development beyond 2009.  The school management regarded this as a starting point from which to turn the school into a learning organisation.  A teaching assistant with good Information Technology skills was recruited using the Capacity Enhancement Grant to set up the platform.
Turning the school into a learning organisation/ community of practice
Teaching should be regarded as a collective rather than an individual enterprise.  Teachers who confine themselves to their own classrooms probably contribute little to whole-school improvement.
Teachers need a learning environment conducive to the learning of up-to-date subjects and pedagogical knowledge, and the sharing of knowledge and skills among colleagues.
Schools need to provide opportunities for teachers (e.g. regular staff meetings and panel meetings) to share knowledge gained from professional development programmes, to conduct try-outs/ action research within a KLA/ subject panel, or provide insights to improve the school’s policy making.
School G planned to introduce the following changes in the time-table/ school calendar or organise the following school-based professional development programmes in order to expand their teachers’ professional capacity:
Reserve a time-slot for collaborative lesson planning once every two weeks
Reserve a time-slot for in-house staff development every month
Arrange professional development programmes on strategic planning, team building, crisis management, managing the media, communicating with parents, etc.
Suggested steps for nurturing and sustaining a learning culture in the school
Recognise that capacity building is essential for everyone, including the leadership team
Establish an ethos where ongoing school-based teacher learning is encouraged, facilitated and expected
Appoint a professional development co-ordinator for the school
Engage staff in discussions about how to realise the vision of the New Academic Structure
Identify staff to nurture professional development within each KLA/ subject panel in the school
Identify the learning that needs to be developed within the school
Identify staff with the greatest need for capacity building (e.g. SS co-ordinator, Liberal Studies panel head, project learning co-ordinator for Liberal Studies) to set priority professional development areas
Prepare a whole-school professional development plan
Request all staff to propose their own personal professional development plans
Set up learning teams to introduce good practices
Provide regular whole-school and panel forums for exchange of ideas and experiences
Provide funding support for teacher professional development
Ensure that all staff have the opportunity to engage in professional development activities
Set up a system that enables teachers to receive feedback on their performance from their peers through lesson observations, self-evaluation and reflection
Review teachers’ commitment to professional learning and their progress in implementing their development plans regularly.
  Reflective Questions
  What focus areas have been included in your school’s staff development programme in order to build up the school’s professional capacity, apart from areas related to learning and teaching?  
  Has your school organised staff development programmes that are targeted at the middle managers? What programmes are offered?  
10.6 Planning for Staff Development
The following points are essential in preparing an effective staff development plan:
Identification of professional development needs
Schools might start with a whole-school curriculum plan (e.g. what subjects are to be offered), consider their teachers’ areas of expertise in relation to the plan and then identify potential professional development needs.
Setting priorities for professional development
Schools should set priorities for teachers to engage in professional development programmes with reference to (a) the roles of teachers in the school (e.g. panel heads, senior teachers); (b) the intensity of needs at subject level (e.g. core subjects); (c) needs within the school context (e.g. language requirements, development of generic skills or areas for improvement).
Communication in formulating the professional development plan of the school
Thorough communication with teachers is necessary during the development of a staff development plan for the implementation of the New Academic Structure.  The process must be open and transparent.  Teachers should own their professional development plan and implement it, based on their needs.
Seeking support from the School Management Committee (SMC)/ Incorporated Management Committee (IMC)
It is important to seek the support of the SMC/ IMC for the proposed staff development plan and to ensure that adequate room is given to all teachers in order that the plan can be implemented smoothly
  Reflective Questions
  What do you understand by capacity building and how does it differ from your previous professional development activities?  
  How can schools ensure that their professional development strategies help teachers to become life-long learners capable of leading change in schools?  
  What steps/ measures have been taken to develop your school into a learning community and sustain the changes needed to implement the New Academic Structure?  
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Education and Manpower Bureau. (2005). The New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education – Action Plan for Investing in the Future of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Education and Manpower Bureau.
Fullan, M. (2001). The New Meaning of Educational Change. London: Cassell Educational Limited.
Fullan, M. (2002). Principals as Leaders in a Culture of Change, paper prepared for Educational Leadership, Special Issue, May 2002. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Fullan, M. (2003). Change Forces with a Vengeance. London: Routledge Falmer.
Hargreaves, D. (2003). Education Epidemic: Transforming Secondary Schools through Innovation Networks. London: DEMOS.
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Timperley, H. (2008). Teacher professional learning and development. UNESCO: International Bureau of Education.
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