by: Nick Cross- Professional Development Coordinator at Qingdao Amerasia International School
A Job Alike, or Teach Meet, is an opportunity for teachers, of varying levels of experience, to collaborate on issues that they face in the classroom on specific issues. For example, in the forthcoming DP Job Alike that I have organised for November 2023, DP Economics teachers will have the opportunity to discuss their experiences of teaching unit 3 of the new DP Econ syllabus and how best for learners to achieve higher marks in paper 2 of the HL exam paper. In doing so, these teachers in turn create a professional learning community, or PLC, providing a forum for further discussions to take place. Importantly, in the Job Alike, a more democratic approach to CPD occurs in that teachers, amongst themselves, agree what topics are best discussed thus the Job Alike really does meet the needs of the very people attending the event. (Basnett, 2021; Stutsman and D’Agostino 2015).
While my role as PD Coordinator is to match staff and students needs with school objectives, it is also important to combine both internal and external PD opportunities for staff in order that staff are up-skilled and supported in meeting the above mentioned objectives. Thus, embracing a variety of opportunities to facilitate this, including the Job Alike, is important. In doing so, not only do we provide opportunities for colleagues to become more exposed to different thinking and approaches to pedagogical issues, but we also offer our colleagues to network, and as (Bennett, 2012) suggested the opportunity for the development of ideas, a key factor that has been in absence over the course of the pandemic. Thus, while in the case of the November Job Alike, Maths teachers may discuss best approaches for delivering the IA, it is between meetings that a Chemistry teacher can find from a TOK teacher the XXXX ways to embed TOK in the chemistry class. Indeed, this is one of the hopes of organising the Job Alike that connections made both inside and outside the workshops are made to the benefit of attendees.
Of the many benefits of attending a Job Alike, one that stands out in particular in the context of international schooling is that many DP educators tend to be the only subject specialist in their school, or, as Basnett (2021) called it: ‘the lone voice scenario’ thus attending a Job Alike offers the possibility of being part of a community. For example, it is very common to have only one Biology teacher, one Film teacher, or, in my case one economics teacher. Thus, having the opportunity to meet other subject specialists supports educators in discussing common challenges and solutions to such challenges. Importantly, and this is evidenced from the Job Alike in November, there is an even spread between both experienced and less experienced educators attending thus the opportunity for all educators to benefit will occur. Further, the opportunity for these educators to create lasting connections – for example, joining nation-wide we-chat groups – will support educators in always having up to date knowledge about any change or development in the sector (Wong, no date).
With the evident benefits of the Job Alike, organising a successful event has been the focus of us at QAIS organising the event for November. However, challenges have certainly been evident, for example, choosing the right date. The school calendar invariably becomes very busy very quickly, however because our event is in response to the changes to the IB sciences curricula, our event will take place early in the school calendar. In order to also encourage maximum participation: many educators will not be able to get time off work, we are organising the event over 3 days with the main workshops taking place on Saturday 4th. This leads us to the most challenging aspect – garnering interest in the Job Alike and converting this interest into attendance. The Marketing Team at QAIS has deployed traditional marketing strategies, including using an eye-catching poster and the use of technology – both We-chat and Linkedin to connect with other educators. However, with the event taking place in November, many educators first need to confirm with school leadership that they can in fact attend. To counter this, we have invited educators to also deliver workshops, as such hoping to increase the number of registrations for the event. That being said, this also draws another challenge: ensuring the workshops being delivered are up to the highest possible standards thus ensuring the attendees are satisfied (Basnett, 2021). The US principal at QAIS, Kevin Wheeler, has indeed suggested that part of my role in organising the event can be to run workshops for QAIS staff ensuring that a common approach and standard is met by all QAIS staff in delivering the workshops – a great idea that can, again, help us meet our aim of providing a outstanding event, valued by those attending.
Running a Job Alike, particularly aspiring to involve over 100 attendees takes a lot of planning including communication with many stakeholders, however, the benefit of bringing educators together, sharing best practice and creating long-term connections is one that is certainly worth the challenge.
Basnett, J., 2021. TeachMeets: Continuing Professional Development for Teachers by Teachers. Research-publishing. net.
Bennett, L. (2012) Teachmeets: Guerilla CPD Educational Developments 13.3 pp23-27 SEDA
Stutsman, J. and D’Agostino, A., 2015. The elementary principal’s guide to implementing cross-school, job-alike professional learning teams (Doctoral dissertation, Saint Louis University).
QAIS Job Alike: ‘Igniting the DP’ caters for 13 DP subjects with approximately 15 attendees for each of these subjects. It will be held on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th November.