Source: Print Article: Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities
- A PLC represents the institutionalization of a focus on continuous improvement in staff performance as well as student learning.
- PLCs entail whole-staff involvement in a process of intensive reflection upon instructional practices and desired student benchmarks, as well as monitoring of outcomes to ensure success.
- PLCs enable teachers to continually learn from one another via shared visioning and planning, as well as in-depth critical examination of what does and doesn’t work to enhance student achievement.
- The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” emphasizing teacher leadership, active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement methods.
- The process of intensive reflection and job-embedded includes six steps:
- Study: Teachers work in collaborative planning teams to examine critically and discuss standards-based learning expectations for students.
- Select: These teams select evidence-based instructional strategies for meeting the standards.
- Plan: Teams develop a common lesson plan incorporating the selected strategies and identify the type of student work each teacher will use to demonstrate learning.
- Implement: Teachers implement the planned lesson, record successes and challenges, and gather evidence of student learning.
- Analyze: Teams review student work and discuss student understanding of the standards.
- Adjust: Teams reflect on the implications of the analysis of student work and discuss potential modifications to instructional strategies.
- The PLC approach:
- takes 3 to 6 years to fully incorporate into a school’s routine practices.
- Staff need to have time to meet during the work day throughout the year.
- Staff need to focus efforts on essential questions about learning, generate products such as lists of key student outcomes, methods of assessment and strategies for meeting goals
- PLCs work best when schools have:
- A culture that supports collaboration [so how do you build that?]
- Articulate a clear, specific, and compelling vision
- Match tasks and role to staff members who are personally invested in them
- Expand leadership roles
- Make coordination easy through online tools
- Ensure that the intended curriculum matches what teachers are actually teaching.
- Educators must stop making excuses for failing to collaborate.
- The ability to take an objective/macro view of school efforts; [whose view?]
- External facilitator has to assess their way of operating as it relates to school improvement goals.
- Helps bring school’s fragmented efforts into alignment at beginning of process.
- Recognize leadership qualities of the principal and extent to which leadership is dispersed in the school and provide appropriate support
- Shared beliefs and behaviors [whose beliefs?]
- Failure, mistakes and uncertainty in work are openly shared and discussed
- Colleagues agree on broad educational values, but accept disagreements that foster new dialogue
- Administrators support “dispersed leadership” where teachers develop the confidence to select and adapt strategies that drive improvement
- Relentless commitment to improvement
- A view of improvement as a team effort for which everyone is responsible
- An acknowledgement that teacher behavior is key to enhancing student learning;
- A belief that knowledge is constructed from day-to-day experiences, along with the ability to share those experiences; and
- A value placed on ongoing learning (continuous learning)
One Sentence Summary: The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” emphasizing teacher leadership, active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement methods dependent on schools that embrace a culture that supports collaboration, an objective view of their efforts, and share beliefs/behaviors.
- The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” rather than one-shot professional development sessions facilitated by outsiders, who have little accountability regarding whether staff learning is successfully applied.
- PLCs emphasize teacher leadership, along with their active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement efforts.
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