Professional Learning Communities

I’ve been thinking about Professional Learning Communities and collaboration quite a bit lately.  Near the end of the school year, we were evaluating the effectiveness of PLCs in our school community.  We went through a rubric to assess where we were in the process within our grade level.  It was an eye-opening experience to see where we fit on the continuum.  There are many great things going on, but we also have plenty of room to grow.  When I began teaching in the county (4 years ago), they were already doing the whole PLC thing, so I didn’t get a chance to see how the county unrolled the initiative.

Fast forward a few years and I’m moving counties.  The county I will be teaching in hasn’t been officially engaged in PLCs.  Apparently that is going to be a big undertaking in the next few years to get that started.  In preparation, the ITRT team is reading “Learning by Doing” by the DuFours this summer.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was the idea of collaboration vs. coBLABoration.  I know I’ve been involved in many meetings where we did a lot of talking, but not focused on student learning and action.  Lots of other topics come up – ranging from field trips, student behavior and some venting sessions.  It can be difficult to stay on target during meetings.  Not everyone on the team is on the same page or even sees the value of working together.  But, there are four questions that should be at the forefront of PLCs:

  1. What is it we want our students to learn?
  2. How will we know if each student has learned it?
  3. How will we respond when some students do not learn it?
  4. How can we extend and enrich the learning for students who have demonstrated proficiency?   (DuFour, p. 119)
There are many obstacles to effective PLCs – TIME, buy-in, distractions, numerous other tasks, sidebar conversations, etc.  It will be interesting to see how the county rolls out and implements PLCs.  Hopefully there will be lots of support for teachers to understand how valuable a PLC can be in making your school the best it can be.  It is a continuous learning process to create PLCs that collaborate productively to improve student learning.
Any suggestions or advice for a school brand-new to the idea of PLCs?

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