What is a Professional Learning Community?
Professional learning communities are often referred to as “PLC’s.” When a school, or any other type of learning environment, creates a learning community that focuses on learning and collaboration, these are a few of the components that are necessary to have in place for a PLC to be created. Accountability during these meetings is huge as data drives the conversations, supports, and follow-through are revisited with every meeting. Team collaboration is vital to make a PLC meeting a success!
Schools will continuously improve if the PLC initiative is in place and followed. Granted, it is hard work to create a PLC that effectively analyses the data and points out concerns and positives. By allowing time for team collaboration this will, only enhance the educational programs that we have in place and will help all students learn.
What Should PLC’s Cover?
All team members are equally responsible for the success of the PLC team. This begins with everyone doing their part. To start, all educators should gather evidence of the current levels of student learning to share and analyze with the team. Teachers should always be respectful, hold other team members’ positive intentions, and engage in conversations about teaching and learning.
The responsibility is up to the team to implement strategies, lessons, interventions, and any other supports as agreed upon by the team. To ensure the flow of the meeting, before the meeting begins, an agenda should be made available with the students listed that need to be discussed.
When holding a PLC meeting, there are guidelines and principles to follow. The essential questions that guide educators through the collaboration process should include:
- What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
- How will we know if they learn it?
- How will we respond when some students do not learn?
- How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?
All team members are equally responsible for the success of the PLC team; this begins with everyone doing their part. To start, all educators should gather evidence of the current levels of student learning to share and analyze with the team. Teachers should always be respectful, hold other team members’ positive intentions, and engage in conversations about teaching and learning. The responsibility is up to the team to implement strategies, lessons, interventions, and any other supports as agreed upon by the team.
What do we want students to know and be able to do?
There must be several artifacts available to support the answer to this. Reviewing curriculum, concepts, state standards, knowledge, skills, performance and tracking behavior data are all evidence that can help answer this question.
How will we know if they learn the material?
This requires looking over common assessments, varied classroom assessments, proficiency level in all academic areas, evidence to support the concern, rubrics to align with grading practices, and any other areas that may help answer this question if a student has reached the expectation.
How will we respond when some students do not learn?
When students are struggling and classroom supports are not enough to benefit the student, we have to think about what strategies can be in place:
- Research-based interventions
- Re-teaching of lessons
- Groupings that can be made into flexible groups focusing on skill deficits
- Reviewing student engagement
- Monitoring the plans that we have in place for the class as a whole
These may have to be looked at a little more closely.
How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient?
While students’ concern of academic growth seemed to be a glaring concern of several educators, it is just as important to remember the last question of what the actions will be when a student already knows that material. Students who do not have learning deficits or struggles also should not be overlooked. We want to continue to have them grow as learners and be sure that we are meeting their educational needs as well.
Schools will have to closely think about how an extension of the material can be provided to challenge students who are already proficient, as well as think about individualization, leadership opportunities for students and project-based learning. If it is evident that students are excelling in all areas, it may be the perfect time to reach out to the gifted teacher to discuss the data that has been gathered while working with the student.
What are the Benefits of Professional Learning Communities?
The best part of holding PLC’s within any educational setting is that the meetings with expectations and accountability in place to improve our instructional practices through collaborative study will only enhance the educational experiences for our students. PLC team collaboration time is meant to evaluate evidence of student learning and the opportunity to respond accordingly for each student.
When there is a system in place to ensure that all interventions are frequently monitored and evaluated to determine if they are having a positive effect, the students truly benefit from this firsthand. It ensures that we as educators are getting all our students. A PLC ensures that all students are provided with a rigorous and challenging academic program that will address any learning curves that may be faced. The guiding questions will ultimately guide us through that path while we provide our very best to all our students.
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