A PLC is a professional learning community, which means exactly as the name implies. It is a group within the teaching profession where educators can learn from each other. While the makeup of a PLC varies from school to school, the overall purpose remains the same — to improve student achievement by improving the knowledge and skills of teachers.
A professional learning community may be voluntary or required, but a common goal and language is always shared among the group. A PLC may be created based on subject, course, or a grade level. It can also be created to find a solution to a particular issue, which may include conversations around topics like how to increase reading levels, what we can do to create a better home-to-school link, or how we can increase attendance. Each PLC designates a set meeting time (once a week, biweekly, or once a month) and location (usually in the school building) to collaborate and communicate about the task at hand.
A Variety of Subject Matters
Professional learning communities take on a variety of names depending on the school, district, or region. However, they all follow the same principles, and all teachers are asked or encouraged to participate. Some schools have designated PLC times and groupings assigned by the principal, assistant principal, or instructional coach. It is important to remember that in a PLC setting, everyone is learning, so everyone’s voice is valuable, and everyone is on the same team.
If there is not a PLC to join, a teacher can create his or her PLC that may be of interest to their colleagues. Some reading and math specialists have started their own professional learning communities within their schools using a book or articles to address the most challenging aspects of the subjects at the elementary or secondary level. Web-based teaching platforms like Teachers Connect have brought the concept online, so teachers can feel comfortable asking and answer questions in a specific community any time of day. PLCs have communities about literacy, self-care, or mindfulness. Teachers do not have to be invited, they can simply join one that is most relevant to their interests or needs, and immediately feel sense of community.
PLCs Used to Support Teachers
Professional learning communities should be used to support teachers while expanding upon their expertise as the professionals they are every day in the classroom. One of the most advantageous professional learning communities seen in schools at the elementary or secondary level is cross-grade level, or cross-curricular. The cross-grade level PLC gives teachers the opportunity to find out what their students learned in the previous year, and what they will be learning the following year. Teachers often become so laser-focused on the current situation, they forget what happened before or what will happen after this one school year. Cross-curricular PLCs help teachers with planning, thus learning how to coordinate science and math lessons or history and English topics. Whether online or in person, the same components are present. Discussion, questioning, research, strategy, action, and reflection are found in any professional learning community.