Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, can be extremely beneficial for teachers, but only if they are organized and focused.
Joining a network of educators to brainstorm might seem helpful in theory, but many teachers find their heads spinning at the thought of joining – or organizing – a new group. After taking the plunge and engaging in PLCs for teachers, many educators find that the sense of working together in these meetings helps relieve job-related stress, reduce uncertainty, and increase leadership potential.
According to the California Department of Education’s “What is a Professional Learning Community?,” Dr. Rick DuFour outlined three “Big Ideas” for PLCs as “…what students should learn, how data driven results (from common assessments) inform teachers about student learning, and which interventions will help students who do not meet standards.” To see effective results from PLCs, start by using the following tips to motivate teachers in professional learning communities.
1. Remain Goal Oriented
To ensure professional learning communities don’t turn into teacher social hours or venting sessions, prepare goals before each meeting. At the beginning of each month, email members of PLCs with general ideas for the month’s meetings and ask for feedback. Once goals for each meeting have been set, adhering to topics during discussions will be much easier and PLCs will be more successful.
2. Lesson Study
The practice of using lesson study to learn from other teachers is one of the fundamental components of professional learning communities. After outlining a lesson and teaching students, one teacher will be chosen to present the material to the other educators in the PLC. Once teachers plan, observe, and reflect on the presentation, they will be able to learn from the experience and begin the process again with another educator in the group.
3. Dig into Data
When meeting in professional learning communities, teachers can reach milestones together by reviewing data collected from each other’s classrooms. Through identifying common traits of successful students – and areas in which children performed poorly – across classrooms, teachers can help each other elevate the academic performance of all pupils.
4. Promote an Open-door Policy
In professional learning communities, there should be an open-door policy for all teachers who want to improve their teaching skills, help colleagues elevate their teaching, and – most importantly – mold students into better learners. When the meeting ends, make sure the open-door policy doesn’t. Be sure to promote this type of environment during the school day as well, allowing teachers to depend on each other for support outside of meeting hours.
5. Actionable Takeaways
Before ending meetings of professional learning communities, outline how teachers can implement the lessons and tactics learned within their classrooms during the days ahead. The methods learned in meetings will only help teachers who use these tools regularly in their classrooms. Leave the lines of communication open for further discussion regarding these topics through creating social media pages devoted to PLCs on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for teachers to advise, update, and keep in touch with each other between meetings.
Schools that employ teachers who are involved in PLCs will become more cohesive and prepared to meet goals, such as high performance on standardized testing and maintaining status as a STEM-focused school. Additional methods for creating, or contributing to, professional learning communities can be found in ASCD’s “15 Resources for Establishing an Effective Professional Learning Community,” which provides resources for teachers who are new to these groups as well as seasoned collaborators.