Throughout this paper you will be able to gain more knowledge on what a Professional Learning Community (PLC) is. I will explore two different areas: general characteristics of PLCs and the big ideas that are associated with them. I will refer to different types of students throughout this paper. When I mention high achievers I will be referring to those are students whose test scores put them in the top twenty-five percent nationwide amongst their peers; when I mention low achievers I am speaking of those students that perform lower than the median of their peers.
PLC refers to Professional Learning Community. S. M. A. R. T Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented and Time bound goals. Some information is going to be based off of the research done by various authors which will be listed in the reference section. What is a Professional Learning Community? PLCs have been around since I began my teaching career (Dec. 2006). I am sure that they were around before that time however, as a student, I was not aware of it.
When I was introduced to PLCs I was blessed to be at an elementary school where everyone on that grade level would meet together once during the week (formally) and discuss different strategies to help convey/teach information to our group of students. After a while the meeting began to run a little longer cause some teachers to tune out and stop paying attention. There are a couple of more research based explanations of what a PLC is.
However, there is one definition that stood out the most to me: PLCs are a way of working; “a school’s professional staff members who continuously seek to find answers through inquiry and act on their learning to improve student learning” -according to Huffman and Hipp (2003), (p. 4). They also go so far as to have you remember/learn that a PLC is “the most powerful professional development and change strategy available”.
Given the above definition it shows that PLCs aren’t about a group of teachers getting together to talk about any and everything under the sun. PLCs are about a roup of teachers getting together to discuss/display the following characteristics: learning, collaborative culture, collective inquiry to best practices and current reality, action oriented, commitment to continuous improvement and results oriented. All of the characteristics mentioned above should be taking place inside of every PLC. The learning piece that I mentioned above has to do with the focus of the PLC. All PLCs should have a focus of student learning. Lots of times we hear of teachers that may be focused more so on the teacher teaching as opposed to the actual student learning that should be taking place.
Going hand and hand with learning I feel that being action and result oriented will strongly help teachers improve the way that they are able to convey the curriculum to the students so that they students are learning the things that they need. As we continue to discuss PLCs and what they are I feel that it is also important that I discuss the Big Ideas of PLCs: 1. Ensure High levels of learning for all students. “PLCs focus on the learning of each student. Thus, the relevant question in a PLC is not “Was it taught? but rather, “Was it learned? “” –Singapore Teachers When we change our way of thinking from “was it taught” to “was it learned”, we then begin to set ourselves up to be more student centered.
By being more student centered in our PLCs we, in my opinion, open our minds more to different ways to help the students learn the information. Working together with other professionals with the same goal in mind (student achievement) we lend ourselves to having a productive and rewarding PLC. 2. Create high-performing teams. PLCs are built on a collaborative culture, where school leaders and teachers work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. ” Within this big idea we, as teachers, develop norms, SMART goals and procedures for which the PLC is to be run. By having a specific process that is followed during meeting times it keeps the focus of the group on the learning of the child.
When we explore the structure and process of an effective PLC we one or more of the five characteristics: System Thinking, Personal Mastery, Team Learning, Challenging Mental Needs, and Shared Vision. Pearson Custom: Education, Executive Leadership in the 21st Century MELS 601 p. 25) Of these characteristics the most important one for creating high-performing teams is Team Learning. As I stated earlier, if we learn as a team then we will be more apt to see growth and development in our students because we will then be on the same thinking path of student achievement.
3. Assess effectiveness of all students learning at high levels based on results. “PLCs judge their effectiveness on outcomes related to the holistic development of their students. Within PLCs the professional teaching team should be using relevant data as a means to improve what is happening inside the classroom. If the team is indeed using the data that is meaningful then not only will the classroom procedures increase but so will student achievement. “Data can be catalysts for improved teacher practice if (a) there is a basis for comparison and (b) information facilitates the identification of areas hindering or enabling student learning.
Armed with meaningful data, teachers can then employ appropriate and timely intervention strategies. (Academy of Singapore Teachers: Professional Growth) By continuing to maintain the characteristics and big ideas, mentioned above, then our schools have no reason to say that they haven’t done all that they can in attempts to help all students succeed. Being an educator now, I think back to my primary years of school and I honestly feel as though my teachers were some of the best there were. They may not have had the title of “PLC Meetings” but they most definitely worked together as a cohesive bunch to make sure that student achievement was on top.