Professional Learning Communities

The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the learning of each student. A PLC is composed of collaborative teams whose members work interdependently to achieve common goals linked to the purpose of learning for all.

 

Professional Learning Communities

In 2010 Pearcedale Primary School began its PLC journey.  Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are an approach to school improvement where groups of teachers work collaboratively at the school level to improve student outcomes.

Professional Learning Community (PLC) schools start from a simple idea: students learn more when their teachers work together.

Building a PLC is a proven way for schools to increase student learning by creating a culture that is:

  • focused on continuous improvement by linking the learning needs of students with the professional learning and practice of teachers
  • committed to professionalism
  • fueled by collaborative expertise.

 

The 10 principles of effective PLCs

 

Found in all effective PLCs are 10 principles that bring together the best available research on school improvement:

  1. Student learning focus: School improvement starts with an unwavering focus on student learning.
  2. Collective responsibility: For every child to achieve, every adult must take responsibility for their learning.
  3. Instructional leadership: Effective school leaders focus on teaching and learning.
  4. Collective efficacy: Teachers make better instructional decisions together.
  5. Adult learning: Teacher learn best with others, on the job.
  6. Privileged time: Effective schools provide time and forums for teacher conversations about student learning.
  7. Continuous improvement: Effective teams improve through recurring cycles of diagnosing student learning needs, and planning, implementing and evaluating teaching responses to them.
  8. Evidence driven: Effective professional learning and practice is evidence based and data driven.
  9. System focus: The most effective school leaders contribute to the success of other schools.
  10. Integrated regional support: Schools in improving systems are supported by teams of experts who know the communities they work in.

 

Fundamental Assumptions

  1. We can make a difference: Our schools can be more effective.
  2. Improving our knowledge is the key to improving our schools.
  3. Significant school improvement will impact teaching and learning.

 

The ONE Thing in a Professional Learning Community, “learning” rather than “teaching” is the fundamental purpose of our school.

 

Four Questions to Guide PLC’s

 

  1. a.       What do we expect students to learn?

Essential outcomes, power standards, learning targets, pacing

 

  1. b.      How will we know if they learn it?

Common assessments, quick checks for understanding, results analysis

 

  1. c.       How do we respond when students experience difficulty in learning?

Differentiated instruction, Pyramid of Interventions, and Response to Instruction


  1. How do we respond when students do learn?

Differentiated instruction and Enrichments

 

Cultural Shifts in a Professional Learning Community 

A Shift in Fundamental Purpose 

From a focus on teaching . . . To a focus on learning
From emphasis on what was taught . . . To a fixation on what students learned
From coverage of content . . . To demonstration of proficiency
From providing individual teachers with standards, curriculum documents, curriculum guides . . . To engaging collaborative teams in building shared knowledge regarding essential curriculum

 

A Shift in Use of Assessments 

From infrequent summative assessments . . . To frequent common formative assessments
From assessments to determine which students failed to learn by the deadline . . . To assessments to identify students who need additional time and support
From assessments used to reward and punish students . . . To assessments used to inform and motivate students
From assessing many things infrequently . . . To assessing a few things frequently
From individual teacher assessments . . . To assessments developed jointly by collaborative teams
From each teacher determining the criteria to be used in assessing student work . . . To collaborative teams clarifying the criteria and ensuring consistency among team members when assessing student work
From an over-reliance on one kind of assessment . . . To balanced assessments
From focusing on average scores . . . To monitoring each student’s proficiency in every essential skill

 

A Shift in the Response When Students Don’t Learn 

From individual teachers determining the appropriate response . . . To a systematic response that ensures support for every student
From fixed time and support for learning . . . To time and support for learning as variables
From remediation . . . To intervention
From invitational support outside of the school     day . . . To directed (that is, required) support occurring during the school day
From one opportunity to demonstrate learning . . . To multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning

 

A Shift in the Work of Teachers

From isolation . to collaboration
From each teacher clarifying what students to

must learn .

to collaborative teams building shared

must learn

 

From each teacher assigning priority different learning standards to collaborative teams establishing the

priority of respective learning standards

From each teacher determining the pacing  of the curriculum to collaborative teams of teachers agreeing

on common pacing

From individual teachers attempting discover ways to improve results to collaborative teams of teachers helping

each other improve

From privatization of practice. to open sharing of practice
From decisions made on the basis of individual preferences to decisions made collectively by building

shared knowledge of best practice

From “collaboration lite” on matters unrelated to student achievement to collaboration explicitly focused on issues

and questions that most impact student

achievement

From an assumption that these are “my kids those are your kids”. to an assumption that these are “our kids”

 

A Shift in Focus 

From an external focus on issues outside  of the school to an internal focus on steps the staff can take to improve the school
From a focus on inputs to a focus on results
From goals related to completion of project

and activities

to SMART goals demanding evidence of student learning
From teachers gathering data from their individually constructed tests in order assign grades. . to collaborative teams acquiring information from common assessments in order to

(1) inform their individual and collective

practice, and (2) respond to students who

need additional time and support

 

A Shift in School Culture

From independence . . . to interdependence
From a language of complaint to a language of commitment
From long-term strategic planning. to planning for short-term wins
From infrequent generic recognition to frequent specific recognition and a cultureof celebration that creates many winners

A Shift in Professional Development

From external training (workshops and courses)

to job-embedded learning
From the expectation that learning infrequently (on the few days devoted to professional development) . . . to an expectation that learning is ongoingand occurs as part of routine work practice
From presentations to entire faculties to team-based action research
From learning by listening to learning by doing
From learning individually through courses  and workshops to learning collectively by working together
From assessing impact on the basis of teacher satisfaction (“Did you like it?”) to assessing impact on the basis of evidenceof improved student learning
From short-term exposure to multiple concepts and practices to sustained commitment to limited, focusedinitiatives