“Professional Learning Communities” is not a new educational concept. However, essential strategies must be implemented to make them more effective. Being a district that has seen the evolution of PLCs, there are immediate strategies that should be implemented. Consider the following when evaluating the effectiveness of a PLC in a school or district.
The saying “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail” is true in the PLC setting. Creating a shareable agenda that allows all members to contribute to the topics before the meeting is a must. This way, members are not caught off guard regarding issues and will speed up the process. It will also help those members that can not attend stay informed about topics and decisions.
These are vital to starting PLC group work. Revisiting them regularly can also help members as they make decisions. Remember to focus on the solutions, not the problems, which will help build relationships within the PLC. As the year progresses, revisions to these norms may be necessary. Additionally, consider including the following when establishing PLC norms.
Start and end on time
All voices/active listening
Speak with dignity
RSVP to the calendar meeting
Decide how decision-making will happen (first to five, no descent, etc.)
Using critical questions as a guide will help the school and district to reach their goals. This should be the framework for the agendas. In every meeting, a discussion on district goals or emphasis should be included similarly to these.
What do we want our kids to know and be able to do?
How will we know when they have learned it?
How will we respond when they haven’t learned it?
How will we respond when they have learned it?
Each member should be assigned a job. For example, reporter, facilitator, note-taking, and timekeeper are a few. Depending on the number of members, you can also create additional jobs. This way, the idea of “all voices are heard” is evident within the roles. Depending on the frequency of your PLC meetings, switching roles is another way to ensure everyone is “sharing the air.”
Starting and ending on time is very important. Remember that the focus of PLCs is to help improve curriculum and teaching. Most PLCs should meet at least three times a month with one additional time for “housekeeping .”Previously these were known as “Grade Level Meetings- These times are when specialists and others may need to attend to give information or updates. Outside stakeholders can provide insight by providing information that improves teaching and learning. They can be asked to be placed on these agendas. Again, having shareable agenda housekeeping items can be given notice and brought up during that time. Doing this ahead of time will help move these items along and achieve the goals of the building or district.
Over the years, Professional Learning Communities have evolved to focus on hearing all voices, developing shared goals, and utilizing guiding questions to reach a consensus. As a result, PLCs will continue to be valuable tools that schools and districts use to communicate. As they implement these strategies, students’ and teachers’ relationships and learning will be improved.
Written by: Teresa Marchant