Here is a question that was submitted to me by an instructional coach requesting my thoughts:
When working with teams during planning or PLCs, how do I encourage all teachers to participate? I find that there are a couple of teachers who are there to plan and learn and the rest of them are closed off and negative. This causes our team planning and PLCs to have a negative vibe and I find they are not very productive.
My first read of this situation is that the coach is trying to get team behaviors from a group of people who are not a team. This is rather common as many PLCs are structured more as franchise meetings than team meetings. Some PLCs are even more loosely structured where teachers are individuals attending a meeting.
As an individual called to a meeting, some teachers feel cheated of planning time which they believe is theirs to use as they see fit. Some teachers enjoy sharing ideas or helping each other which creates some incentive for participation. When functioning as a franchise, teachers may plan and strategize jointly but implementation and responsibility still rest with the individual teacher. Franchises often get “common work” done more than focus on student learning. (Writing the invitation to parents for open house or answering questions raised by district office) When functioning as a team the PLC has common goals (student achievement) and shared responsibility for success.
My recommendation to this coach who asked how to get participation would be to invest in creating the team rather than trying to do the planning work. Teams have common goals so a starting point would be for the teachers in the PLC to set goals for some future student achievement.
If the PLC is three Algebra 1 teachers and they are planning instruction for the next standard, begin by doing a pre-assessment and setting goals for groups of learners with common initial understanding.
If out of 300 students that they are working with,
12 showed mastery on the pre-test
200 showed readiness for the concept
75 showed a weakness due to lacking an earlier covered skill
13 showed severe deficits in prerequisite skills
what learning outcome goals would be appropriate for each of these four groups?
With goals set, the team can now focus on what the learners in each group need to do and experience that is likely to produce the desired learner outcomes. Let’s consider the 12 who showed mastery. Each teacher has a few of those students and as a team they now decide what those students will be doing during the unit to reach a goal which differs from the rest of the class. This process calls out for collaboration. Does it make sense for one of the three teachers to design the learning tasks and activities for that advanced group, now that the goal is set, rather than each teacher doing this individually? Can another teacher focus on finding an online program that will support the 75 students who will need extra scaffolding to learn the earlier skill?
Student work and assessment results will need to be shared with each other and collaboratively reflected upon to decide if progress toward the goals is occurring from the teaching/learning process in place or if modifications are needed. All three teachers are committed to the advanced goal for the 12 students and accountable to each other for the decided upon actions and results. If two of the 12 students are not progressing toward the goal it is the responsibility of all three teachers, regardless of which class the students are in, to adjust. Along the way, how will we decide which of the 75 students is learning the missing skill from the online program? How will we adjust for the students who aren’t?
I observed a four member first grade PLC (3 classroom and 1 inclusion teachers) examining the results of a math assessment. Forty-nine students met or exceeded the standard and 15 had not. The PLC decided that during the next week one of the teachers would take the 49 students as a group at math time to extend learning while the other three teachers worked with the 15. The three teachers decided to start with the 15 as a group, co-teaching and assessing, until common problems and needs identified small group for interventions….maximum collaboration driven by common goals for student achievement.
As instructional coaches and teacher leaders facilitate the building of teacher teams with shared goals more teachers will participate with team behaviors.