Professional Learning Communities – Conversations for Student Achievement

I have often recommended that forming PLC’s, so that teachers have at least some students in common, greatly increases the power of conversations to impact student achievement. I recently had the opportunity to observe Twin Lakes Elementary School’s K-2, 3-5, Special Education, and specialist (music, physical education, library and computer) Teaching and Learning Teams.(PLCs)
My thinking on teams with students in common was reinforced when I observed:

-At a K-2 meeting, the second grade teachers were presenting the results of a math assessment they had recently completed with their students. They shared that their students scored low when questions asked them to explain their math reasoning. Hearing this, the first grade teachers quickly said, “That’s because we did not address that last year” At this point (September) the PLC placed on their April agenda the need to revisit this learning objective for late in the year planning.

-At the special education team meeting, teachers were discussing several students who should begin additional mainstreaming experiences. They discussed the need to attend K-2 and 3-5 house meetings to seek assistance in finding the best settings for mainstreaming. They decide to individually prepare the following chart for their next meeting in preparation for meeting with the other houses:



This work will place individual student needs and ways teachers can meet them on the agendas of several meetings.

-At the same special education team meeting, I observed a teacher describing a student who was struggling. A teacher who previously worked with the student offered some insights. Other teachers began to think out loud about “what might help”. Some teachers offered equipment from their classrooms that the teacher could experiment with. The team facilitator mentioned that the teacher might want someone from the team to observe the student and collect data as the student responds to the teacher’s current practice. Before the meeting ended, an observer and observation times were identified and recorded in the team minutes.

It is easy to see that students at Twin Lake Elementary will benefit from the collaboration time their teachers spend. [Twin Lakes teachers have a one hour common release time each week for these Professional Teaching and Learning Teams meetings. Their students also are scheduled for the same lunch so that teachers share this common time.]
Do you have similar experiences?

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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