I have had several requests this summer to explore PLC concepts with school administrators, coaches, and teacher leaders. I’m thinking that some of the questions and concepts we explored might provide you with ideas for beginning of the year staff conversations.
I found this statement on twitter which gave me a great opening definition.
That set the stage to review the three big ideas from Dufour: (Described in an earlier blog. )
…are results oriented.
…focus more on learning than teaching.
So knowing the current reality…. means knowing students, assessment of students, and understanding required and desired learning outcomes. A picture of what is wanted would mean setting goals and designing the strategies for students to achieve those goals.
After a look at the big ideas I asked participants to examine:
What elements there are reinforcing of current PLC practices?
What elements present areas for next steps in advancing PLC impact?
Then I had administrators consider these questions:
Some questions I shared:
What have you learned in PLC that has impacted your work?
What has happened in your classroom because of your work in the PLC’s?
How much do members of your PLC know about a struggling student in your class?
What portion of the minutes indicate time spent talking about teaching vs time looking at learning?
Are students’ needs discussed in the minutes?
Can I find indications of collaboration/shared responsibility in the minutes?
Teachers were asked to examine these questions.
That produced conversations around these topics:
How protective is administration regarding teachers’ time in PLCs? Is the schedule built to maximize teacher collaboration? How often do “request for something” trump the PLC’s ongoing agenda? (See earlier blog re-hijacking of PLCs.)
Can an administrator join a PLC? If we had a PLC focused on improving writing performance of ELL learners, could the principal be a learner with the teachers taking shared responsibility for student success?
Some critical elements that emerged around teacher behaviors were vulnerability, commitment, and holding each other accountable.
It’s critical that PLC members point to places where their student progress or their own understanding or skill development is inadequate. Trust builds in a PLC when a members’ vulnerability receives a respectful response.
Most PLC meetings end with homework; something that members will do before the next session. (Questions to research, assessments to give, experiments to conduct, etc.) Commitment and accountability to each other requires returning to the next PLC with your task having been completed.
PLC members need to approach their time together as a time to learn. A gap will exist between current reality and the picture of what we want. If we knew how to close the gap we would, so the gap communicates our need to learn. So the question we ask is what do our students need us to learn.
I ended the sessions with this thought:
If PLCs are effective they will frequently create pressures for administration.
Learning occurring in the PLC will generate creative ideas to impact student success. Those ideas are likely to differ from existing programs, schedules, structures, pacing guides, and policies. There is a pressure for change which can lead to learning for all stakeholders in the system.