Learning Forward – Part 6: Professional Learning Communities

Photo credit: http://www.learningforward.org/

Photo credit: http://www.learningforward.org/

Continuing my series on the Professional Learning standards, today’s blog post focuses on Professional Learning Communities. A Professional Learning Community (PLC) consists of educators committed to working collaboratively in an ongoing process of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.  PLCs are intended to improve student learning by providing continuous job-embedded learning opportunities for educators. A PLC utilizes data to identify gaps between learning goals and actual student achievement. Then, through action research, a PLC develops action items to make corrective changes. 

What makes a PLC difficult to define is that it is not a new prescription, program, model, or innovation to be implemented. A PLC is the conduit for working together and results in continuous school improvement.  PLCs are not committees or a place for team meetings. They are more than teachers collaborating together, learning, and sharing materials or stories.  PLCs involve action research, ongoing evaluation of student learning, and implementing improvements.

Each PLC should have shared values and a vision. An effective PLC strongly adheres to student learning. A critical step in establishing a PLC is to create a shared mission and vision as well as shared values and goals. This will assist in the decision-making process.  A PLC should focus on student achievement and how to improve it. This requires continuous evaluation and feedback for improvements. Collecting this information is more of a requirement than a characteristic. The collaborative culture and shared leadership of a PLC allows educators to achieve more than they would by working in isolation.

In order to build shared values and vision, effective goals must be set for the PLC. This involves determining what is to be accomplished, the steps that will be taken to achieve the goal, identifying individual and group responsibilities for each step, developing a timeline for each phase of the activity, and establishing criteria to be used in evaluating progress toward the goal.

How are you utilizing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)?
What challenges have you faced in the implementation of PLCs?
What impact have PLCs had on student achievement?

Mary MitchellMary Mitchell is an instructor who has held several positions at FLVS over the years. A National Board Certified Teacher, she has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year for FLVS, the United States Distance Learning Association, and Discovery Middle School in Orange County, FL. She has written articles on topics ranging from computer image processing to teacher training for the online classroom.

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