Collaborative Teams That Transform Schools
The importance of collaboration in general has been prominent in the literature since the 1970s, and the concept of a professional learning community (PLC) in particular has been prevalent since at least the 1990s. Schools and districts claim to be committed to professional learning communities, but I suggest that often, educators really aren’t clear on what this means. In a recent conversation with a teacher, I was presented with this quandary: “What is a true professional learning community? We have lots of meetings, but I don’t think they are helping me be a better teacher. I don’t think we really know what being a PLC means.” This question and observation aren’t all that unusual regarding the PLC process. The magnitude of demands placed on leaders and teachers today often precludes allocating sufficient time for gaining understanding of what a PLC process is and how it can positively impact processes in a school or district.
In a recent publication entitled Collaborative Teams That Transform Schools, the authors define a PLC process as “a schoolwide system of teacher teams who collaborate on issues of instruction, assessment, and other school topics with the goal of improving student learning.” I assert that the most powerful structure for enhancing educators’ effectiveness and increasing students’ achievement is the PLC process. This is the platform in which teams of educators explore how to foster improvement, which means exchanging what isn’t working well for something that has the potential to do so… implementing a change. It is up to PLC members to learn what the needed change is and how to use it.
The authors of the previously mentioned book offer six questions for determining the “work” of collaborative teams. It is through the work that needed change is identified, planned for, and executed… all for the purpose of impacting student achievement:
|What is it we want our students to know?||Curriculum|
|How will we know if our students are learning?||Assessment|
|How will we respond if our students do not learn?||Instruction|
|How will we enrich and extend the learning for students who are proficient?||Instruction|
|How will we increase our instructional competence?||Teacher Development|
|How will we coordinate our efforts as a school?||Leadership|
These six questions can and will serve as transformational forces when answered in specific ways by collaborative teams. When one or more questions are the focus of a PLC “meeting,” members can make the claim that a “true” PLC process is in place.
Collaborative Teams That Transform Schools is available in Australia through Hawker Brownlow Education.
To find out more about how you can bring Professional Learning Communities to your school, visit Solution Tree Australia.
Jan Hoegh Jan K. Hoegh has been a classroom teacher, building-level leader, professional development specialist, assistant high school principal, and curriculum coordinator. Read more articles by Jan Hoegh