Best practices for implementing professional learning communities

Gary FalconSchool Management

Professional Learning Communities are one of the most common ways for teachers to collaborate and work together to strengthen lessons, review new research or trends in education and improve curriculum. Research shows that students can significantly benefit from their teachers’ participation in these groups and the improved instruction that comes as a result.

In the life of a busy teacher or administrator, though, PLCs can sometimes feel like an extra meeting or task in the midst of a whirlwind week, especially when PLC meetings are not well utilized. A great, efficient PLC that results in increased student achievement is not an easy task, but is more manageable when you break it into parts.

  • Focus on learning

It makes sense that a learning community should be focused on learning, but there really needs to be a degree of buy-in from every teacher and staff member when starting a PLC. These communities are all about focusing on how student learning can be improved. The process often starts with assessing student performance and determining which area or areas the PLC should focus on and how that can be measured. Well-done learning communities establish these objectives early to have a road map for the rest of the process.

  • Schools need a culture of collaboration

In order to have a true PLC, teachers and administrators need to embrace a collaborative culture. One of the ways to make collaboration easier is to embrace the learning management system features your school has access to. Using a PLC group within your LMS allows teachers and staff to discuss ideas, post results of student assessments, and more. It can be hard to dive deep into PLC work during a weekly meeting, but online collaboration tools let members contribute and work when it fits into their schedule best. 

  • Teachers and administrators need to act on PLC results

Without implementing some kind of action, PLCs become another meeting to talk about things happening around the school. Remember – you want to improve student learning, and to do that, you need to take action! Develop best practices, give shared assessments across teachers, or anything else that your PLC’s research and studying leads you to, but do something.

  • Student improvement is the ultimate goal

Once changes have been made or best practices developed, take time to collect data on how they are affecting student performance. Can you see clear improvement? Are you addressing the areas the PLC set out to address? You might find that you accidentally improved in an unrelated area or have results you weren’t expecting, but it is all important information that can continue to guide your learning community as you continue. Reassess where your group stands and start the process over, if necessary.

  • PLCs are a continuous process

The end of the school year does not mean the PLC is over and done. Typically, the PLC process takes a full 3-6 years to fully implement and see results. Another of the learning management system benefits is that you create an easily accessible place to store documents, results, group discussions, and anything else the PLC produces so that over the summer, or in the next school year, teachers and administrators can pick up where they left off.

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