PLC: Making A Professional Learning Community Productive & Effective

The acronym PLC refers to Professional Learning Communities, which are organized collaborative structures among educators. Many schools have PLC’s, but how they are set up and run vary greatly.

A discussion recently came up in the Instructional Coaching Connection Facebook group where a coach was looking for advice from other coaches on how PLC’s are ran at their school sites. She was feeling that the current set up in her building was ineffective and wanted input on how to make improvements.

This blog post is an effort to answer those same concerns that other teacher leaders might be experiencing about what constitutes “effective” PLC practices.

The Purpose of a PLC

As stated earlier, a PLC is a structure and support schools put in place for teachers to collaborate with each other on their instruction. It operates as a professional think tank where educators can calibrate instructional pacing and content topics among their peers while also problem solving current obstacles.

However, how schools set up their PLC’s vary greatly. Some schools use this time for teachers to plan lessons together, others use it to dive into assessment data to make plans of action for student support, while some use it for everything else in between. The varying uses of a PLC is what leaves teachers and administrators frustrated. Unclear expectations and lack of results hinder productivity and effectiveness.

The Structure of a PLC

In order for educators to deeply discuss the nuances of their instructional methods, they need to be paired with their peers who teach similar subjects or age range of students. These mini groups of teachers will meet together at a protected and specified date and time. This might vary from 30 min (weekly) to 2 hours (quarterly). Regardless of the schedule, it needs to be consistent and carved out on the calendar. PLC time should not be sacrificed for any reason.
Instead of planning upcoming lessons together, educators should design learning experiences. This means instead of writing page numbers and topics into a lesson plan, they are brainstorming various ways to teach a specific lesson, talking about potential obstacles, discussing short and long term assessments, etc. It should be noisy, active and productive. Large chart paper and access to pacing guides/curriculum should be a norm.
Later, individual teachers can take their learnings from the PLC and write them into a lesson plan format, taking into consideration their own students’ learning needs as well as their very own teaching style.

The Benefit of a PLC

When removing the deep levels of discussion during a PLC, teachers are simply writing lesson plans in a quiet and passive manner. This is isolating and prohibitive. There is a wealth of knowledge shared among colleagues. PLC’s tap into that brain power to catapult teacher proficiency and student achievement to new levels.
This collaborative learning model allows teachers to:
    • Hear what other teachers are doing in their classroom
    • Gain new ideas for ways to reach students more effectively
    • Receive support in areas of weakness
    • Develop a short and long term game plan for instruction
    • Hone in on what is happening in the classroom and why
    • Locate student achievement trends among grade levels or content areas
    • Build camaraderie and relationships among peers

We must protect our teacher talent by supporting the development of their creativity and skill. A PLC can do just that, if implemented with intention.

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How does your school implement a PLC?

About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.