Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What are the Critical Pieces of the PLC Puzzle?

Sustaining Professional Learning through Community – Part 2 of 3

Rick and Becky DuFour began their New England ASCD November 2007 workshop with the “Big Ideas” of a Professional Learning Community (PLC). This is the text of their first presentation slide.

  • We accept learning as the fundamental purpose of our school and therefore are willing to examine all practices in light of their impact on learning.
  • We are committed to working together to achieve our collective purpose. We cultivate a collaborative culture through development of high performing teams.
  • We assess our effectiveness on the basis of results rather than intentions. Individuals, teams, and schools seek relevant data and information and use that information to promote [their] continuous improvement. 1

Then they showed us a list of twenty-four national professional organizations and twenty-five educational researchers who endorse the PLC concepts; some of the researchers whose work I know and respect are Roland Barth, Doug Reeves, Dennis Sparks, Thomas Sergiovanni, Linda Darling-Hammond, Richard Elmore, Carl Glickman, Jonathan Saphier, Michael Fullan, Andy Hargraves, and Robert Marzano.

Establishing Sustainable PLCs

Now, if all these respected educators are in favor of PLCs, what do we need to do to establish viable, sustainable PLCs? The DuFours offered very specific guidance.

  • Adopt new programs and practices
  • Discontinue much of what we have been doing
  • Agree on the essential learnings for each student for each week, month and year
  • Build the capacity and effectiveness of teacher teams to work interdependently to analyze and impact their professional practice in order to improve individual and collective results that demonstrative how well each student is acquiring the essential learnings
  • Create shared team knowledge for essential learnings
  • Create team-based systems to monitor each student’s attainment of essential learnings in a timely, ongoing basis through frequent common formative assessments
  • Create school-based and district-based systems to ensure students receive additional time and support when they experience difficulty when they experience difficulty in mastering essential learnings
  • Assess the school-based systems to ensure that they are timely, directive and systematic
  • Provide time for teachers within the school day/calendar
  • Each team adopts student oriented essential learnings goals
  • Each team adopts norms, critical attributes, and protocols of high performing teams
  • Each team is hungry for ongoing, timely evidence of student learning
  • Align all practices to promote our fundamental purpose of high levels of student learning
  • Embed more of the process of teachers acquiring new knowledge in the actual doing of the task and less in formal training programs 1

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