Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Kindergartener Wants: Will PLCs Help Him Learn?

Sustaining Professional Learning through Community – Part 1 of 3

I asked my grandson who attends kindergarten what he had learned in school recently. He told me spelling, and then he asked for paper and a pen so he could print the words Zoo, Lion, Batman, and Spiderman to illustrate his important learning. Boy, he seemed really motivated! Then I asked him what he wanted to learn this week in school. He said, “I want to learn to use the telephone.” Now he could have said that he wanted to learn how to read, but I’ll stay with the telephone. We talked about the telephone, and he decided his first step was to copy down my phone number and his so we could talk about them and he could begin to learn how to remember them and be ready when he learned how to “use the telephone.” I doubt his teacher is planning to teach him how to use the phone this week, but if it was an essential learning, could I be assured that the teacher, his or her team, and the school have in place everything that the DuFours and many others are saying is essential to a PLC? Will the school and district have overcome the barriers that stand in the way of actions that will truly have an impact on student learning? Can I assume they have answers to the four corollary questions if we believe all students can learn?

1. What is it we expect them to learn?
2. How will we know when they have learned it?
3. How will we respond when they have not learned it?
4. How will we enrich and extend the learning for students who are proficient? 1

If we want students to learn how to use the phone (or to read), for example, how will we know if they can use the phone (or read), what will we do if they can not use the telephone (or read) after we have taught them, and what will we do if they can use the phone (or read) either before we teach them or while we are still teaching other students in the class? Effective PLCs are developing answers to each of those questions for each essential learning in each grade and each course in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country.

  • Where do you stand in relation to the best practice of PLCs?
  • How about your school or district?
1. Richard DuFour and Rebecca DuFour. Implementing PLC Concepts: Tips for Closing the Knowing-Doing Gap. Northeast ASCD Affiliate Conference, Boston, November 30 – December 1, 2007.

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