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School-Wide Professional Learning Communities
posted by: Melissa | December 19, 2012, 10:26 PM   

As recently stated on the AAE blog, collaboration can be the key to properly implementing the Common Core State Standards. I believe the best way for educators to collaborate is through the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLCs provide the framework through which teachers can meet and share.

When entire schools are organized as a PLC, they can become a powerful impetus for both collaboration and school-wide change. Some might be wondering what a school looks like when organized as a Professional Learning Community. A school with a well-implemented PLC has the following characteristics:

1. Shared Goals
One of the first things a school needs to do when creating a PLC is decide what it views as important and what outcomes it wants to see. This can range from the broad overall vision to something as specific as agreeing to spend several meetings working on creating better test questions.
2. Time for teachers to meet together
The key to PLCs is collaboration. Any school serious about implementing them needs to provide time for teachers to meet. This time needs to come out of the school day and ideally shouldn't take any time away from planning, but rather the school schedule should be adjusted to provide extra time for meeting.
3. Collegiality between teachers
This is often confused as friendliness or amiability, but it's not. Collegial relationships develop where teachers trust each other. This trust provides teachers with the opportunity to challenge each other's ideas and to disagree on issues without getting personally hurt or offended. Collegiality really is the key to a good PLC. If all you ever do when you meet with other teachers is pat each other on the back, then no one is growing and the students definitely don't benefit.
4. Shared Leadership
In a professional learning community, the administration does not dictate every detail of the curriculum or direction of the school. In Professional Learning Communities at Work, one of the key books on the subject, the authors suggest that teachers should be involved in everything from creating the schools vision statement to policy creation.
5. Focus on data
Professional Learning Communities are realistic about the state of their school and their students, but they don't resign themselves to the idea that nothing will ever change. PLCs look at reliable sources of research, and even conduct their own research, in order to bring about effective growth in their students.

When implemented correctly, Professional Learning Communities can bring about tremendous growth for educators. They can both raise morale and increase a teacher's ability. Unfortunately, there are schools where PLCs are either not implemented or are implemented poorly. In order to strive toward professionalism, teachers can take it upon themselves to form their own.

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