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The Most Effective Professional Development: Professional Learning Communities
posted by: Melissa | October 17, 2012, 05:43 PM   

While there is still a lot of emphasis placed on teacher’s pursuing traditional professional development, there is more and more evidence that for a teacher looking to perfect their craft, the answer may not lie in traditional workshops or conferences but instead within Professional  Learning Communities (PLCs).


Traditional professional development for teachers has many shortcomings.  It often seems to be disjointed and falls into a one-off camp.  Teachers who attend a workshop on a certain skill receive very little, if any, follow-up on using that skill in the coming months.  Traditional professional development is often ineffective for this reason.  The situation becomes especially confusing when you add in the “whiplash effect” of having one conference push a certain way of doing things only to later attend another conference telling teachers to do the complete opposite.  It’s no wonder that teachers often view professional development workshops as a waste of time.


Recent research suggests that teachers grow the most when they develop a Professional Learning Community. PLCs are formed when any group of educators meet to regularly discuss their craft.  In a school, these can be grade-level or subject teams although they don’t have to be.  PLCs can be formed from any group of teachers as long as they focus their discussions on the act of teaching. Teachers can belong to more than one PLC at a time.


Although, we’ve written about Professional Learning Communities and their online cousins, Professional Learning Networks (PLN) before, the strength and support of these communities are worth reiterating.  PLCs and PLNs put an end to the idea that teaching is an isolating profession by providing a support network for teachers both emotionally and intellectually.  These are places where teachers can share their frustrations and get feedback about how to improve.  They also give teachers an outlet to share their ideas and help hone them.  Effective PLCs will often share lessons or activities, and may even involve teachers demonstrating and practicing skills with other teachers.


Teachers who participate in a Professional Learning Community report greater feelings of collegiality with other teachers. Evidence has shown time and again that PLCs don’t just make teachers feel more content in their jobs, but that teachers who participate in PLCs grow at a greater rate than those who do not participate in Professional Learning Communities.


With such strong and clear evidence that building and participating in a PLC improves the teaching profession, we hope to help teachers find, build, and use their PLCs to their utmost in the upcoming months.

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