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Friday, June 01, 2018

The Evolution of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

I believe our initial efforts to establish PLCs has been successful overall. The positives in my opinion include the following:
  • The PLCs broadened what we think of as the teaching/learning team by including teaching assistants, specialists, therapists, administrators and educators. 
  • The PLCs have started data-related analysis and conversations about our programs.
  • The PLCs have given some voice to stakeholders.
  • The PLCs have built-in greater time for collaboration in the school house.
I think there's room to evolve our PLCs to make them more meaningful in the year ahead. What might we do?
  • We need to establish and define goals for our PLCs at the start of the year and those goals should be based on state- and system- expectations, deep analysis of data, and courageous efforts to truly better what we do in areas where we both have a need and desire to do better. Our goals need to be defined well and include a path of effort and activity to achieve those goals. There needs to be check-ins and assessments too. 
  • We need to utilize better processes at PLC in order to hear the voices of all stakeholders not just a few.
  • We have to go deeper with data analysis so that our data discussion is rich, meaningful, and impactful.
  • We need to choose collective goals that all members of the PLC are excited about and find meaningful--goals that will involve courageous efforts that might fail, but that will help us to reach deeper and further with regard to teaching all students well.
The PLCs can be seen as the vehicle for greater distributive leadership--in a sense we are the wheels of the school train whose spokes are connected to effect positive energy that helps drive the whole school train. 

I do think that our PLCs might profit from a better structure too--some of the structures we use now are effective including the following:
  • Shared Google doc for note taking that includes names of those in attendance, notes about each meeting, and a column about agendas and efforts planned.
  • Regular time each week.
  • A good amount of time--we have 45 minutes which has worked well overall for our team.
The PLC structure could be improved with the following efforts:
  • A quality, designated space for PLC that includes a large wall computer to share digital information, round table, white walls for ideas/drawings, and good light. Inspiring spaces help to build positive teams and teamwork.
  • Protocols about letting people know if you will be at the PLC or not. Some always do this and others rarely to never do this.
  • More training for educators and others about utilizing more modern sophisticated methods of collaboration, goal setting, and collective efforts such as the Hosting Conversations efforts which started at MIT.
  • The ability to truly discuss the "elephants in the room" in sensitive, data informed, and purposeful ways to improve the work we do. 
I think that continued effort to develop the PLCs in ways that matter and ways that reflect the viewpoints from all stakeholders will help to grow the work we do on our own and as a teaching/learning community. What ideas would you add to this post for the evolution of PLCs?