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How can professional learning communities raise the bar?

Professional learning communities can effectively raise the bar if they are based on…

1. Common philosophical beliefs about kids, learning and the role of the teacher in the process need to be the foundation of the forming of a group. When folks are already forming ad hoc PLCs and are committed to each other, why try to force a new organization? We need to look at natural tribe creation, as long as the tribes are healthy and committed to the principles of working together to improve instruction.

2. Understanding and valuing the differences in how colleagues process and express themselves. Training needs to take place that allows those involved to come to a better understanding of each other and to create group agreements as to how they will function together as a group.

3. Time must be taken to establish trust between members. For this reason the first ½ or more of the year they work together, their task will be to get to know each other and to trust each other. They will then get a chance to continue with each other in subsequent years. Time must also be provided for members to work well with each other and not feel rushed.

How can professional learning communities raise the bar?

4. A course on listening skills is essential for effective communication among PLC members. Actively listening will provide a bridge between people, as they practice gifting each other with respect and appreciation and are able to work through tough issues together. Successful PLCs have this as part of their foundation.

5. As teachers work together in PLCs other demands on their time MUST be lessened. We all only have so many hours in a day and we keep trying to cram more and more into each day and still expect teachers to impact student learning and create positive and productive collegial relationships. After the implementation of site-based management techniques in school in the early 90’s, teachers have been overwhelmed with all of the “extra duties” duties they have been given to do, while nothing has been taken away, except TIME to teach well! Opportunities to demonstrate lessons or observe each other teaching, is the ultimate in great staff development.

6. Teachers must know how to utilize Classroom Based Assessments effectively to be able to share information and make wise choices in altering instruction. Training and practice must take place.