PLCs Considerations for the Future

June 1, 2018 | Author: Mike Dreiblatt | Views: 600 | Comments: 0


PLCs Considerations for the Future Michael Dreiblatt

What has your experience been regarding PLCs? Do you find them effective? Why? Why not? Please share your thoughts. Thanks. Michael Dreiblatt

Research affirms that engaging teachers in high-quality professional learning is the most successful way to improve teacher effectiveness (Greenwald, Hedges & Laine 1995; Guskey & Huberman 1995; Elmore & Burney 1997; Hawley & Valli 1999; Elmore 2002). Berry et al. (2005) also report that a learning community structure help teachers in a rural elementary school examine their practice through such collaborative structures as sharing lessons, using protocols for decision making, and relying on systematic note taking to inform colleagues about their work.

Traditional models of professional development have focused on providing teachers with the skills and knowledge necessary to be “better” educators. These models have typically been grounded in the assumption that the purpose of professional development is to convey to teachers “knowledge FOR practice” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). That is, the professional development activity is based on the premise that knowledge and expertise are best generated by university researchers outside the day-to-day work of teaching. Through professional development, teachers acquire and then implement this knowledge. In addition, the knowledge presented is usually advocated as a prescription for better teaching.

The PLC model represents a shift away from this traditional model of professional development. PLCs at their best are grounded in generation of “knowledge OF Practice” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). That is, “it is assumed that the knowledge teachers need to teach well is generated when teachers treat their own classrooms and schools as sites for intentional investigation at the same time that they treat the knowledge and theory produced by others as generative material for interrogation and interpretation” (p. 272).

Participation in learning communities has the potential to facilitate professional development that is driven by the needs of teachers, as they are naturally engaged in efforts to accomplish their goals. (Berry et al., 2005; Bolam et al., 2005; Englert and Tarrant, 1995; Hollins et al., 2004; Phillips, 2003; Supovitz, 2002). More specifically, Hollins et al. (2004) document that teachers involved in efforts to improve literacy in African-American students sought out scholarly literature on culturally relevant teaching. Berry et al. (2005) report that teachers in one learning community searched for outside ideas to help them solve their teaching dilemmas. Bolam et al. (2005) indicate that teachers saw a clear connection between their own professional learning opportunities within the PLC and changes in their practices and student learning. And in a final example, Englert and Tarrant (1995) note that researchers brought new ideas and strategies rooted in scholarly literature to three special education teachers attempting to change their reading instruction for students with mild disabilities.

Professional learning communities may be a cost-effective strategy for teacher professional development in impoverished communities. Many aspects of effective professional learning communities can be supported through institutional structures and incentives within schools themselves, without the need to pay for teachers' transportation and room and board to attend off-site training sessions. For this reason, cultivating professional learning communities may be a particularly desirable strategy for the improvement of teaching and learning in resource-constrained settings. Investing in professional learning may be the key to ensuring that schools become learning communities where teachers work together, learn from each other, and share best practice on effective teaching and learning. It is through the collective work of teachers and by creating a shared professional knowledge that sustained school improvement will be secured. Bolam et al. (2005) and Louis and Marks (1998) found that higher student achievement was related to the extent to which schools had strong professional communities.

Teachers must stop working alone,in isolation, and instead need to shift to a collaborative mindset. PLCs of an opportunity to ascertain what teachers need to do, plan instructional interventions and evaluate the success of the interventions (Hattie, 2015).

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (2001) concurs by stating: 
Isolation is the enemy of learning. Principals who support the learning of adults in their school organize teachers’ schedules to provide opportunities for teachers to work, plan, and think together. For instance, teams of teachers who share responsibility for the learning of all students meet regularly to plan lessons, critique student work and the assignments that led to it, and solve common instructional or classroom management problems (p. 45).

In light of current budget cuts and limited professional development funding, the opportunity to offer high-quality, in-house professional development will likely be appealing to many in the field of education. Professional learning communities afford schools the opportunity to implement strategies that allow participants specific and continuous occasions for learning and collaboration in the form of professional study groups, peer coaching, action research teams, shared development of learning standards, and cooperative assessment of student data. (Haar, 2001) Sparks (2005) supports that well-implemented professional learning communities are a powerful means of seamlessly blending teaching and professional learning in ways that produce positive learning outcomes for students, teachers, and school leaders.  

What has your experience been regarding PLCs? Do you find them effective? Why? Why not? Please share your thoughts. Thanks. Michael Dreiblatt

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