Professional learning communities (PLCs) have become the commonplace model for teacher collaboration in K-12 districts. But how do you ensure PLCs are remaining tightly aligned to district priorities during the year? We hosted three education leaders via a 45-minute panel-style webinar to explore this important question: how do district and school leaders assess and refresh their PLCs mid-year?
Invest time in communicating your vision and mission with clarity. All three of our panelists overwhelmingly agreed: ensuring there’s a shared understanding of district goals and key areas of focus (and the role of PLCs in reaching them) is essential. Engaging folks at the building level to identify real-life examples of what those priorities look like in practice is mission-critical to the success of aligning PLC groups to big-picture initiatives.
Align PD resources by providing ample time, support, and training outside of PLCs. Colonial School District initially provided external professional development focused on the big 4 questions (DuFour) that drove their PLC time. However, as they began major initiatives surrounding blended learning and wellness (social learning), the district reimagined PLCs as a place for teachers to reiterate learnings and learn from each other. In response, they put an emphasis on providing educational opportunities for blended learning and wellness outside of PLC learning time, dedicating district and building PD towards those initiatives, then encouraging teachers to use PLC time to connect the dots.
Create and clearly identify space for teachers to share top-of-mind issues. If your PLCs are frequently going off-track to consider issues that are important but not within your district priorities, consider when they should be voiced. For instance, if your team is struggling with a classroom management issue, when should they seek help? The answer should be clear to both you and them. Additionally, resist the urge to schedule compliance mandates (i.e. a staff training on a new PDMS software) during PLC time; doing so implies the time belongs to your administration instead of being a space for meaningful teacher collaboration.
Design PLC protocols for continuous improvement. A mid-year break can be a great time to stop and take stock, but the real key is to think of this work as continuous—and not always linear. The more you can make necessary adjustments and corrections in an ongoing fashion, the more likely you are to stay on track towards your outcomes.
There are a number of ways to measure and refresh your PLCs, but effective communities all share a few key traits: intentionality behind assessment and alignment, time and space to iterate, and a serious commitment from administration to the initiative.
It’s challenging to ignore how much emphasis all three panelists put on how a healthy combination of peer reflection, action-centered protocols, and evidence of student work contributes to a culture of continuous improvement in a PLC. As you move forward to improve your own practice, how might you put these tips into practice?
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