Column: Professional Learning Communities in the schoolWORTHINGTON — Those in the business of education have probably heard of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), but their understanding of PLCs may vary.
By: Tammy Timko, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Those in the business of education have probably heard of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), but their understanding of PLCs may vary.
District 518, along with the other 24 Southwest Minnesota school districts involved in the Flexible Learning Year (FLY) Consortium, has been working to come to a common understanding of PLCs and their value in the education system. The consortium districts will be working off of the DuFour model, which is grounded in three big ideas — collaborative team culture, a focus on learning and a focus on results.
PLCs are collaborative teams of educators that work together to achieve a common goal — increased student achievement. These teams begin by focusing on four questions: What do we want students to know? How will we know if they have learned it? What will we do if they don’t learn it? What will we do if they already know it? To be effective, PLC teams must then move from conversation to action. Teams move forward by implementing agreed-upon strategies in their classrooms. Finally, PLC teams analyze the results of their actions, being sure to put results above intentions — and the cycle begins again. By following these steps, the PLC teams make a commitment to continuous improvement.
Throughout the 2010-2011 school year, each district will begin training its staff on this model. For District 518, this includes a couple of steps.
First, 10 teachers and 10 administrators are being trained as district trainers. This core group, along with core groups from the other 24 districts, has been meeting with renowned PLC trainers. This core group also meets monthly at a district level to further study the PLC model.
Secondly, the rest of the staff will be trained. This week, District 518’s core group of trainers will begin this step by highlighting an overview of the PLC model with the rest of the teaching staff. In March, all 25 district staffs will come together in Redwood Falls to hear Dr. Thomas Many speak on PLCs. Dr. Many is coauthor of the PLC book, “Learning by Doing.” In addition to being an author and speaker, Dr. Many is superintendent of Illinois District 96, which has been recognized as one of the highest-achieving districts in Illinois.
To prepare for the 2011-2012 school year, the teaching and administrative staff will decide on the PLC structure for next year (team makeup, meeting times, etc…) While most of the District 518 staff will be teamed with other staff from our district, there will be some that will have the option to team with teachers from other FLY districts. This will be particularly true for teachers in areas with few colleagues teaching the same course.
While each of the 25 districts is at a different spot in the implementation process, depending on past practice in their respective district, the consortium has come together to learn with and from each other, support one another and move Southwest Minnesota schools further into a cycle of continuous improvement.
Tammy Timko is District 518’s coordinator of teaching and learning.