Using the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) Process to Improve Student Learning

14 Sep 2023 7:24 PM | Paige Jennings (Administrator)

By: Keely Garren

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been widely utilized in education for over two decades. Recently, re-scaling the PLC process through professional development in schools and districts has become popular to ensure that each educator has a solid foundation in the four questions that guide the PLC process and that each educator can engage in the PLC process from their unique educator role. The PLC process focuses on improving student learning and achievement. 

Defining a PLC

PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) are educators who are committed to sharing knowledge and learning. Meeting regularly to discuss ways to serve their students through improved practice is essential in any school serious about increasing student achievement.

Under its core principle, continuous job-embedded learning for educators will ultimately positively affect student learning. At these meetings, educators share and analyze data while also creating norms to facilitate effective collaboration.

PLCs are distinguished by an inquiry mindset -- the willingness to challenge assumptions, test ideas, and learn from failure - along with a culture of trust and cooperation among educators. This framework can be utilized effectively in schools K-12.

Creating a Vision for PLCs

PLCs are used to enhance teaching and learning in classrooms through collaborative processes that use teacher-created professional standards and data-driven decision-making to make better educational practices possible. Through PLC protocols, educators explore student academic growth data at individual, classroom, school, and district levels.

Teams then use this data to develop strategies for improving classroom instruction and student outcomes. A data-driven approach seeks to determine student mastery of specific learning targets while offering support to those who require it; it can also enhance school leadership effectiveness.

Creating a Mission for PLCs

For PLCs to succeed, educators must commit themselves to the idea that learning should be continuous for students and staff alike - an enormous change that affects how the school runs.

PLC educators must collaborate and share expertise among themselves while at the same time being able to analyze data and make decisions regarding instructional strategies. 

As part of your effort to increase buy-in among teachers, it's vital that regular meetings take place where educators can discuss the collective commitments that define the PLC. Meetings themed around collective commitments may prove effective at stimulating discussions that bring teachers together around these collective commitments. 

Creating a Culture for PLCs

Through PLCs, teachers can form positive relationships that foster an environment of collaboration, equity, and continuous improvement within schools K-12. Embracing a culture of collaboration promotes collective efficacy and can lead to positive student learning outcomes. The PLC process uses data to make decisions rather than intuition or personal preferences, providing greater insights into what works and why, leading to a stronger school culture overall. To embrace data, a sense of belonging and safety must be fostered, as a level of vulnerability is needed to be reflective within a group and try new approaches to learning.

Creating a Structure for PLCs

An effective PLC requires cooperative effort and an unshakeable belief that everyone can reach their maximum potential; without an organized group structure, this cannot happen. Setting a meeting agenda and including a facilitator are essential steps toward running an effective PLC. A facilitator should understand its culture while leading group discussions effectively while keeping student learning at the center of the conversation. Teachers should also be encouraged to share ideas and resources between meetings. For example, one teacher could visit another class to observe an effective strategy being utilized before discussing it further with its host teacher later. This strategy helps foster the collaborative nature of a PLC while simultaneously encouraging growth and improvement over time.

Colorado Association of Middle Level Education


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