RSA#1: Creating a Community of Professional Learners: An Inside View
Throughout chapter three of Learning by Doing (DuFour, 2010), the authors talk about the importance of the focus of PLC’s. The whole purpose of a schools PLC is to facilitate improved learning. But, what do we want our students to be learning and how will we know when they have learned it? According to DuFour, the efforts put into these very important questions must be the responsibility of every faculty member.
The article Creating a Community of Professional Learners: An Inside View (Cowan, Creating a Community of Professional Learners: An Inside View, 2009) has many similarities with the process explained in DuFour’s book. Cowan worries that if the learning community practice becomes too common, just teachers meeting from time to time talking about curriculum and needs for change the true PLC focus may lose purpose. She states “Professional Learning Communities shape the way schools operate on all levels”. They are a means to the end, the end being proficiency. Cowan goes on to say that much of the literature on Professional Learning Communities main focus is on describing them, more needs to be written on creating and sustaining.
Cowan’s article continues to explain what she believes needs to be the steps a PLC needs to follow in order for a lesson to be sustainable.
Step1: STUDY: Teams of teachers analyze and discuss student data and learning expectations for specific state standards. The collaboration effort focuses on what students need to know, assessments, and how their districts curriculum fits these needs.
Step2: SELECT: Teams identify researched based materials to promote mastery. They also research effective assessment techniques to use with their students.
Step3: PLAN: The team creates a class lesson or unit that utilizes researched based strategies. They decide on artifact collection and assessment techniques for proof of proficiency.
Step 4: IMPLEMENT: With-in a designated amount of time the lesson that the team collaboration created is implemented. The team then does a basic action research project; collects data and provides student artifacts for other team members to analyze. When that is completed the team actively reflects and discusses the lesson.
Step 5: ANALYZE: At this stage the team reflects on the lesson and actively engages in a discussion about the lessons effectiveness.
Step6: ADJUST: Alternative ideas that may promote more effective learning are discussed at this stage.
Cowan explains that the steps she has described are more than a PLC; they are the steps of a PTLC (professional teaching and learning cycle). She concludes by telling us that the process of following the steps is ongoing and the process itself facilitates professional growth. In other words, not only are the students getting more thought provoked, research based lessons, teachers are collaborating and focusing on a common vision.
Cowan, D. (2009). Creating a Community of Professional Learners: An Inside View. SEDL Letter.
DuFour, D. E. (2010). Learning By Doing. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press.