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The PLC:


Professional Learning Communities

By Kathy Blackwell & Dedra Stafford

A Professional Learning Community is NOT: A program to be implemented A package of reforms to be adopted A step-by-step recipe for change A sure-fire system borrowed from another school One more thing to add to an already cluttered school agenda A PLC IS A PROCESS THAT WILL CHANGE A SCHOOL'S CULTURE! In traditional schools: The focus is on teaching Teaching is done in isolation Teachers think of the themselves as autonomous, independent contractors Most teachers have little input into the school's vision and mission statements The school's mission statement is generic and tangential to classroom work The principal makes the decisions and teachers do what (and only what) they are told to do. The curriculum and the textbook are one and the same. Assessments are norm-based. Test results are used for grading purposes only. Students who do not learn are given the opportunity to catch up. The rest is up to them. It is time for everyone to be pointed in the same direction and working on the same agenda! The Four Pillars of a PLC Mission Vision Values Goals Build a Shared Vision, Mission, Values, and Goals No school has ever improved just because they wrote a vision, mission, goals, and value statements. These important elements must be translated into reality. Actions bring about change. Setting purpose and priorities helps create a school culture that does not tolerate failure.

BIG IDEA #1 Focus on Learning

Purpose of school- LEARNING FOR ALL We must evaluate all practices and their impact on learning Make the shift from teaching to learning!

Schools Must.... Clarify what each student is to learn- Curriculum/PASS Monitor student's learning on a timely basis (4X year) Create systems to ensure students receive additional time and support if they are not learning. Create systems to ensure students receive additional time/ enrichment if they are learning.

If we believe all students can learn

What is it we expect them to learn? How will we know when they have learned it? How will we respond when they don't learn it? How will we respond when they already know it?

Focus of Professional Learning Communities

Examples of Intervention Strategies Flex Time/Intervention Time Additional dose/s of instruction for students who need it Utilize Human Resources Use every available employee during critical instructional periods of the day Students should flow easily in and out of various levels of the intervention system based upon their needs. All staff members should be used to support the intervention system. Include small group and/or one-on-one tutoring. If one strategy doesn't work, try another one and keep trying until student achieves mastery. Do whatever it takes to ensure that students learn. Trained peer-tutors Save One Student (SOS) Program One adult takes personal interest to assist that student by providing the gift of time and support.

BIG IDEA #2 Collaborative Culture

We must work together for student learning-- TEAM Have a shared purpose Own a collective responsibility

Teams Must....

Learning Collaboration meetings routine Collaboration time built into the school day Every professional assigned to a group Team Focused on Critical questions Team produced products expected and inspected Team agendas, minutes, notebooks, facilitator, assignments Team Norms

Group Norms

Be a learner--be open to new ideas. Respect others--listen to understand. Ask questions--seek clarification. Keep things confidential within the group. Place phones on vibrate or silent. Have fun!

Job Embedded Professional Learning

1. Coaching 2. Observing other teachers 3. Being coached 4. Visiting model schools/programs 5. Being a mentor 6. Developing curriculum/assessment 7. Being mentored 8. Planning lessons with colleagues 9. Participating in a study group 10. Observing model lessons 11. Analyzing teaching cases 12. Developing continuous improvement plan 13. Conducting action research 14. Reading educational journals/books 15. Electronic network and support group 16. Videotaping oneself/constructive feedback

Developing norms

COMMENTS TO THE FACILITATOR: This activity will enable a group to develop a set of operating norms or ground rules. In existing groups, anonymity will help ensure that everyone is able to express their ideas freely. That is the reason for suggesting that the facilitator provide pens or pencils and ask that everyone use the same type of writing implement. SUPPLIES: Index cards, pens/pencils, poster paper, display board, tape, tacks. TIME: Two hours. DIRECTIONS: 1. Indicate to the group that effective groups generally have a set of norms that governs individual behavior, facilitates the work of the group, and enables the group to accomplish its task. 2. Recommend to the group that it establish a set of norms: · To ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to contribute in the meeting; · To increase productivity and effectiveness; and · To facilitate the achievement of its goals. 3. Give five index cards and the same kind of writing tool to each person in the group. 4. Ask each person to reflect on and record behaviors they consider ideal behaviors for a group. Ask them to write one idea on each of their cards. Time: 10 minutes. 5. The facilitator should shuffle all the cards together. Every effort should be made to provide anonymity for individuals, especially if the group has worked together before. 6. Turn cards face up and read each card aloud. Allow time for the group members to discuss each idea. Tape or tack each card to a display board so that all group members can see it. As each subsequent card is read aloud, ask the group to determine if it is similar to another idea that already has been expressed. Cards with similar ideas should be grouped together. 7. When all of the cards have been sorted into groups, ask the group to write the norm suggested by that group of cards. Have one group member record these new norms onto a large sheet of paper. 8. Review the proposed norms with the group. Determine whether the group can support the norms before the group adopts them.

EXAMPLES OF NORMS We will work together as a community that values consensus rather than majority rule. We will be fully "present'' at the meeting by becoming familiar with materials before we arrive and by being attentive to behaviors which affect physical and mental engagement. We will invite and welcome the contributions of every member and listen to each other. We will be noncompetitive and never defensive with colleagues.

We will support one another, provide suggestions and strategies, and adjust as needed We will be involved to our individual level of comfort. Each of us is responsible for airing disagreements during the meeting rather than carrying those disagreements outside the meeting. We will not complain about parents, students, admin., or mandates

Source: Adapted from Tools for change workshops by Robby Champion. Oxford, Ohio: National Staff Development Council, 1993.

BIG IDEA #3 Focus on Results

Assess our effectiveness based on RESULTS not on intentions Seek relevant data and USE the information In a PLC school with high performing teams ... Teams pursue specific and measurable performance goals: Strategic & Specific Measurable Attainable Results-oriented Time bound

How do we start?

Clarify 8 ­ 10 essential outcomes per semester by course or grade level Develop at least 4 Common Assessments Establish specific targets/benchmarks Administer assessments at common times Analyze results from assessments Identify and implement improvement strategies

PCL Team's Critical Steps

Each team should always be working to accomplish these items. This list must be revisited often to rate the progress.

1. Team Identifies team norms and protocols to guide us in working together 2. Team has analyzed student achievement data and have established SMART goals 3. Each member of our team is clear on the essential learnings of our course and essential learnings of each unit 4. We have aligned the essential learnings with state and district standards 5. We have identified course content/topics that can be eliminated so that we can devote more time to essential skills. 6. We have agreed on how to best sequence content and established pacing guides 7. We have identified the prerequisite knowledge and skills students need in order to master course and units 8. We have identified strategies and created instruments to asses prerequisite knowledge and skills 9. We have developed strategies and systems to assist students in acquiring prerequisite knowledge and skills when they are lacking 10. We have developed frequent common formative assessments that help us identify each students mastery of learning 11. We have established proficiency standards we want each student to achieve on each skill and concept 12. We have developed common summative assessments that help us examine strengths and weaknesses of our program

13. We have established the proficiency standard we want each student to achieve on each skill and standard with our summative assessment 14. We have agreed on the criteria we will use when evaluating student work in relation to the essential skills. 15. We have taught our students the criteria we will use in judging their work and provided examples 16. We will evaluate the adherence to the effectiveness of our team norms at least twice each year 17. We will use the results of our common assessments to assist each other in building onstrengths and addressing weaknesses in teaching techniques as a process of continual improvement 18. We will use the results of the common assessments to identify students who need additional time and support to master essential skills and provide the support needed Don't Let Students Fall Through the Cracks:

· · Don't get caught in the pitfalls of PLC's Have an agenda for weekly PLC meetings ­ Don't get off topic ­ Don't digress and complain about things you have no control over ­ Encourage & keep goals topic of conversation ­ Facilitator stops unproductive complaints or tables discussion

Other Tips: · Use the Agenda to guide · Take notes; document · Common binders (all teachers can access ­ including electives) · Specific students and concepts · Integrate and support one another's efforts (across the curriculum) · Focus on what is measurable · Interventions/Remediation/Enrichment · Reteaching using variety of methods PLC's: · Making the time for collaboration · Shift from teaching in isolation to working as a team · Looking at data- targeting areas for growth · Implementing new interventions & strategies, and gathering new data to determine progress or success Celebrate successes!


Blankstein (2004) Failure is not an option: Six principles that guide student achievement in highperforming schools. Downey, B. Steffy, F. English, L. Frase, and W. Poston (2004). The tree-minute classroom walkthrough: Changing school practice one teacher at a time. R. DuFour, R. DuFour, R. Eaker, & T. Many (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. R. DuFour, R. DuFour, R. Eaker, and G. Karhanek (2004). Whatever it takes: How professional learning communities respond when kids don't learn. S. Roberts & E. Pruitt (2003) Schools as professional learning communities: Collaborative activities and strategies for professional development. Roland, R. et. al (2005) On common ground: The power of professional learning communities

Form next page adapted from Professional Learning Communities at Work Plan Book

Professional Learning Community Team Data Sheet

Team Name: ___________________________________________Date_______________ Team Meeting Goal(s): _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________

TEAM MEMBERS PRESENT, ABSENT MEMBERS & REASON: __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________


Students - Targeted Areas and/or Concerns: (Measurable)

Informal Assessments Used: Formal Assessments Used: Strategies/Interventions: (Suggestions from TEAM members; include time-table)

Grouping strategie Integrated support from TEAM in other curricular classes:

Misc. Topics/meeting Outcomes:



Upcoming Events:


Administrator ____________________________________________________________________________


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