Friday, September 12, 2014

PLCs are more than a conversation

I am proud of our professional learning communities.  I have been asked several times to present on this topic at various conferences, and schools across the state.  I believe we are doing great things that will pay off.  I am a realist though and have had many conversations and understand that there are various levels of buy in.  The core of what we hope to accomplish within each PLC are the following:
  •      What do we want students to know and be able to do in every grade and every subject area? (Powerstandards and I-can statements)
  • How do we know each student has learned it? (Formative assessments developed by the team for each powerstandard, may include multiple assessments for each powerstandard)
  • What structures and interventions are we using to ensure that all students reach a certain level agreed upon by the team?
  • What are we doing if some students already know and understand the material? (What enrichment opportunities are we providing?
I know this work is hard and we like to look at the big picture and that makes this process look immense.  My dream is that at some point down the road we will be able to have conversations about formative data that we generate from the precise standards that we establish.  That to me is what this process is about.  We review and improve our lessons together, we discuss objectives together, we have difficult conversations about why students in my class are not performing as well as yours.  We begin to develop and think outside the box on how we can meet the needs of all kids. 

I think Schmoker (2004) says it best, “Mere collegiality won’t cut it. Even discussions about curricular issues or popular strategies can feel good but go nowhere.  The right image to embrace is of a group of teachers who meet regularly to share, refine, and assess the impact of lessons and strategies continuously to help increasing numbers of students learn at higher levels.”

Effective PLC teams relentlessly question the status quo, seek new methods of teaching and learning, test the methods, and then reflect on the results together (Ferriter, 2014).  I am asking each of our PLC teams to think about what I have mentioned above.  Are we effective? Do we have a purpose for each and every meeting? Have we developed a set of expectations on how we will operate to make a short amount of time meaningful every Wednesday? I came across the word hyperbole the other day.  Hyperbole means exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.  Does this word describe your PLC?