Identifying the Key Players on a Successful PLC Team
Are you a member of a Professional Learning Community (PLC)? Probably! Just over 83 percent of respondents to Schoology's 2018 Global State of Digital Learning Report agree that PLCs are effective tools for professional development, and PLCs have become de rigueur in many districts across the country as a way to enact change and improve student achievement.
Are you a member of a true PLC? That one's a bit trickier.
Though many institutions have adopted PLCs in recent years, not all PLCs are created equal. Being in a PLC isn't simply a book club or a meeting in which you work in groups to analyze test scores. A robust PLC embraces learning and reflection as a standard part of the job of teaching, and it follows an established process to do so:
- Study the problem or issue at hand, whether it's test scores or classroom engagement.
- Select a teaching strategy to try to solve the problem.
- Plan common lessons to incorporate the strategy and make sure all students receive the same intervention.
- Implement the lessons and gather evidence of learning or other improvements.
- Analyze the results to check student understanding and evaluate the success of the strategy.
- Adjust the new strategy and lessons as needed based on the results of analysis.
If we think about this process as the rules of the game, then a winning team is one in which all players work together to play their best and win the championship—in this case, improved student achievement. Just as each baseball player on the field has a particular base to cover, so too does each player on your PLC team have a role to play. The most effective PLCs are the ones that are designed to include a broad range of skills and expertise—that is, the players cover the whole field of your students' needs.
The Successful PLC Team Roster
To make sure all of your educational bases are covered, be sure that your PLCs include all the players in your institution. Each professional brings a different perspective and has a role to play in the overall success of your learning community.
Teachers are the offensive line when it comes to student achievement, as they are out front and making sure day-to-day learning happens. They are most often the ones who will implement the strategies developed by PLCs, so their input in these teams is vital.
PLCs at the elementary level should include specialists (art, music, health, etc.), while PLCs at the secondary level should include representatives from each subject area or department. Teachers of different subjects have different perspectives and insight that should not be overlooked. Special Education teachers should be included at all levels as well, since they have expertise in differentiating instruction and reaching learners who struggle.
If teachers are the offense, administrators run defense. They create systems in which educators are safe and supported in doing their jobs on a daily basis. Administrators also have deep insight into big-picture goals for the school and the district, and they often have experience diving through the achievement data that PLCs require to make evidence-based decisions. Administrators also have the power to support PLCs through scheduling, procuring materials, advocating for new programs and more.
Who's calling the plays on the field? When it comes to education, curriculum developers are the strategists that determine exactly how you'll score big for your students. These professionals have a deep understanding of the curriculum and how it is articulated with your state's learning standards. As such, they'll be able to help develop lessons that target specific achievement standards. They'll also be able to provide insight into why the curriculum was written in a certain way—and spearhead change when the PLC determines that an overhaul is needed.
Instructional technologists are also educators, and they offer a wealth of experience in delivering lessons in new ways, particularly when it comes to online learning. They can also help PLCs leverage their LMS to track progress and create reports that make data easier to understand, which will help streamline the process of evaluating the success of new instructional practices. Modern sports teams use technology all the time to measure athlete health, review tape to see how plays went, and to track achievement stats—your PLC can benefit similarly from the addition of an instructional technologist.
Most paraprofessionals work with special needs students to fulfill their IEPs and 504 plans, so it's critical to bring them to the table in your PLCs. In addition to offering insight about particular student needs, they'll be able to alert the team to ways in which new ideas need to be modified for certain students—and they can help implement those additional strategies.
Paraprofessionals are full team players just like teachers, so don't forget to include them in your PLC to make sure that all voices are heard and valued.
When you assemble a PLC team, make sure it is balanced. All of the players in your school community should be represented, which will bring the most possible knowledge together in one place. It's also a great way to build community and a collaborative spirit in your institution, as different professionals are often isolated from one another during the school day. By building a robust, well-rounded team, you'll give your students winning odds when it comes to educational achievement.
What did you learn about creating a successful PLC team? Tell us on Twitter @Schoology