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Professional Learning Communities for Teachers

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, $18 billion is spent yearly on professional development for teachers. A teacher may spend more than a week (68 hours) each year on professional learning activities.

What Is a Professional Learning Community?

A professional learning community (PLC) starts with the core belief that the mission of education is to ensure not only that students are taught but also that they learn successfully.

A professional learning community is sometimes described as a group of educators who collaborate and discuss a common goal or relevant issue, but a PLC can be more than that.

Some view PLCs as a way of working together. A PLC consists of staff members who look for answers and act on their learning to improve student achievement.

Successful PLC participants share similar mindsets and behaviors. A few are listed below:

  • They share mistakes and uncertainty about decisions with the group.
  • They agree on broad educational values, but are open to listening to others’ opinions.
  • They show mutual respect and consideration.
  • They aim to support one another in developing the confidence to select and adapt teaching strategies.

Additional PLC practices and beliefs include the following:

  • All students can and are able to learn.
  • PLC members share a dedication and commitment to improvement.
  • Improvement is a group effort in which each member participates.
  • Teacher behavior can be key to improved student learning.
  • Knowledge is gained through daily experiences and through conveying those experiences to others.
  • Ongoing, consistent educator and student learning is valued.

How Does a Professional Learning Community Help Teachers?

It is important for teachers to have regular opportunities to learn from each other. A few ways that collaborative PLCs can assist teachers is to keep them current on the following topics:

  • The latest research on how children learn.
  • New and emerging classroom technology and tools.
  • New curriculum resources.

PLCs can also assist teachers in the following ways:

  • Help them focus on improvements and success.
  • Make the classroom a better place to learn.
  • Foster and expand leadership abilities.
  • Create meaningful, invested opportunities for work.
  • Celebrate ongoing collaborative efforts for individual and team success.

How Can School Administrators Support PLCs?

By providing time

Making time for collaboration is crucial in supporting Professional Learning Communities. By providing time for teachers to meet during the school day, administrators can show support and convey the importance of a PLC. One way to carve out time is to rotate substitutes during the school day. Another method is to provide teachers with a free lunch. Teachers can use their lunch break to eat together and discuss school issues.

By encouraging leadership

When administrators provide teachers with opportunities to lead, teachers feel empowered, more invested in the process, and motivated when they see their efforts result in success.

When staff members work together, schools can be an effective and enjoyable learning environment where shared goals are met and educators feel included.

If you are interested in obtaining an education-related master’s degree, LSU Shreveport offers a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction online. In this 36-credit, 12-course program, you can learn how to align your professional skills with current, best practices and gain new expertise in learning and theory principles. The program course, “Creating a Professional Learning Community” provides future or current teachers with a detailed plan for continuing professional growth. Best practice activities and up-to-date research on initiatives that support Louisiana education are also covered.

Learn more about the LSUS online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.


 

Sources:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Teachers Know Best – Teachers’ Views on Professional Development

AMLE: Professional Learning Communities

Education World: Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities

AASA: 5 Ways to Build a Culture of Collaboration With Staff, Teachers And Parents

TeachHub: How Administrators Can Empower Teachers


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