“Being a member of our professional learning community has allowed me to step back into the role of learner again so that I may advance in my role as instructor!”
Dawn Jung, Wyoming TEAL Team
“TEAL has been tremendously helpful in that I have learned so much from other instructors as they share ideas. My program does not gather instructors for the sole purpose of sharing what works and what doesn’t—we do this ‘on the fly.’ I hope I have been able to contribute ideas that were useful to others!”
Maggie White-McLean, Nebraska TEAL Team
“If we detach ourselves from the ‘vine,’ we will quickly wither and die! I feel like TEAL has given me an opportunity for new growth ... and I am blossoming with fresh material and lesson planning ideas that are so relevant to the generation we live in now.”
Debbie Langston, Mississippi TEAL Team
This section is based on an online resource created by The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement (2009).
A professional learning community (PLC) is an approach used to establish a schoolwide or programwide culture that is based on a fundamental belief in building teacher leadership in school improvement efforts. Through participation in PLCs, teachers enhance their leadership capacity as they work as members of ongoing, high-performing, collaborative teams that focus on improving student learning.
At their core, PLCs have a belief in teacher leadership and involvement in school improvement efforts. They support calls for continuous job-embedded professional learning for educators and link professional learning to student performance.
“As such, PLCs are grounded in two assumptions related to school improvement:
- “Knowledge is situated in the day-to-day experiences of teachers and is best understood through critical reflection with others who share the same experiences.
- “Actively engaging teachers in PLCs will increase their professional knowledge and enhance student learning” (The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2009).
A PLC is not a committee, and not an ad-hoc team convened to deal with a time-sensitive issue. Rather, PLCs share several key characteristics (The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement, 2009):
- “Shared values and vision” collaboratively constructed
- “Collaborative culture” that provides a mechanism for sharing responsibility for student learning and a means to work together toward a common purpose
- “Focus on examining student outcomes to improve student learning” and goal achievement
- “Supportive and shared leadership” that recognizes the leadership capabilities of teachers
- “Shared personal practice” as teachers share experiences, observe each other, and discuss teaching and solutions
By participating in PLCs, teachers may experience a variety of benefits that contribute to improved student achievement, including the following:
- Reduction of isolation
- Increased commitment to the mission and goals of the school or program
- Shared responsibility for student success
- Greater job satisfaction and higher morale
- Lower rates of absenteeism
What Does It Take?
In order to start and sustain well-functioning PLCs, programs have to consider issues of infrastructure support and visionary leadership. Both are critical to maintaining momentum, putting recommendations into action, and recognizing the challenging work the teachers are undertaking.
The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. (2009). Professional learning communities. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved December 27, 2011