Advocating for the PLC Concept
Occasionally, I have found myself in the position of being asked to defend the PLC concept. My initial impulse has often been to reference relevant research findings or point to schools and school districts that have benefitted from the PLC concept. In addition to research and examples, I have found it especially effective when I break the PLC concept down into its basic components and engage in dialogue by asking a series of questions.
For example, I begin by asking, “So, if you were not going to implement the PLC concept, which part would you leave out? How many think it’s a good idea to leave the question of what students should learn up to individual teachers? How many think it’s best to leave it up to individual teachers to determine what the standards, if met, should look like in student work? Should individual teachers determine how much time they will spend on each standard? Should we stop having collaborative discussions about issues such as learning targets, homework, and grading of student work?”
Next I ask, “How many of you think it would be a good idea to discontinue collaboratively checking along the way to see if students are learning? How many would prefer to rely solely on homework grades, end-of-unit tests, and state assessments to determine which students have been successful in their classes/courses?”
I then turn to the question of time, support, and enrichment: “How many of you think we should drop the idea of providing additional time, support, or enrichment for students? How many of you think it’s a good idea to leave the question of helping kids who are struggling with their learning or need enrichment up to the discretion of individual teachers?”
Toward the end of the discussions, I have found it helpful to ask, “In regards to your own child’s education, how would you want these questions answered?” I have found that parents, almost without exception, know what kind of school, teachers, and lessons they want for their own child. They want clarity regarding what their child should learn, regardless of the teacher to whom they are assigned. They want their child’s learning monitored along the way. And, they want extra time and enrichment for their child as a result of a collaborative analysis of their child’s learning data.
In short, parents—and certainly most teachers—feel that a school should be more than a collection of independent contractors who share a common parking lot, that a child’s learning should not be dependent on an “educational lottery”—the luck of being assigned to certain teachers. They might question the idea of adopting a specific acronym such as PLC since such terms often represent a new initiative or a new program, and many teachers have often had bad experiences with new initiatives or new programs. However, I have found most people wholeheartedly support the underlying concepts and commonsense practices reflective of a high-performing PLC!