Jasmine Kullar

Jasmine Kullar, EdD, is a Georgia middle school principal with leadership experience at elementary, middle, and high school levels. She specializes in building professional learning communities and school leadership.

What Does Hiring Look Like in a PLC?

The most important decision you can make as a leader is who gets to join your team. This decision is even more critical when you are in the process of becoming a professional learning community. So, let’s look at your hiring practices through the lens of a PLC.

Big Idea #1: Focus on Learning

In a PLC, everything you do is focused on student learning. In other words, every practice, procedure, and policy is based on student learning. This practice should be applied to your hiring practices as well. When looking at hiring someone, always hire the best person for the job—the person who you know will make a significant impact on student achievement. That makes sense right? But unfortunately, in education, we hire who we like. We hire people we know. We hire people who can coach. Now of course all these things could be important to you, but they should never drive the decision to hire someone. In order to help you make this critical decision, bring other key players to the hiring committee. Bring in your department chairs, collaborative team members, and anyone else you think could bring valuable insight. Together, as a committee, review applications and pick applications that stand out in terms of student achievement. Which applicants bring a unique skill set that could advance the student achievement at your school? Pick those applicants and invite them for the interview.

Rick DuFour (2009) shares examples of questions that could be asked of candidates to ensure they also believe student learning is always the focus.

  1. We have all run into a student who simply does not want to work, but does not have a behavior problem and is not interfering with the learning of others. How have you responded to that student?
  2. One of your colleagues states that there is little a teacher can do to help a student who is just not interested in learning. Would you respond, and if so, how would you respond?
  3. How do you respond to this assertion: "The major causes of learning do not fall within the teacher’s sphere of influence. Student learning will be determined primarily by factors such as innate ability, parental support, the socioeconomic conditions in which the student lives, and the beliefs and behaviors of the student’s peer group."

Big Idea #2: Collaboration

Creating a collaborative culture in a PLC means everyone at every level is collaborating. We all work together because we know we are smarter together as a group than we are as individuals. What better way to show we are a collaborative team than to interview candidates together as a team? As a part of your hiring process, take some time to decide together as a hiring committee what void you are trying to fill. For example, does that specific collaborative team need someone with technological skills or someone who is creative? Then decide together what questions you will ask and how many of the questions should be based on skill and how many based on case scenarios. Decide together how the answers will then be rated. It is essential that you get the message across to the candidates that you have created a collaborative culture in the school and that your expectation is the candidate will fit into this culture.

Below are some questions Rick DuFour (2009) proposes to ask candidates related to their experience and/or beliefs of collaboration.

  1. Think of a time when you were part of a group or team that led to better results for its members and a more satisfying professional experience. Think of another time when you were part of a group or team and it was a negative experience. What factors contributed to the difference?
  2. If you were assigned to a teaching team and encouraged to collaborate, what kinds of questions or issues do you believe the team should focus its efforts?
  3. How would you work through personality differences on your collaborative team? What kinds of things do you hold dearly and will not budge on? What kinds of things are you flexible with and will conform to the group?

Big Idea #3: Results-Oriented

All decisions in a PLC are based on data. Doesn’t it then make sense to base your hiring decisions on data as well? What data should we ask the candidates to bring to the interview—perhaps data from some previously assigned common assessments (obviously ask them to take the student names out). Ask them to bring data that shows they positively impacted student achievement. This is also where reference checks are so important. We don’t spend enough time making those important reference calls. When calling references (current and former principals of the candidate), it is best to ask questions that could verify the information the candidates relayed in the interview. That way you can cross-reference that data to ensure the candidate was telling the truth in the interview and not exaggerating. In addition, another critical piece of data is the candidate’s social media profile. When conducting searches on the internet of the candidate, what kind of information can you gather? Is it information that will be helpful or harmful to advance student achievement in your school?

Below are some questions that Rick DuFour (2009) outlines that could be asked to gauge a candidate’s ability to be results oriented.

  1. What is your reaction to this statement: "Teachers of the same course or grade level should use common assessments so each member of the team can determine the achievement of his or her students compared to other students attempting to acquire the same knowledge and skills."
  2. Why would you be hesitant to share your data and results from common assessments with your collaborative teams? How would you overcome it?
  3. How would you ensure that you are consistent with your collaborative team with providing feedback to your students? How would you decide what gets a level 4 on a test or what answer gets full credit versus partial credit?

In conclusion, make hiring a collaborative process that involves other teacher leaders in addition to the teachers who will be working directly with the new person. Think through what criteria will be used to screen applications, think through the interview process and brainstorm good questions – you can see more sample questions here from chapter 3 in “Learning by Doing.” Finally think through what you will ask the candidates to bring to the interview. All this “thinking” should be done collaboratively and decided prior to beginning the hiring process.  

References:

DuFour, R, DuFour, R, Eaker, B., Many, T., Mattos, M. (2016). Learning By Doing. Solution Tree Press: Indianapolis.

Rick DuFour (2009). “Is This Candidate A Good Fit For A PLC?” Retrieved from: http://www.allthingsplc.info/blog/view/51/is-this-candidate-a-good-fit-for-a-plc

Comments

Melissa Bass

I love this idea of questions in an interview being meant to see how a candidate will feel about a collaborative culture within the department. I think if you have a job applicant unwilling to move towards CFAs and common planning, they probably will not fit into the school we are trying to build that puts the focus on using the data to drive instruction in a meaningful way.

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