Welcome to AllThingsPLC: What’s a PLC?
We extend our sincere appreciation to Solution Tree for creating and maintaining AllThingsPLC. We believe the site offers a rich resource to those looking for ways to deepen their understanding of this model of school improvement. We also believe it is consistent with the collaborative and collective effort to acquire and share knowledge that is so much a part of the PLC process. We look forward to learning with and from you as we respond to your questions and comments, post entries to support your work, recognize your successes, and engage in ongoing dialogue related to building and sustaining PLCs.Our hope is that educators at all levels will frequently visit this blog to get questions answered, give and receive support, network with colleagues from around the world, and celebrate PLC progress in their own settings. Thank you for being a part in this new venture!
What’s a PLC?
It has been interesting to observe the growing popularity of the term professional learning community. In fact, the term has become so commonplace and has been used so ambiguously to describe virtually any loose coupling of individuals who share a common interest in education, it is in danger of losing all meaning. As our friend Michael Fullan concludes, "Terms travel easily, but the concepts underlying those terms often do not." This lack of precision represents a very real obstacle to implementing PLC concepts. If you hope to become proficient in building PLCs, you must first develop clarity regarding what the term represents. Therefore, we have opted to devote this first entry to clarifying the term professional learning community (PLC).
Professional Learning Communities are educators committed to working collaboratively in ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action research in order to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous, job-embedded learning for educators.
PLCs Maintain a Relentless Focus on Learning
The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to the learning of each student. When a school or district functions as a PLC, educators within the organization embrace high levels of learning for all students as both the reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those who work within it. In order to achieve this purpose, the members of a PLC create and are guided by a clear and compelling vision of what the organization must become in order to help all students learn. They make collective commitments clarifying what each member will do to create such an organization, and they use results-oriented goals to mark their progress.
Members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, to monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis, to provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and to extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the intended outcomes.
A corollary assumption is that if the organization is to become more effective in helping all students learn, the adults in the organization must also be continually learning. Therefore, structures are created to ensure staff members engage in job-embedded learning as part of their routine work practices.
There is no ambiguity or hedging regarding this commitment to learning. Whereas many schools operate as if their primary purpose is to see to it that children are taught, professional learning communities are dedicated to the idea that their organization exists to ensure that all students learn essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions. All the other characteristics of a PLC flow directly from this seismic shift in assumptions about the purpose of the school.
Andy Hargreaves once wrote: "A professional learning community is an ethos that infuses every single aspect of a school’s operation. When a school becomes a professional learning community, everything in the school looks different than it did before." We concur, and we also contend that once a staff truly embraces the premise that the very reason the school exists is to ensure high levels of learning for all students, decisions about what must be done (and equally important, what must no longer be done) become more clear.
For more information on "What is a PLC," go to Rick’s seminal article on the topic published by Educational Leadership at: "What is a PLC?"