Anthony Muhammad

Anthony Muhammad, PhD, is a much sought-after educational consultant. A practitioner for nearly 20 years, he has served as a middle school teacher, assistant principal, and principal, and as a high school principal.

Developing a Shared Mission

The first challenge of a professional learning community (PLC) is the development of the pillars of a PLC: shared mission, shared vision, shared values, and shared goals. Working with schools across the county, I have seen that educators frequently ignore this essential step. But through my experience as an administrator in two schools on the PLC journey, I have seen first-hand the value of the PLC pillars.

Larry Lezotte, the architect of the Effective Schools model stated: “You cannot hold people accountable for what you have not made explicit.” Leaders who support their staff in the development of a set of guiding principles have the proper platform for holding everyone accountable for those explicitly identified behaviors.

The collaborative development of the pillars of a PLC can improve clarity of purpose, focus of collaboration, and allocation of resources. This process requires educators to ask some deep and fundamental questions:

  • What is the purpose of our school?
  • Who are our students?
  • What are their strengths and needs?
  • How can our collective efforts improve the quality of their education and the quality of their lives?
  • What are we collectively willing to commit to and sacrifice?
  • What specific indicators of progress will we track to ensure we are making progress in meeting the needs of our students?

When these questions lead to commitments that are published and made public, they can be powerful forces in guiding behavior. In chapter 8 of my book Transforming School Culture, I explore the impact of a defined focus on learning on school culture.  Schools that have a well-defined and universally accepted school purpose tended to have healthier cultures, decreased staff turnover, and higher levels of workplace satisfaction.

Have you developed a school or district purpose that is clear, concise, and applied? If so, how has it affected your PLC journey? If not, what is your plan to develop one? It is difficult to evolve into a high-performing PLC if the pillars are skipped or disregarded.

Related Resources:

“Laying the Foundation” PLC Continuum



I work at an elementary charter school which targets low-income, multi-cultural families. After watching the videos this week and reading the required articles, I have realized how my school really lacks in our PLCs. We have weekly staff meetings and monthly committee meetings. No grade-level meetings or any meetings to do with curriculum. Our committees consist mostly of event planning. Our professional development is usually about implementing technology, which is good, but does not have any means of collaborating or discussing how it impacts student learning.

I am on two committees. The first is the Mothers & Daughters Committee which plans events for our mothers and daughters to do together monthly. The second is the Education Committee, which I thought would really be a great committee for collaborating and analyzing student learning. Instead the Chairperson prints out workheets, reading passages, booklets, etc from the internet that she has found on holidays and events that are happening that month. Everyone wants to get out of the meeting so quickly that no one wants to discuss any real issues or ideas.

In the video "Introduction to Professional Learning Communities" they spoke about going out and finding your own community if you do not have access to one at your school. I am in the process of looking for one now since my school does not really offer what I consider a effective PLC.

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My school recently implemented PLCs into our school community and I thought PLCs were simple and just like a book study based on how my school did them. I am not realizing through articles and blogs and research that PLCs are so much more than just discussing a topic amongst a team. Our PLCs meeting every wednesday morning for an hour but in that time we are also supposed to have a team meeting. Most off the time we quickly skim the book and then respond before going on to discuss important things relating to the learning and teaching going on daily such as grading, assessments, and other things that we need to discuss. Our PLC has somewhat become a task verses a time for us as educators to reflect with each other and discuss our strategies and our mission or taks to reach our students. I am not sure if my school may have missed the preparations prior to implementing PLCs but I do not see us discussing a school mission or any kind of plan. I feel like our PLC is missing the "explicit" that we are being held accountable for. I also feel we are ripped off for time because we have to combine a team meeting into our PLC.

What kinds of things have been made explicit to you all in regards to your PLCs? What types of things do you all use in PLCs?

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This post and its comments have helped me focus on what is lacking in our past attempts at creating a learning community. Now in our fifth year of program improvement, we have had program after program imposed upon us with no effort to involve teachers beyond "Do this!" Three years ago, we attempted to create a PLC and several teachers attended training. Implementation was uneven; we produced a great deal of data in the math department, but analysis was superficial. Put something on the paper and get administration off our back. The following year, a new principal with a new program and so much for the PLC. I believe that if teachers had embraced the program, they themselves would have provided the impetus to continue collaboration.
I am interested to know if, and how, other schools provide collaboration time for teachers during the teaching day. In our school, apparently teachers have the right to block schedule changes and we have never found a way to avoid this roadblock. Perhaps greater ownership by teachers could be part of a solution.

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I have PLCs at my high school right now, but I do not believe we share a mission. I feel the administration tells us what to do and what to think, therefore, what our mission is. We do not have the power or opportunity to develop our own or to be creative in these meetings.

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Unfortunately, I have yet to experience a PLC. However, I do agree on developing a shared mission. I have subbed in several schools and can see the division amongst several educators. This division just proves how crucial it is to have pillars to keep everyone on the same track.

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I believe that this is a very important part of developing a learning community. If we do not share some of the same ideas in a mission, it would not be a community. Pillars can serve as leaders. All communities need leaders.

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As a teacher, I am looking for a school that provides a PLC which is lead by the administrators in the school. In my past school, my principals would only show up to our PLC meetings when they had announcements to make or if they were able to carve out some time in their busy schedules. But usually they did not stay for the entire time and therefore I do not think they got a true picture of what the teachers and instructional facilitators were actually doing in the meeting. I think that this leaves the teachers feeling alone and not supported by the administrators. I personally felt as though the meetings were very valuable and that we as teachers were working very hard to improve our school. However, I felt as though the principals did not actually see the progress we were making or how hard we were working because they did not regularly attend the PLCs or participate.

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I agree with the PLC having to start with a common basis. If there is not common ground there is no basis for continuing on the planned path. As schools are answering those listed questions they should make sure that they are taking the time to consider every single aspect of the school, who is attending, who is working there and any other detail that is important to making the school function. As the PLC is being created those common beliefs are set to a high standard and everyone is expected to then follow them and believe in them.With everyone working toward the same goals the school will be able to reach new heights. When I am working in a school district in the future it is very important for me to seek out their missions and goals for their community. I must agree with their standards in order to benefit their community.

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I am experiencing the PLC first hand right now in my district. I am extremely fortunate to have meaningful PLC meetings as a building 3 times a month. We meet as a staff to discuss various topics. Our administrator has made the decision to reflect on many of the posted mission questions-who are we as a school and what is our purpose? what do our students need the most? How can we work together to make the most out of learning time? With this state-of-mind, we are not adopting any new requirements this year, but looking back at things we have in place that are working, and how we can learn from one another. For example, we do Every Day Counts which is a calendar math piece that covers things we do in our curriculum, but rather than only do it when the manual tells us to, we start on it from day one and work on it throughout the whole year. Last week, we had our math instructional coach come in and revisit it with us to refresh our memories and teach it to new staff at our building. It was a great learning time and we all we able to share successes. It has made our PLC time so much more beneficial and positive. Not only are we learning something, but the real winners will be our kids and their new understanding of math!

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I agree the staff,administrators,and paraprofessional should all committ to a shared learning community.The school must decide what is in the best interest of promoting students'academic and social growth.Reflecting is not only planning,but implementing shared ideas and plans to carry outthe school's mission.

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This post hit home with me. I couldn't agree more that too often that first challenge to a strong PLC is a shared mission. Though most, if not all school districts attempt to communicate that mission to their staff, I do not agree that all districts complete it in a clear and concise manner.
A PLC should be able to assist the staff into meeting that goal, but if the district's purpose isn't clear-then the staff will not be clear on what needs to be accomplished.

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