Trenton Goble, chief academic officer of MasteryConnect and a former elementary school principal

Leadership and the PLC

Anyone who has ever worked to implement the professional learning community process knows just how challenging the work can be. Finding time for teachers to collaborate is challenging. The work associated with creating common pacing guides, common formative assessments, and opportunities for interventions plus tracking student mastery of skills requires an incredible amount of commitment and effort from everyone in your school. Finding ways to organize your data and make it meaningful for teachers, students, and parents creates additional time and technical challenges. Many who begin the journey into the PLC process do so because they are committed to the potential for positive foundational change, but later find they are falling short of their intended destination. So what is the biggest difference between those schools that fall short and those schools that excel? The answer is simple—leadership!

The PLC process depends on leaders that understand the importance of building a collaborative culture in their schools. In order for this to occur, teachers and staff must feel empowered to participate in the process and trust that their voices will be heard.  Dr. Rick DuFour states:

“The professional learning community process is based on the premise that no single educator will have all the energy and expertise necessary to lead a district, improve a school, or meet the needs of 30 students in their classroom each and every day. It requires a collective effort, combined resources, and shared expertise to meet the challenges that educators are facing in the United States.”

When schools embrace this premise, when teachers and staff work collectively to combine resources and share their expertise, the true work of a PLC can begin. But before we get ahead of ourselves, I think it is worth noting one important fact I have heard Dr. DuFour reiterate on several occasions: getting your teachers and staff to fully embrace the premise isn’t easy. If we are not thoughtful about our implementation strategies, we may underestimate or contribute to making the implementation process very hard for our schools to achieve.

I would like to offer a few suggestions to principals and district leaders.

Listen: When teachers say they are overwhelmed with district and school mandates, take the time to evaluate these concerns. Teaching under the very best of conditions is complicated. It requires time for planning, professional development, and collaboration. The emotional wear and tear of the job can be exhausting. It is not enough to acknowledge these challenges; leaders must take action to find ways to minimize or eliminate the distractions and unnecessary mandates that don’t align to the PLC process.

Be supportive: The PLC process requires that principals work to support their teachers every step of the way. Be supportive of your teachers as they work to develop common pacing guides, common formative assessments, and plans for instruction. Be supportive of your teachers’ efforts to meet for data discussions, and plan for interventions. Work to support your teachers and remain available to offer suggestions, answer questions, or listen to feedback. Most importantly, support your teachers with encouragement, and make the extra effort to celebrate the big and small successes.

Start slow and easy: Allow your teachers to start with a single subject and a single standard. Teachers will be far less overwhelmed with the process when they focus on a single standard. By doing this, teachers can collectively develop a common assessment around that standard and gather common data, which will ultimately provide the content for their first data chat and plans for interventions. By allowing teachers to focus on a single standard, you will actually accelerate the learning and implementation process.

Stay focused: Throughout the year, you and your teachers will face many distractions that will challenge your resolve and commitment to the PLC process. Remember to stay focused on the process of building a collaborative culture that is focused on learning and emphasizes results. Becoming a functioning PLC doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a sustained collective effort from everyone in your school, and it is incumbent upon you, as the leader in your school, to keep everyone focused on your school’s goals and priorities.

Seek out resources: The fact that you are reading this post is a good sign as you have already found the All Things PLC website. There are many resources available to help you along the way, including books, webinars, professional development, and technology solutions that will help you lead and support your school. Become active in the community; seek out resources that will simplify the process and engage others who share your commitment.

It’s about the students: I have never met a teacher or administrator who didn’t embrace the idea that teaching should be about providing a quality education for all of our students. The PLC process is the best way I know to accomplish this task. It is why I believe every school should embark on the PLC journey, and most importantly, it is why I believe schools should work each day to move closer to the ultimate destination of ensuring that all students learn and grow.

Schools implementing the PLC process require leaders who can help teachers navigate the challenges and pitfalls they will most certainly encounter along the way. There will be times when your teachers will need you to listen to their needs and provide encouragement and support. Your presence will make all the difference as your teachers work to implement and stay focused on the PLC process. As you embark on your PLC journey, it is important to remember that the difference between schools that fall short and those that excel will come down to one important factor—leadership!


Giana D

I am new to learning about PLC. I find them to be quite beneficial for people to gain insight on inquiries they have, especially when they are interested in a quick response. Overall, professional educators need to find what is best for their students and to help them achieve the most out of the education they are receiving.

Posted on


I think the PLC is a great resource. I have experience PLC meetings that have been effective and some that have been a waste of time. The most important role of the team is the team leader. Without a leader, discussions tend to go in all sorts of directions. A leader should be appointed to keep the teams focus together. Our PLC meetings are held after school and of course after a long day of teaching, members are usually exhausted by the end of the day. Before our meetings start, we do some kind of team exercise to get us all energized. Then we begin with our agenda. PLCs are also a great way to reflect with each other. We all teach in different class rooms however encounter similar challenges. As we discuss our challenges, we all come up with ideas and strategies to implement, to ensure our students are receiving effective instruction.

Posted on


I found the PLC very supportive, sometimes when i feel that i do not have more new ideas, talking with other teacher or open the PLC web, i receive the clues necessaries to create a new lesson and activity.
Always need to create a learning environment for my students, to keep them engage with the cognitive process of thinking and learning. A teacher needs always to renew the routine of his classes to maintain the interest of the students.
The PLC is dynamic and has the latest ideas, concepts, and strategies to use by a teacher. The Professional Learning Community is a professional institution that any teacher can use as a resource.

Posted on


I love the idea of PLCs. Last year it seemed like the team I worked with was not interested in having PLC meetings. This year, I am the team lead for 6th grade so I have made sure that we are setting PLC meetings and making them productive. It helps us as a whole to collaborate and share classroom strategies. I feel that it is important for the success of our students to have staff that will for together as they plan out lessons. I also feel that when you are having a problem with a student, a colleague might have a strategy that they have found which works for that student. I feel that this website will be great as the year progresses to use for my meetings. I like the idea of focusing on one standard at the meeting. I believe that will be of value for our next PLC meeting.

Posted on


I think it is in our nature as educators to want to do the most that we possibly can to ensure that we reach all of our students and help them all achieve success. The concept of a PLC is something that is somewhat new to me. As I have been exploring this wonderful collaborative concept in my current educational course and blending it with the collaboration and professional learning that I see in my current school setting, I found this article to be particularly interesting. There are so many times, with what we're already mandated to do, that I feel overwhelmed and rushed. I agree that many times, our administrators are so excited about improving our students education and eager to help us become better teaching/learning communities, that they unintentionally overlook or underestimate the details of how difficult the process can be on us. Even though I'm not in a leadership position at my school, simply finding this article and having so many of my concerns addressed in print helps encourage me. While we share their passion, like the articles suggests, I think it's beneficial that we all take time to slow down, listen to each other, and refresh our focus.

Posted on


I also watched a video on PLCs and I feel like my experience would have been better accepted if our administrators would have had more support. I had two teachers in my group who blatently refused to participate and they were only there to "serve their time". I would like to participate in a PLC where everyone is focus on the same goal.

Posted on


My experience with PLC's is unfortunately not a very good one. Our school district attempted to have PLC's a few years ago. We would meet quarterly, during a scheduled 2 hour delay professional development time, and be given topics to discuss within our groups. The groups were mixed randomly, making sure there was one teacher from each building. The topics of discussion were never a shared concern with our groups. Though I feel PLC's can be very useful, my experience has put a bad taste in my mouth.

Posted on


I found this post to be very encouraging as well as insightful. I agree that administators need to listen to us as educators more often as opposed to giving demands. As you stated, it is about the students and I believe that sometimes that is not the focus. Our team meets weekly and I must say that it helps with the frustrations and or joys that we may have had that week based on something that happened. Very good article. PLC's are a great source of support and I am a witness to that.

Posted on


I found this site encouraging. When reading about new concepts (to me), I usually get overwhelmed because I want to give it my all. The idea of PLC's was like that for me. I want to dive in and sometimes need to ponder how to effectively blend PLC's with effective leadership. I need to improve what I do so that the students will do their best because they are our future. You truly helped me think about implementing and breaking down the process. I agree that if our administrators are supportive the growth opportunity is immense. I look forward to becoming more familiar with this process and having conversations with other teaching professionals on how to improve our vocation.

Posted on


I love this website. It represents everything that I just read and saw on the media segment of my course I am doing.This article, talks about collaboration,focus while doing PLCs, it also talks about how the administrators need to ensure that they support teachers. In the end we need to ensure that we are doing everything to become better and well informed educators, who are making a difference for the students. We are essentially enhancing our teaching for the student support and success. Reading other posts are certainly empowering and makes me feel like we are all on the same boat working towards the same goal, no matter which part of the world we come from. All educators have a common goal "Student Success". We have regular PLC meeting at our school and I will be taking this information and presenting it to my group.

Posted on

This article provided insightful comments on the correlation between professional learning communities and effective leadership. Our district took the lead in fostering a culture of teamwork among teachers/students/parents. Through PLC, teachers become greater stakeholders in student development and learning. Online forums are excellent venues to become aware of new trends and learn what other professionals are doing.

Posted on


This is a wonderful site and I could see my district benefitting greatly from these 6 steps. My district is very progressive in terms of collaborating with colleagues and other professionals. However, these 6 steps are easy reminders to follow if the district loses sight of what's important to a PLC. I plan on passing this site along to my principal as a useful resource.

Posted on


I have found this site very insightful. It is a guide to understanding the importance of building collaborative culture in my school, which has recently experienced leadership crisis.
Due to the problems with staff in the area of human relation,the principal had to be removed. I think the insight gained will benefit the rest of my colleagues in the department and the staff. By this, the need to collaborate and work as PLC will be embraced for the interest of the students.

Posted on


This post is a great one! The school in which I teach has really grasped the concept of PLC's and we are trying to implement this throughout the school. Many of the teachers have attended the DeFour PLC conference and understand the importance of PLC's. We also understand the difficulty in implementing them. We are not implementing all of the practices at once, but we are making steady progress. I know that eventually we will reach our goal of conquering the PLC concept.

Posted on


I am a teacher who just recently began implementing the PLC. I am first to say, that is has been a very overwhelming year. However, after reading this post, I do appreciate the concepts of allowing teachers to bring on one part of the PLC at a time. It can be very hectic to implement all at once, and easing teachers into the process is something that I fully recommend.

Posted on


I liked all of your ideas about PLC's. I teach computers in a PK-6 building. I am often left out of whole faculty meetings. I think the strategies you described could be very helpful to my district.

Posted on

For the past four years, our school has been working on reaching Lighthouse Leadership status. With trying to meet the requirements for this status, our school has had to go through a lot of changes. One change was to form PLC’s for our school that would give everyone input and value throughout this process. These PLC’s were to promote a positive, collaborative environment that would promote involvement from every member of our staff and success for every child. Our PLC’s were broken down into four pillars and have changed two different times. We began this journey with four teachers being the leadership team, which caused a lot of negative energy in our school. With four years of suggestions, our principal has gone back to square one with our leadership model and our four pillars. All staff are now a part of the leadership team and have been given a voice to choose which PLC they want to be involved with. Our four pillars are: parent involvement, climate and culture, community and student achievement. Although I feel we’re on the right track with our PLC’s, I’m worried that after four years, some have lost the passion they once had during this journey. How do I help these individuals when I see frustration? What resources can I direct them to in order to keep them focused on our goals? What do we do as educators if we feel during our PLC we don’t have a voice? Thank you for all of your help!

Posted on

lu horning

I've just been selected as as Team Leader for the "Specials" in a K-4 elementary of 840 students. This group includes all Special Ed & Resource, Hearing & Speech, Title I, ELL, Gifted, Physical Education and Music certified personnel. Please guide me to resources on the function of this type of group, as a group, within the PLC process. Each of these specialty areas already suppport core curriculum at grade level included in their curriculum. How and what do they do as a group within the PLC? I think this group feels a stronger need to connect district-wide for continuity among buildings and grade levels. Any guidance you could give is truly appreciated. (We are just beginning as a district to start PLC's.)

Posted on