Are There Universities That Teach PLC Principles?
We recently answered an email regarding PLCs in higher education.
I’m a board member for a small district in Wyoming. I’m curious if some colleges teach PLC principles more than others. It would seem to make sense that we should recruit new teachers from those schools as one way to help institutionalize PLC in our district.
We aren’t familiar enough with the programs of the many colleges around the country to recommend particular schools. The best option for a school district is to examine the course requirements of the undergraduate and graduate education programs to see if they offer courses on PLCs, working in collaborative teams, and using common formative assessments.
Your proposal that colleges would prepare students to work in PLCs makes tremendous sense. Unfortunately, most of the PLC premise is contrary to the typical culture in higher education.
- In a PLC, staff must be committed to helping all students learn.
- In universities, there is an assumption that the student is responsible for his own learning and that the college should raise standards for admission and do a better job of screening to keep incapable students out of the program.
- In a PLC, there is an assumption that staff should work collaboratively to ensure all students have access to a guaranteed curriculum.
- In the university culture, personal academic freedom takes precedent, and there is no expectation that courses taught by different professors offer similar content or comparable ways of assessing students.
- In a PLC, assessment is used to inform our professional practice and respond to individual students who experience difficulty.
- In the university culture, assessments are used to assign grades.
Given the tremendous misalignment between the university culture and the PLC concept, I believe most districts will have to create their own programs for orientation to a PLC.
O'Keeffe, your attitude toward and malcontent with the beliefs of those who support the PLC principles is a microcosm of what ails the American public school system. While I agree that a student is ultimately responsible for their own education, the fact remains that children make poor choices in regard to their learning. Through my unscientific observations of students, I have concluded that 90% or more of our students are satisfied with just getting by. Probably 5% don't care if they pass or fail if passing means they'll have to work at it. Many are more concerned about the grade they receive than what they actually learn. Should we apathetically watch with an attitude of indifference and let these students "learn their real-world lesson?" In reality, do these children "learn their lesson" before it is too late?
Lastly, I am thankful for the teachers I had who expected me to learn whether I wanted to or not!
We should all hope that PLC advocates never succeed in foisting their agenda on the nationâ€™s universities. As Dr. DuFourâ€™s comments suggest, the PLC religion removes the work-ethic and individual responsibility that American culture once naively expected of students and plants these squarely on the backs of teachers. It also replaces the intellectual substance of education (once the chief concern of teachers) with a clinical attitude, gimmick-driven pedagogy, and a bureaucratic obsession with procedure and data. It requires teachers to assume a greater parental role in the lives of their students, to compensate for failures of motivation and character as well as academic understanding. In a PLC, no longer are students responsible for their own success or failure. In the university, students are still expected to succeed or fail by their own merit. Strange how the latter philosophy has worked well for so many universities, and for so long, if the monolith of research routinely quoted on this website refutes it.
While teachers have the professional duty of delivering both a rigorous curriculum and quality instruction to every student, the student alone holds the moral responsibility for his or her own education and its ultimate outcome. PLC propaganda deliberately ignores this element of student responsibility in the teaching-and-learning process. One might ask Dr. DuFour and his colleagues this question: if the generations-old model of university education is so backwards and contemptible in their eyes, then why have American universities attracted students from every corner of the globe for decades while American public schools havenâ€™t? How on earth have they managed to produce so many brilliant and capable professionals (including, presumably, the authors of this website), if their modus operandi is so incompatible with the PLC vision? Can it be that thereâ€™s something to be said for â€œpersonal academic freedomâ€ and allowing students to accept or reject academic success of their own free will?
To be sure, there are significant differences between adult and child education, but the bulleted list laid out by Dr. DuFour above plainly suggests that the PLC way is superior to that of our best colleges and universities. Has the hubris of PLC advocates finally gone that far?
El Paso, Texas
Response to PLCs in university culture
(also posted at http://drewsnotes.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/professional-leraning-community-plc-principles-in-teacher-education/)
Rick Dufour talks about the misalignment between teacher education programs and PLCs in K-12 schools and districts. As North Carolina's Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education (SCDEs) revision and modify their teacher education programs how can we include components of PLCs in our program? Based on Dufour's comments here are some ideas: Dufour's statements: 1) In a PLC, staff must be committed to helping all students learn. In universities, there is an assumption that the student is responsible for his own learning and that the college should raise standards for admission and do a better job of screening to keep incapable students out of the program. The standards for admission to teacher education programs are there to ensure that teacher candidates have the prerequisite knowledge, skills and potential to be a successful teacher. These requirements are very low and passing scores on Praxis entrance exams and minimum GPA's are not very successful. I would contend that the similarity between PLCs and teacher education programs include opportunities for collaboration and support. Once teacher education candidates are admitted to programs, programs employ various strategies, such as cohorts, structured field-based experiences and other supports to help teacher candidates successfully develop into effective teachers. Inherently, universities are built upon the philosophy that the community can't do the work for the individual, and if teacher candidates don't meet standards, they usually do not remain in the program. 2) In a PLC, there is an assumption that staff should work collaboratively to ensure all students have access to a guaranteed curriculum. In the university culture, personal academic freedom takes precedent, and there is no expectation that courses taught by different professors offer similar content or comparable ways of assessing students. While academic freedom is prevalant in university settings, courses must have standard objectives and goals. Many teacher education programs require or emphasize that within a course, various sections have similar activities or projects. Academic freedom is a barrier, but many teacher education programs are working to ensure a 'guaranteed curriculum.' 3) In a PLC, assessment is used to inform our professional practice and respond to individual students who experience difficulty. In the university culture, assessments are used to assign grades. Asessments in PLC's in K-12 settings are used to inform practice, respond to students' needs and also assign grades. Grades are part of a K-12 environment and can't be avoided. In teacher education programs, effective teaching uses assessments to reflect on and refine practice, identify the needs of students and also respond to students' needs. For example, if my teacher candidates struggle with a formative assessment project in their clinical experiences, effective instruction would examine where teacher candidates struggled and address how to modify the course to help them. While the inherent nature of universities and teacher education programs provides some barriers to overcome en route to establishing PLC principles in teacher education programs and courses. As we look to improve teacher education programs, how can these programs specifically infuse PLC principles into them?
Staff at www.allthingsplc.info
We totally agree that one of the most powerful ways to learn new practices and ultimately change the culture is to roll up your sleeves and "learn by doing," thus the title of our PLC handbook you mentioned, Learning By Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work.
We recommend your staff use the remaining professional development and staff meeting time this year to engage in professional learning by team. Learning By Doing will serve as a useful resource as each team is called upon to establish norms; write a SMART goal; clarify essential student learning outcomes for their course; develop and administer at least one common formative assessment by the end of this school year; and use the results to respond to the learning needs of both the students and teachers within each course. Engaging every member of your faculty in this process will provide job-embedded professional development at its best.
Please keep us informed of your schools progress on the PLC journey.
Becky & Rick DuFour
I am new to the site and to PLC's, but please help with my question. Our large high school has "gone live" with PLC implementation this year. This happened before a guiding coalition was formed and only a couple of principals had been to a training. It's mid-year and a guiding coalition has been put together, but those of us on the committee have been to different (Solution Tree) trainings or no trainings at all yet. In the meantime, we've been given the task of planning around 12 - 15 hours of staff development for this semester (January - June). The one thing we have in common in the workbook, however we haven't had a chance to read and discuss much of it becuase we're too busy planning the next training and the next one after that. Meanwhile, the staff is sitting through lecture/powerpoint presentations and is being asked to fill out the reproducibles from the workbook - so far, only in whole group settings of around 100 teachers. This all feels very wrong to me, but the guiding coalition is moving full-speed ahead with little time for anything other than trying to figure out how to fill the next hour of staff development time. We took some time at our last meeting to discuss/develop meeting protocols, but they are not consistently implemented (the staff meeting we had today there was no agenda, facilitator, recorder, or timekeeper). In a strange way, we actually have the opposite problem of many schools: We have been given the time to meet and must fill it, so we're "laying foundation" for next year when the expectation is that the staff will start working as funtioning PLC's. I'm hopeful, but very concerned that we're losing momentum and trust. The team is energized and positive that we are working toward a PLC culture, yet we're really not "doing" anything different yet (except that we've taken the majority of staff meeting and professional development time away from small group work and used it for whole group training). In June, we will have spent a whole year of staff development time on "laying foundation." Is there any advice for a team in our situation? The staff is starting to ask questions about why we are not doing anything this year. We've lost hours of time we used to spend working as academies and small learning communittees to focus on PLC's. So far, it feels like we're getting less done than ever before. Is this the best way to launch a collaborative culture? Can't we work together to change the culture by actually working on something instead of continuing to talk about working differently in the whole group setting?
Thanks for your help to any and all who respond.