Practical tips for building PLCs that serve every educator
Ed. note: We’re counting down the top stories of 2015 based on popularity (i.e. website traffic) to No. 1 on Dec. 31. Today we revisit our in-depth look at how to set up your own professional learning communities, which truly serve educators’ needs. It was published as part of Innovation In Action, a column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education that runs the third Monday of each month.
At my district, the MSD of Wayne Township in Indianapolis, we have found that changing the way we think about teacher training not only benefits staff developers and administrators, but schools, the district as a whole, teachers, and ultimately students. A critical part of our revitalized PD plan has been the use of professional learning communities (PLCs), which are essentially groups of educators that work collaboratively and share ideas, often in an online format.
Benefits of PLCs
One of the first reasons many schools and districts begin thinking about online professional development is to save time and money. As we increase the number of digital opportunities for students, unfortunately the number of professional development staff does not always increase at the same rate. The reality is that we must offer more (and better) professional development with fewer resources.
While my experiences with online professional development came out of a need to reach several teachers while working within a limited time frame, the additional benefits and improved learning that happened because of it were a pleasant surprise. It is important to note that if done correctly, creating a PLC is not about simply moving traditional professional development to an online format. A true PLC is a community of learners, all contributing and collaborating toward a common goal. When you create and nurture this culture of sharing, you benefit from the collective intelligence of the group. It also gives a voice to every staff member. By creating learner-centered PD, the learning is more meaningful and mirrors the type of learning you hope to see in the classroom.
Additionally, by creating an ongoing community of learning, staff developers and principals are able to provide more effective support just when the teachers need it. An online presence allows a teacher to feel supported at all times and not just during the hour a professional developer is sitting with them in a meeting.
From our experience, here are seven suggestions for developing PLCs that work.