What is a PLC?
A professional learning community, or PLC, is an organizational structure by design that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. The school’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices are monitored through the PLC design to ensure teacher effectiveness and most importantly student learning. PLCs require the utilization of data from assessments and an examination of professional practice as teachers and administrators systematically monitor and adjust curriculum, instruction, and assessment to ensure the goal of graduating all students are college and/or career ready.
PLC Explanation by Richard DuFour
Watch the video with Richard DuFour to hear a quick explanation of what professional learning communities involve and how they are beneficial to the educator community.
Why a PLC Protocol?
The PLC protocol is the vehicle for creating a high performing learning organization. The PLC protocol builds a learning organization by making professional learning routine. The PLC protocol provides a structure for all teachers to participate in collaborative learning communities that meet both informally and formally on a regular schedule to inform the ongoing modification of instruction, assessments, and provide data for possible curriculum revision. The PLC process provides a framework for teachers to discuss next steps needed to implement interventions for students with specific and immediate feedback about their learning. Contained here are varied examples of PLC protocols. Each school/district took time to determine which processes would improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. PLC processes should be carefully determined by current context. These protocols were set in place by the leadership because the leaders appropriately identified next steps. The take away is that continuous improvement is imbedded within each of these.
Not All PLCs Are Created Equally
According to Anthony Muhammad, there are four types of teachers present within all schools. Believers are very intrinsically motivated. They are flexible with students both academically and behaviorally. They are mission driven with a connection to the school or community. Believers are willing to confront negative talk and attitudes toward children. Tweeners are enthusiastic about the idealistic nature of school, but have not quite hit the tipping point. They follow instructions as given by administration, and try to avoid school and district politics. However, one good or bad experience can swing them to be a Believer or Fundamentalist. Survivors have no political or organizational aspirations. They are affected by the overwhelming nature of the job or life – they experience burnout. Survivors display little to no professional practice. Fundamentalists want to maintain the status quo. They do not like change and will do anything to avoid it. Transforming School Culture provides more information about understanding and overcoming the resistance to necessary change.
Educators from across the state came together to demonstrate Muhammad’s characters that show up in all schools. Below you will find examples of both ineffective and effective PLCs.
The Evolution of PLCs across Kentucky
In the following videos, teachers and administrators from across the state share how their PLCs have evolved:
In this video, Tonya Isaccs, Assistant Superintendent, discusses how the PLC process has evolved in Estill County, and how the desire to better serve novice students created the need for a PLC protocol. Jessica Mullins who is an Estill County principal and Donald Norton who is an Estill County teacher share the benefits of creating systems to monitor current classroom instruction within their district, and how they moved from compliance to eventually using the PLC protocol to enhance student achievement. Total time 2:45.
In this video, Jennifer Donnelly, Curriculum Coach,
shares how the PLC process evolved within Berea Independent Schools. She
shares the importance of thoughtful and intentional planning to ensure a
common vision. She discusses her role within the PLC, and shares how
the commitment of the superintendent and principals has been vital in
propelling the process forward. Total time 1:52.
In this video, Sarah Tyson and Sarah Sowders, teacher
leaders at Hopkins County Central High School, share how professional
learning communities have evolved within their school. They share the
importance of the implementation of lesson studies to ensure appropriate
rigor and relevance within classroom instructional practices. A
step-by-step analysis of the PLC protocol is given to demonstrate how
continuous improvement efforts through PLCS are ensuring the work of
novice reduction. The rigor and relevance document referenced within the
video may be accessed here. Total time 3:52.
In this video, Principal William Noble shares how the PLC
process has evolved at LBJ Elementary located within Breathitt County.
He shares how the use of a PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) protocol helped
to propel their work. The video includes a discussion of his changing
roles throughout the process, and the importance of building capacity
among teacher leaders. Total time 1:52.
In this video, Mr. Marion Sowders, Superintendent of
Casey County Schools, shares his vision for student success and novice
reduction through instrumentally implementing highly effective
professional learning communities. Mr. Sowders ensures PLCs in Casey
County have common traits and threads that support the work of novice
reduction that ends in action steps to ensure “all students in Casey
County receive a top-notch education”. Total time 3:35.
Critical Conversations Within the PLC
In the following videos, administrators discuss the importance
of critical conversations within the PLC:
In this video, Principal William Streeval and Curriculum Coach Lisa Ware from
Jones Park Elementary School located within Casey County share the
importance of having critical conversations during the PLCs. This video
includes a discussion of how their PLC teams look at individual student
data and develop plans to address underperformance. Mr. Streeval
stresses the importance of also celebrating student progress as they
move toward their goals. Total time 3:01.
In this video, Amanda Hall, Curriculum Specialist at Pulaski County High
School, shares the importance of keeping PLC conversations student
focused. She discusses the value of teacher reflection in the PLC
process, and shares how administrators can ask probing questions to aid
in that reflection. Total
Impact Student Achievement
In the following videos, teachers describe how they make instructional decisions to impact student achievement based on PLCs:
In this video, Kathryn Claiborne, Pre-AP biology teacher from Pulaski County High
School, shares how she benefited from the PLC process as a new teacher.
She describes how the PLC process has allowed her to reflect upon her
teaching and use that analysis to better serve her students so that they
can be successful. Total
In this video, Susan Stringer, content lead at Casey
County High School, shares how when students fail to grasp standards in
the math department, they ensure the students have ample opportunity to
gain the mastery of the standards through cumulative assessments and
intentional curriculum design. Total time 1:16.
In this video, Tyler Watts, teacher at Letcher County Elementary School, shares
how the PLC process enables teachers to meet the needs of students as
they analyze data and make instructional decisions. He includes the
benefit of having both cross-curricular and content specific PLCs to
make informed decisions that improve instruction, increase student
achievement, and reduce novice performance. Total time 1:52.
In this video, Jamie Clark, a teacher at Jones Park Elementary located within
Casey County, shares how she uses PLCs to evaluate her instruction and
to define next steps. Ms. Clark discusses the benefit of sharing
instructional strategies during the PLC process. Contained within this
video is a specific instructional strategy that has been effective with
her students. Total time
In this video, Susan Stringer, content lead at Casey County High School, shares
how her team meets in the weekly PLCs with the end in mind. Their time
is spent in the analysis of data and determining instructional next
steps. Although data analysis is included, Ms. Stringer emphasizes the
importance of the congruency of the instruction to the intent of the
standard. Total time 2:43.