Project Title

High-Powered Professional Learning Communities: Research-Based Strategies that Improve Teaching and Learning

Department

Special Education

Abstract

The Professional Learning Communities Model of professional growth and development is an increasingly popular method of teacher training. Commonly abbreviated and referred to as PLCs, this style of professional learning is characterized by its focus on small groups and individualized learning. However, many teachers and administrators have reported challenges with implementation of effective professional learning programs at the school and district levels; “where the rubber meets the road.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, professional learning communities (PLCs) exist in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with varying degrees of institutional support and efficacy (Grossman et al., 2000, 2001; Shen, Zhen, & Poppink, 2007). More surprising, are persistent and widespread questions about the practical needs of PLCs, the nature of activities that drive successful PLC outcomes, and the key elements required to make PLCs doable for teachers and impactful for learners under their tutelage. This investigative study set as its primary goal, to clearly identify and delineate the critical features of PLCs. In summary, a review of relevant educational literature tells us that effective PLC activities must be: 1. ownership-driven, 2. focused on specific student learning outcomes, 3. supportive of diversity and collaboration, 4. based on a common vision, 5. concerned with rigorous professional growth, 6. allowed adequate time and support, and 7. include non-evaluative peer evaluation.

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High-Powered Professional Learning Communities: Research-Based Strategies that Improve Teaching and Learning

The Professional Learning Communities Model of professional growth and development is an increasingly popular method of teacher training. Commonly abbreviated and referred to as PLCs, this style of professional learning is characterized by its focus on small groups and individualized learning. However, many teachers and administrators have reported challenges with implementation of effective professional learning programs at the school and district levels; “where the rubber meets the road.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, professional learning communities (PLCs) exist in a wide variety of shapes and sizes with varying degrees of institutional support and efficacy (Grossman et al., 2000, 2001; Shen, Zhen, & Poppink, 2007). More surprising, are persistent and widespread questions about the practical needs of PLCs, the nature of activities that drive successful PLC outcomes, and the key elements required to make PLCs doable for teachers and impactful for learners under their tutelage. This investigative study set as its primary goal, to clearly identify and delineate the critical features of PLCs. In summary, a review of relevant educational literature tells us that effective PLC activities must be: 1. ownership-driven, 2. focused on specific student learning outcomes, 3. supportive of diversity and collaboration, 4. based on a common vision, 5. concerned with rigorous professional growth, 6. allowed adequate time and support, and 7. include non-evaluative peer evaluation.