November 20, 2019

Introducing PLC Conversations

I was asked to engage an entire faculty in some experiences that would illustrate PLC kinds of conversations. I requested that each grade level (could be department if working with secondary) bring a set of student work in some common area to the faculty meeting. One grade level group brought a piece of writing their students had done. Another selected a current math assignment. Pre-school teachers brought students’ self -portraits.

I provided questions to facilitate conversations around three critical elements of PLCs found in DuFour’s writing;

#1 PLCs are results oriented and results are student achievement.

#2 PLCs focus more on learning than teaching

#3 PLCs are collaborative

#1 PLCs are results oriented and results are student achievement.

This requires teachers to assess where students’ current performance levels are and to set goals for desired growth. Here are the questions I had the teams explore.

Looking at Student Work

With a colleague or two at your grade level or within your department,

…flip through the student work, point out what you notice about students overall, in groups, individually.

…what questions emerge?

 

Looking at Student Work

Considering your current assessment of the student work/performance and the importance of the learning standard what goals would you be setting for group and individual learns? (Shorter term/longer term)

 

In many cases I find that setting goals for the higher performing students at this initial stage is new for many teachers. District curriculum guidelines and assessments frequently focused teachers on the proficiency level of a standard. I believe this group process for goal setting is critical. Teacher reflection and decision making are enhanced by the shared conversations around student work. Actual assessment pieces are key, rather than scores. Establishing learning outcomes is critical to designing and interpreting future assessments that will guide instruction.

#2 PLCs focus more on learning than teaching

Grade level meetings and department meetings have historically focused on designing instruction to align with pacing calendars or creating common assessments to assure a consistent standard of achievement. These are important components but only the initial steps. Deciding “how” all students can be successful learners is the important work of PLCs. I extended the teams conversations with these questions.

Planning for Learning

From a whole class perspective…

…what is important for students to experience or do to gain the desired student outcomes?

What teacher actions will instigate, promote, support, etc. those student behaviors and experiences?

What student behaviors and experiences are critical for the more advanced students? For the students whose skill level is less developed?

How will we as teachers individually and collaboratively provide for these learning opportunities?

 

When teachers as colleagues collaborate to achieve learning goals they can create a problem-solving synergy for doing whatever it takes.

#3 PLCs are collaborative

The collaborative work of PLCs should expand from horizontal teams working with a focus group of students to cross department, cross grade levels, and even between school feeder systems. Setting the most appropriate learning goals and maximizing learning outcomes should involve teachers who have knowledge of students’ past and future experiences and needs.

Collaborating Beyond Grade Level

Partner with a teacher who works with students before or after you (up or down a grade level). Share your thoughts on what you explored today. Seek his/her insights and input.

Now partner with someone from outside your grade group or department. Share your thoughts on what you explored today. Seek his/her insights and input.

 

I found these questions and activities initiated quality conversations and planning among teachers that can extend into a PLC culture. You can download the power point here.  I’d appreciate hearing your experiences if you work with it.

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