Source: Print Article: Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities

  1. A PLC represents the institutionalization of a focus on continuous improvement in staff performance as well as student learning.
  2. PLCs entail whole-staff involvement in a process of intensive reflection upon instructional practices and desired student benchmarks, as well as monitoring of outcomes to ensure success.
  3. PLCs enable teachers to continually learn from one another via shared visioning and planning, as well as in-depth critical examination of what does and doesn’t work to enhance student achievement.
  4. The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” emphasizing teacher leadership, active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement methods.
  5. The process of intensive reflection and job-embedded includes six steps:
    1. Study: Teachers work in collaborative planning teams to examine critically and discuss standards-based learning expectations for students.
    2. Select: These teams select evidence-based instructional strategies for meeting the standards.
    3. Plan: Teams develop a common lesson plan incorporating the selected strategies and identify the type of student work each teacher will use to demonstrate learning.
    4. Implement: Teachers implement the planned lesson, record successes and challenges, and gather evidence of student learning.
    5. Analyze: Teams review student work and discuss student understanding of the standards.
    6. Adjust: Teams reflect on the implications of the analysis of student work and discuss potential modifications to instructional strategies.
  6. The PLC approach:
    1. takes 3 to 6 years to fully incorporate into a school’s routine practices.
    2. Staff need to have time to meet during the work day throughout the year.
    3. Staff need to focus efforts on essential questions about learning, generate products such as lists of key student outcomes, methods of assessment and strategies for meeting goals
  7. PLCs work best when schools have:
    1. A culture that supports collaboration [so how do you build that?]
      1. Articulate a clear, specific, and compelling vision
      2. Match tasks and role to staff members who are personally invested in them
      3. Expand leadership roles
      4. Make coordination easy through online tools
      5. Ensure that the intended curriculum matches what teachers are actually teaching.
      6. Educators must stop making excuses for failing to collaborate.
    2. The ability to take an objective/macro view of school efforts; [whose view?]
      1. External facilitator has to assess their way of operating as it relates to school improvement goals.
      2. Helps bring school’s fragmented efforts into alignment at beginning of process.
      3. Recognize leadership qualities of the principal and extent to which leadership is dispersed in the school and provide appropriate support
    3. Shared beliefs and behaviors [whose beliefs?]
      1. Failure, mistakes and uncertainty in work are openly shared and discussed
      2. Colleagues agree on broad educational values, but accept disagreements that foster new dialogue
      3. Administrators support “dispersed leadership” where teachers develop the confidence to select and adapt strategies that drive improvement
      4. Relentless commitment to improvement
      5. A view of improvement as a team effort for which everyone is responsible
      6. An acknowledgement that teacher behavior is key to enhancing student learning;
      7. A belief that knowledge is constructed from day-to-day experiences, along with the ability to share those experiences; and
      8. A value placed on ongoing learning (continuous learning)

One Sentence Summary: The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” emphasizing teacher leadership, active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement methods dependent on schools that embrace a culture that supports collaboration, an objective view of their efforts, and share beliefs/behaviors.


  • The focus of PLCs is ongoing “job-embedded learning,” rather than one-shot professional development sessions facilitated by outsiders, who have little accountability regarding whether staff learning is successfully applied.
  • PLCs emphasize teacher leadership, along with their active involvement and deep commitment to school improvement efforts.

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