Professional learning communities provide opportunities for educators to come together to improve student achievement in their schools. Professional learning communities, or PLCs, can vary in size and include a diverse mix of teachers, guidance counselors, school social workers, administrators or other stakeholders who work with students. They meet as frequently or infrequently as they like and have central goals in common: to identify core learning targets, determine ways to measure learning, and develop strategies to address learning setbacks. Here are five benefits of professional learning communities to help get started at your school.
1. Teacher collaboration
With their challenging schedules, teachers don’t always have a chance to work together, though many identify collaboration as a key component to student achievement. In one study, 50% of teachers said setting student learning targets should be a collaborative effort. But according to the same survey, only 31% of teachers felt they had enough collaboration time.
Professional learning communities can help close this gap by establishing time for teachers to discuss big-picture ideas, like learning objectives, practical teaching strategies and effective assessments. Administrators can help make collaboration even easier by designating time during the school day for PLCs to meet—perhaps during one or two planning periods a month, or as a work session during in-service days. PLC members will appreciate the chance to sit down and work together, especially if that time is already built into their schedules so there’s no need to arrive early or stay late. Administration can show appreciation for everyone’s time with promo items for teachers, like Small Tissue Packets, a Bright Flag Set or a Smiley Face Mood Stress Ball.
2. Closer relationships between teachers and administrators
Professional learning communities give teachers a chance to work more closely with administrators and other educators in the building, especially those they might not interact with on a regular basis. By meeting frequently and working closely to discuss ideas beyond behavior interventions or day-to-day logistics, team members can build bonds of mutual trust and respect. This can have a ripple effect across all areas of the school, while also helping teachers feel inspired and supported on a personal level.
3. A well-rounded view of the school climate
One unique benefit of a diverse PLC team is the opportunity for teachers and administrators to work closely with other members of the staff, including guidance counselors, school social workers, media center staff and support professionals. While these individuals play critical roles in student success, they may not always be included when discussions turn to learning targets and pedagogy. However, these team members can provide valuable insights about students’ social and emotional needs, concerns raised by parents, testing requirements and other relevant topics. By widening the discussion to include these viewpoints, teachers and administrators can gain a more well-rounded understanding of the school’s climate and make more informed decisions.
4. Opportunities to stay up to date
As with any busy career, it can become routine to form habits and rely on lessons or strategies that worked in the past, without exploring newer options that might be just as—if not more—effective. Professional learning communities provide excellent opportunities to explore new trends and tools that otherwise might be put on the back burner. Members can share interesting research, news articles, websites, apps and games that other members of the group may be interested in using. The group can also provide tips about strategies or approaches that their colleagues may want to test in their own classrooms.
5. Learning-focused discussion and reflection
Finally, professional learning communities give educators a chance to step away from crucial, yet draining tasks—grading, paperwork or behavior hiccups—to focus on the exhilarating and inspiring work of encouraging students and helping them achieve. Rather than getting bogged down in conversations about attendance, parent communication or permission slips, educators can devote themselves to reflecting on their bread and butter, including the curriculum, classroom learning activities and assessments.
PLC meetings also give members a designated time to reflect on academic outcomes, an important step in the teaching and learning process that can sometimes be skipped over due to time constraints. During meetings, members can honestly reflect on their actions inside and outside the classroom to identify areas of strength and opportunities for growth. They can also share ideas for overcoming obstacles and celebrate successes. Thank members for their honest evaluations and ideas with promo items for teachers, such as a Spooner Mug, a Stockford Journal with elastic closure strap, or an Ultra Desk Caddy.
Professional learning communities bring educators together
Professional learning communities can improve student outcomes in your school by giving educators opportunities to collaborate, build relationships and stay up to date.