In education, a professional learning community (or PLC) is a community wherein teachers collaborate regularly to share questions, issues, and solutions within a particular work environment or school department. The term was first used in the 1960s to answer teachers’ complaints that they were working in isolation, which stymied their growth and their effectiveness.
PLC’s gained stature as research demonstrated that schools where they actively met experienced the highest level of success. A study by Fred Newmann and Gary Wehlage in 1995 researched over 1,200 schools and found: “The most successful schools were those that used restructuring tools to help them function as professional learning communities.”
An ISTE post in 2021 by Jennifer Serviss describes key goals of a PLC:
- Improved teaching and learning
- Strong relationship among teachers
- Access to new research and technology
- Collaborative time for reflection
In practice, teachers within the same grade level might meet together weekly. For instance, all 4th-grade teachers might meet in one group and 5th-grade teachers in another group. All special education teachers might meet as one group or, depending on the size of the school, perhaps special education teachers working with the same grade range of students.
Often PLCs are a requirement of district “PLC” initiatives. The meetings are meant to provide time to reflect on student testing data–qualitative and quantitative–and allow teachers to plan how best to achieve their teaching goals and objectives. The quality of PLC implementation varies greatly depending on how formal or informal the initiative is.
In the best of circumstances, PLCs can be great agents of change as teachers see their value and work together. They give teachers a voice and a means of formally collaborating with colleagues towards clear goals. The effectiveness of each PLC will depend on the individual teachers attending and/or the school leadership.
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