A professional learning community (PLC) is a team of educators who share ideas to enhance their teaching practice and create a learning environment where all students can reach their fullest potential. Most PLCs operate within a school building or across a district. They can be organized by grade level, content area or an entire teaching staff.
Not every educator is sold on the idea of yet another meeting, but when done right, PLCs reap huge benefits for both students and teachers. Here are four ways PLCs enhance teaching and learning:
1. PLCs allow educators opportunities to directly improve teaching and learning.
PLCs allow teachers an easy way to share best practices and brainstorm innovative ways to improve learning and drive student achievement. Good communication is key so that educators can share opinions and feel that what they are doing in the classroom matters.
These learning communities also enhance teacher reflection of instructional practices and student outcomes. Meeting with your PLC gives you the ability to share student progress, and when the data is shared across grade levels within the building, educators and administrators take ownership of every child's education.
In online learning environments, it's especially important to create professional learning communities to lighten the load. When collaborating with other educators, discuss ways to share work to lighten the load and ensure you aren't duplicating work.
2. PLCs build stronger relationships between team members.
The very essence of a PLC is a focus on and a commitment to student learning. Meeting weekly creates a bond and builds a team of leaders within the school or district that eventually extends regionally and globally.
To build a strong team, it’s important to define roles and relationships of team members. This starts from understanding everyone’s strengths within the department and throughout your PLN. Enhancing the strengths of others builds trust and makes relationships come to fruition.
When mutual respect for each other’s opinions is developed within the team, all team members become leaders within the group.
3. PLCs help teachers stay on top of new research and emerging technology tools for the classroom.
Collaboration within a district and beyond is essential in order for educators to have ongoing and regular opportunities to learn from each other. A global PLC allows teachers to share and learn from each other daily. Twitter and other social media sites let teachers collaborate worldwide and create a community of practice that far exceeds their classroom walls.
Within your district or school, you can use a variety of tools to set up communication channels so you can share ideas and best practices or easily join text chats or video calls to collaborate in the moment.
This type of ongoing professional development informs teachers about new research and emerging tools for the classroom, and it gives educators a look at what other schools, cities, states and countries are doing in their schools.
4. PLCs help teachers reflect on ideas.
Learning from others in your PLC allows you to reflect on ways to enhance your teaching and to adjust your practice. The more minds that come together from different backgrounds, the more likely you are to add value and purpose to the field of education.
When PLC’s come together, they must focus their efforts on questions related to learning and create products with the end result of answering questions that lead to student achievement. Student success must be the focus of PLC collaborations.
Dr. Jennifer Serviss has 23 years of educational experience. She is currently at Loris High School in Horry County, South Carolina. She has a bachelor’s degree in special education from Georgian Court University, a master’s in Educational Technology from New Jersey City University and holds a Doctorate in Educational Technology Leadership. Dr. Serviss resides in Myrtle Beach, SC with her husband and two amazing kids.