by Jaclyn Scotto Siano
Congratulations, you’ve decided to initiate Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in your school! Now, the question is how do we get started? There are a lot of considerations to be made when implementing PLCs. Here’s our handy-dandy Quick Start Guide to get you rolling.
First off, you have to determine how your staff will be grouped. Some popular options are by grade, subject, department, and/or shared students. How you determine grouping may be affected by when PLCs will meet. Do certain groups of teachers have common planning time? If so, it might be a good idea to group teachers that way. Will PLCs meet before or after school? Then, you have more flexibility in your groupings. Whatever method you choose for groupings, keep in mind that an ideal meeting length is at least thirty minutes.
Topics and Agendas
Before each PLC meeting, an agenda should be created and distributed to all team members. This agenda should include the date, time, and location of the meeting, and the topics of discussion. Ideally, topics and agendas should be connected to the PLC’s yearly goals. Although some schools choose to dictate PLC meeting topics, it is not recommended as a regular practice (for example quarterly exam data analysis or PARCC practice test creation). The ultimate goal of an effective PLC is to allow an equal distribution of leadership between administrators and teachers while providing teachers a place to collaborate in regards to teaching and learning.
Not all teachers know how to effectively work in groups. Before their first official PLC meeting, encourage each team to create group norms. Basically, these are ground rules that all PLC members are expected to follow in order for meeting to run smoothly and effectively. They should be clear, concise, positively phrased, and collaboratively created. Some examples of PLC group norms could include the following:
- Be on time.
- Be respectful of others’ opinions.
- Participate regularly.
- Come prepared (ex: with data or lesson plans) per the agenda.
Remind PLC groups that these norms should be posted in their meeting spaces and reviewed at the beginning of every PLC meeting.
Congratulations on taking the first step on the road to PLCs. Keep in mind these basic elements (scheduling, topics, agendas, norms) as you begin your journey, and build from there.
Keep an eye out for our next PLC blog on how to maximize the positive effects of your PLCs!
State of New Jersey Department of Education (2017). Collaborative teams toolkit. Retrieved from https://nj.gov/education/AchieveNJ/teams/