By Team iCEV on July 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM
Knowledge construction in our society is rarely conducted alone. More often than not, learning increasingly takes place in communities or groups where people share common interests or goals. Regardless of the industry or field, people naturally work together to build on ideas and experiences, thus developing as professionals and adding to the diffusion of knowledge amongst colleagues in an industry.
Although educators have access to professional development opportunities like workshops and conferences, the best professional learning for today’s educators relies on teacher-to-teacher mentoring and community. In this blog, we will discuss the purpose of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and four easy steps to implement a learning community at any school.
Professional Learning Community
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. By implementing a collaborative learning environment, teachers are able to reflect, practice with colleagues, share expertise and build a common understanding of new instructional approaches, standards and curricula. While generic skills training and in-service professional development delivery models offer value to educators, the most impactful developmental experiences for today’s educators utilize more flexible, continuous engagement with fellow teachers.
4 Tips for Implementing a Professional Learning Community
Focus on Learning
As a professional learning community, learning should be the group’s first priority to ensure the purpose of the PLC is met. When educators come together, have them discuss challenges they face in their classrooms or strategies they use to overcome common issues.
Conversations like this build community and help individual teachers draw connections with fellow teachers, thus easing the diffusion of strategies, resources and knowledge amongst educators. Implementing a PLC leads to a more collaborative spirit, greater trust among colleagues, and an openness to sharing new ideas and resources, all in the name of better student learning experiences.
Develop a Collaborative Culture
The key to fostering a collaborative culture amongst educators is open, judgment-free communication. Teachers often crave an outlet for their frustrations and confusions in the classroom. Create a time and place where educators can vent and help each other out.
Use the PLC sessions to exchange ideas and suggestions for improvement. This allows educators to grow professionally by learning from one another. PLCs should operate in a virtuous cycle in which open communication and understanding lead to increased benefits and development for students and educators alike.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Goal setting is one of the most critical tasks in starting a professional learning community. The mission of the community is to agree upon goals, strategize to achieve those goals and when successful, set even more ambitious ones. When setting goals, ensure that the goals being set are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused and Timely also known as a “SMART” goal.
Ensure none of the goals are impossible to measure, such as "We want our students to belifelong learners." Aim for goals that, if not achieved, will reveal the evidence you need to adjust and improve your approach. When implemented correctly, goal setting should help guide decision making and offer valuable insight into the needs of educators and students.
Find Opportunities for Professional Development
While educators are able to support one another through sharing diverse experiences and knowledge attained while teaching, external professional development opportunities offer immense value by providing unique solutions and an outside perspective. Whether the educator is a “veteran” teacher or early-career educator, ongoing professional development keeps teachers up to date on new research, emerging technology, classroom trends and new curriculum resources.The educational landscape is constantly changing, and professional development opportunities are instrumental in enabling career progression, empowering individuals to truly shine in their position and to better serve their students.
The secret to moving educators’ careers forward is to reflect, plan, prepare, and take action through a professional learning community. Through the PLC, educators are better equipped to overcome obstacles in the classroom, engage more effectively with students and grow as an educator. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs to learn more about the role professional learning communities play in education and professional development. Also, keep an eye on our social channels for updates, resources, and everything iCEV.
Looking for summer professional development opportunities? Look no further! Join iCEV August 3rd, 2022 at 10:00 AM (CST) for a FREE virtual professional development webinar. Register today through the button below, review all available sessions and build your agenda around what sessions you would like to attend.
About the Author
After serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.