The role of schools is student learning. A significant factor in whether students learn well is the ability and quality of the teachers. Quality is improved through continuous professional development. The framework most supportive of the learning of professionals is professional learning communities (PLC) (Hord, 2009). Forming PLC is a process of focusing on student achievement while empowering educators with the skill set to make a difference. PLC support the partnership between student learning and professional development for educators. PLC that align with the school’s mission, vision, values, and goals result in high levels of learning for all students.
A PLC can be defined as an ...view middle of the document...
Another part of the PLC structure includes four questions that drive the mission, vision, values, and goals for student learning. These four questions are called The Four Critical Questions. These questions measure and determine student learning. The Four Critical Questions are as follows:
1. What do students need to know and be able to do?
2. How will we know when they have learned it?
3. What will we do when they haven’t learned it?
4. What will we do when they already know it? (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002)
The core purpose of The Four Critical Questions is to ensure high levels of learning for all students (Eaker & Keating, 2012). All students truly refers to all students within a school system. All students includes addressing the needs of students with individual learning plans (IEP), students that do not qualify for special services but perform academically low, students that are poor in one area yet successful in another, students that are considered adedemicaly average, and students identified as intellectually gifted.
In a PLC, teachers monitor student progress on curriculum expectations by using common assessments. Common assessments can include each school within a district periodically monitoring student progress with the same evaluation method as well as annual state assessments. By evaluating the student data, educators can identify which students have learned the material. When students have not learned the material, teachers work as a team to determine strategies for supporting identified students. When students have exceeded expectations, teachers work as a team to determine strategies for providing advanced instruction (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002). Increasing student learning requires that students as well as their teachers believe in their ability to learn to high academic standards (Bergeson & Davidson, 2007).
Student learning is greatly affected by the quality of adult learning throughout the district (Eaker & Keating, 2012). PLC have collaborative teams focused on learning, use collective inquiry into best teaching practices, and examine current reality to make decisions. Team members are action orientated and believe in learning by doing (Eaker & Keating, 2012). Continuous professional development needs to be designed around collaboration to best meet the needs of students while focusing on learning outcomes of students (Guskey, 2000). In PLC, professional development is a constant, continuous process. The PLC process is not a checklist of tasks to complete. The PLC structure is a professional growth commitment that becomes a permanent routine for educators.
Successful PLC include teams of teachers with common teaching assignments that meet on a regular basis and part of an on-going collaborative process. Teams have an established set of norms that are tightly enforced. For example, norms might include mandatory attendance, total attention to the meeting at hand, and discussions...