Professional Learning Communities 101

Professional Learning Communities 101

Episode 44 of The Teaching Space Podcast explores the pros and cons of Professional Learning Communities.

Introduction

In this episode we will explore professional learning communities, often referred to as PLCs.

What Professional Learning Communities ARE

They are typically (note the word “typically”):

  • Groups of teachers or trainers, from the same organisation, gathering regularly to learn together and share good practice and ideas

  • Led by teachers, not senior leadership

  • Part of an organisation’s CPD schedule

  • Led by a teacher facilitator (although the facilitator could easily change every time of there is a standard agenda and process)

  • Planned well in advance with themes

  • Face-to-face (although there is no reason online wouldn’t work)

What Professional Learning Communities ARE NOT

PLCs should not be (note the word “should”):

  • Moan fests

  • For Union related discussion

  • Negative

  • To gather data

  • Token CPD

Benefits of PLCs

There are many benefits to PLCs. They can:

  • Empower teachers through the ownership of their CPD

  • Create a feeling of togetherness - this is important for teachers in need of support

  • Be a place for innovation and creative idea generation

  • Foster relationships between colleague 

  • Create opportunities for peer observation, support and mentorship

Where They Go Wrong

PLCs are an incredible tool. But they can and will go wrong. Here are problems to expect:

  • Teachers not having time to attend

  • Part-time staff not being in school at the time of the PLC 

  • Deciding whether attendance should be compulsory or not

  • Perception of who drives/wants the PLC - if it is top down this is going to cause issues

  • No single point of contact and co-ordination

  • Poor communication

  • Poor procedures

  • Lack of understanding of the purpose of PLCs

What Now?

Let’s chat in the Facebook group. 

Questions to consider if your organisation has PLCs already:

  • Are they working? 

  • What’s going well? 

  • What isn’t?

Questions to consider if your organisation doesn’t have PLCs:

  • Could they work?

  • Could you pitch the idea?

  • Who is the right person to pitch to/co-ordinate?

Questions to consider of you are a solo trainer:

  • Could you join an online PLC/trainer community?

  • Could you start one?

The Teaching Space Staff Room

Obviously I would love our Facebook group to more closely resemble a PLC, but I don’t think it’s likely for several reasons. 

For starters, I don’t see Facebook as a professional platform. Also, it’s too easy to get distracted while you are there! The group (and this podcast) is for a wide variety of teachers and trainers. For a PLC to work, I think there needs to be a commonality, whether it’s the age group of your learners, your subject or the level your teach.

That being said, I believe members of my group and listeners to this podcast have one specific teaching related thing in common and that is the desire to be the best teacher you can without sacrificing weekends!

I would like to create some online PLCs but not on Facebook - let me know what you think about this.

Further Reading

If the concept of PLCs is interesting to you, here are websites and articles with more information:

All Things PLC

PLCs - What The Are and Are Not

PLC Best Practices

Wrap Up

If you enjoyed the episode, then please consider leaving a positive review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast directory. This helps more teachers and trainers find the podcast when they search. Thank you.

Also, check out my new book, The Productive Teacher at theproductiveteacherbook.com.


Professional Learning Communities 101