The idea of improving schools by developing professional learning communities is currently in vogue. People use this term to describe every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education—a grade-level teaching and learning team, a school committee, a high school department, an entire school district, a state department of education, a national professional organisation, and so on. In fact, the term has been used so ubiquitously that it is in danger of losing all meaning.
The professional learning community model has now reached a critical juncture, one well known to those who have witnessed the fate of other well-intentioned school reform efforts. In this all-too-familiar cycle, initial enthusiasm gives way to confusion about the fundamental concepts driving the initiative, followed by inevitable implementation problems, the conclusion that the reform has failed to bring about the desired results, abandonment of the reform, and the launch of a new search for the next promising initiative. Another reform movement has come and gone, reinforcing the conventional education wisdom that promises, “This too shall pass.”
The movement to develop professional learning communities can avoid this cycle, however, educators need to reflect critically on the concept's merits. What are the “big ideas” that represent the core principles of professional learning communities? How do these principles guide our school’s efforts to sustain the professional learning community model until it becomes deeply embedded in the culture of the school?
NGSC Learning Communities ensure that:
The professional learning community model flows from the assumption that the core mission of formal education is not simply to ensure that students are taught but to ensure that they learn. This simple shift—from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning—has profound implications to our school community.
There is a teacher Culture of Collaboration
Educators who are building a professional learning community recognise that they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture. The school’s PLC (Professional Learning Communities) model lends itself to provide time to groups of teachers to work together in a systematic process analysing and improving their classroom practice.
There is A Focus on Results (data)
Professional learning communities judge their effectiveness on the basis of results/data. Working together to improve student achievement becomes the routine work of everyone in the school. Every teacher team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing a goal to improve the current level, working together to achieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress.