In a Professional Learning Community

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NJASA SOUTHERN
REGIONAL SUMMIT
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING
COMMUNITIES
PRESENTED BY:
DR. JACK McCULLEY
STERLING REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
What is a Professional Learning
Community?
We define a professional learning community as
educators committed to working collaboratively in
ongoing processes of collective inquiry and action
research to achieve better results for the students they
serve. Professional learning communities operate under
the assumption that the key to improved learning for
students is continuous, job-embedded learning for
educators. (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2006).
Learning Community is Characterized by:
1.
Shared mission, vision, and values
2.
Collaborative Teams.
3.
Collective inquiry.
4.
Action orientation/experimentation.
5.
Commitment to continuous improvement.
6.
Results orientation.
1. Shared Mission (Purpose), Vision (Clear
Direction), Values (Collective
Commitments, and Goals (Indicators,
Timelines, and Targets) – All Focused on
Student Learning
• The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a
commitment to the learning of each student
• Educators embrace high levels of learning for all students as both the
reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those
who work within it.
• Members of a PLC create and are guided by a clear and compelling of
what their schools and districts must become to help all students learn.
• Collective commitments clarify what each member will do to contribute
to creating such organizations.
•Use results-oriented goals to mark their progress.
2. A Collaborative Culture With a Focus on
Learning
• Collaborative teams are the fundamental building blocks of the school
community.
• A PLC is composed of collaborative teams whose members work
interdependently to achieve common goals.
• Goals linked to the purpose of learning for all
• All members are held mutually accountable.
3. Collective Inquiry Into Best Practice and
Current Reality
• Educators in a PLC engage in collective inquiry into:
1. Best Practices about teaching and learning
2. A candid clarification of their current practices
3. An honest assessment of their students’ current levels of learning.
• Collective inquiry helps educators build shared knowledge.
• Educators in a PLC have an acute sense of curiosity and openness to new
possibilities.
4. Action Orientation:
Learning By Doing
• Members of PLCs are action-oriented:
1. They move quickly to turn aspirations into action and visions into
reality.
2. They understand that the most powerful learning always occurs in a
context of taking action.
3. They value engagement and experience as the most effective
teachers.
•Learning by doing develops a deeper and more profound knowledge and
greater commitment than learning by reading, listening, planning, or thinking
(Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000).
• Educators in PLCs recognize that until members of the organization “do”
differently, there is no reason to anticipate different results.
5. A Commitment to Continuous
Improvement
• Work to eliminate the status quo
• Constant searches for a better way to achieve goals and accomplish the
purpose of the organization are inherent in the PLC culture.
• Systematic processes engage each member of the school community in an
ongoing cycle of:
1. Gathering evidence of current levels of student learning.
2. Developing strategies and ideas to build on strengths and address
weaknesses in that learning.
3. Implementing the strategies and ideas.
4. Analyzing the impact of the changes to discover what was effective
and what was not.
5. Applying the knowledge in the next cycle of continuous improvement.
6. Results Orientation
• Members of a PLC realize that all of their efforts in these areas:
1. Focus on learning.
2. Collaborative teams.
3. Collective inquiry
4. Action orientation
5. Continuous improvement must be assessed on the basis of results
rather than intentions
•Initiatives are subjected to ongoing assessment on the basis of tangible
results.
The Big Ideas That Drive
Professional Learning
Communities
• First, the fundamental purpose of the school is to ensure all students learn
at high levels.
• The future success of students will depend on how effective educators are
in achieving that fundamental purpose.
• Commitment to learning and schools must align all practices, procedures,
and policies.
• Members of a PLC work together.
• Clarify exactly what each student must learn.
• Monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis
• Support for learning when they struggle
• Extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the
intended outcomes.
• If all students are to learn at high levels, the professional staff in the school
community must also continue to learn.
The Big Ideas That Drive
Professional Learning
Communities
• Second, schools will not know whether or not all students are learning
unless professional staff have a strong desire for evidence that students are
acquiring the knowledge, skills, and dispositions deemed most essential to
their success.
• Schools must systematically monitor student learning on an ongoing basis.
• Use evidence of results to respond immediately to students who experience
difficulty.
• To inform individual and collective practice.
• To fuel continuous improvement.
Origin of Professional
Learning Community
Professional
• Someone with expertise in a specialized field, an individual who has not only
pursued advanced training to enter the field, but who is also expected to
remain current in its evolving knowledge base.
• Knowledge base of education has expanded dramatically in the past 30
years.
• In terms of research and in the articulation of recommended standards for
the profession.
• Professional staff in a professional learning community make these findings
the basis of their collaborative investigation into how they can better achieve
their goals.
• Practice teaching and leading by constantly enhancing their skills and
knowledge in the same way a doctor practices medicine or a lawyer practices
law.
Origin of Professional
Learning Community
Learning
• The need for professional staff to shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on
learning.
• To move beyond the question “Was it taught?” to the far more relevant
question, “Was it learned?”
• Avocation for learning communities, not teaching communities.
• The best way to improve student learning is to invest and improve the
learning of the professional staff.
• Learning suggests ongoing action and perpetual curiosity.
• Educators must engage in the ongoing study and constant practice of their
field.
• If all students are to learn, those who educate them must be lifelong
learners.
Origin of Professional
Learning Community
Community
• A group linked by common interests.
• Common understandings.
• Sense of identity
• Belonging and involvement
• Meaningful relationships
• Communities form around common characteristics, experiences, practices
• Members of the community’s beliefs are important enough to develop a
kinship.
In a Professional Learning
Community:
• Professional staff create an environment that fosters shared:
1. Understanding
2. Sense of identity
3. High levels of involvement
4. Mutual cooperation
5. Collective responsibility
6. Emotional support
7. A strong sense of belonging
8. Collaborating together to achieve what they cannot accomplish
alone
Cultural Shifts
Becoming a Professional
Learning Community
Robert Eaker
Culture is often defined as:
“How we do things around here.”
Compared to more traditional schools, how
are things done in a professional learning
community?
Cultural Shift
Traditional Schools
Teacher isolation
Professional Learning Communities
Collaboration
Cultural Shift: Developing a Mission Statement
Student Learning
Traditional Schools
1.
2.
Generic.
Belief statements; such as, “We believe all kids can
learn.”
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
3.
Clarifies what students will learn.
Clarifies how we will know what students have
learned.
Clarifies how the school will respond when students
do not learn.
Cultural Shift – Primary Focus
Traditional Schools
Primary Focus is on teaching.
Professional Learning Communities
Primary focus is on learning.
Cultural Shift - Curriculum
Traditional Schools
1.
2.
Each teacher independently decides what to
teach.
Curriculum overloaded.
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
3.
4.
Collaboratively agreed upon curriculum that focus on
what students are expected to learn.
Reduced content; meaningful content taught at
greater depth.
Collaboratively developed assessment.
A collaboratively developed plan for responding to
students who are not learning.
Cultural Shift - Decisions
Traditional Schools
Decisions about improvement strategies are made by
“averaging opinions.”
Professional Learning Communities
Decisions are research-based with collaborative
teams of teachers seeking out “best practices”.
Cultural Shift - Validation
Traditional Schools
1.
2.
Effectiveness of improvement strategies are externally
validated. Teachers rely on others outside the school
regarding what works.
Emphasis is given to how teachers liked various
approaches.
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
Approaches are internally validated. Teams of teachers
try various approaches and collaborate about how the
approaches impacted student learning.
Effects on student learning as the primary basis for
assessing various improvement strategies.
Collaboratively developed assessment.
Cultural Shift - Leadership
Traditional Schools
Administrators are viewed as being in leadership
positions while teachers are viewed as
“implementers” or followers.
Professional Learning Communities
Administrators are viewed as leaders of leaders.
Teachers are viewed as transformational
leaders.
Cultural Shift – Improvement Plans
1.
2.
Traditional Schools
School improvement plans focus on a wide
variety of things.
Often, the goal is to “get the plan turned in”.
Then, the plan is ignored.
Professional Learning Communities
1. School improvement plans focus on a few,
important goals that will impact student learning.
2. The school improvement plan is the vehicle for
organized, sustained school improvement.
Cultural Shift - Recognition
Traditional Schools
1.
2.
3.
“Celebration” is infrequent and when recognizing teachers almost
always focuses on groups.
Celebration and recognition occurs when students reach an arbitrary
standard.
Recognition is limited to few.
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
3.
4.
Celebration is frequent and singles out individuals as well as
groups.
In addition to celebration and recognition when a standard is
met, celebrations recognized “improvement”
The school works hard to “create” winners and celebrate their
success.
Celebrations are linked to the vision and values of the school
and improved student achievement—Renaissance Program
Cultural Shift – New Initiatives
Traditional Schools
1.
Improvement efforts frequently shift as new fads or
trends come along.
Professional Learning Communities
1.
The school is committed to “staying the course” in the
attainment of the school vision. New initiatives are
only implemented if it is determined that the change
will help the school achieve its vision of the future.
Cultural & Educational Shifts
Becoming a Professional
Learning Community
Sterling High School
Somerdale, NJ
WHERE WE STARTED
PLC At Sterling
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Grew out of professional development on alternative
assessment
Teachers sent to Adlai Stevenson High School in
Chicago to view PLC process of common planning and
assessment
Teachers became interested in developing common
goals and assessments for each course
Needed common planning time for successful
implementation
PLC was initiated to facilitate this goal and to focus
instruction on student learning
Two morning in-service days / month are set aside for
PLC time
MISSION OF PLC
The three “essential questions” of the PLC
initiative are:
 What do we expect students to learn?
 How will we know that students have learned?
 How will we respond to students who are not
learning
What do we want students to learn?
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State Standards
Established Curriculum Outlines
Strengths and Weaknesses of Students
Expectations of the community
Essential vs. Inessential Content
Establish specific essential outcomes per unit
Development of mandatory and elective
activities
How do we know if they have learned it?
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Common Assessments for each course at all
levels
Establish specific standards of performance,
targets or benchmarks for each test to indicate
student mastery of intended outcomes
Clarify criteria by which work is judged (rubrics)
Analyze results
How will we respond when students do not
learn?
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Analyze results of assessment
Utilize collaboration and best practices to identify
and implement improvement strategies
Ensure that all students who need it receive
additional time and support for learning
Re-assess to determine mastery
PLC
FOCUS ON LEARNING
Traditional Schools
PLC
Each teacher decides what to
teach and test
Instruction and testing becomes a
collaborative effort
Curriculum is overloaded
Focus is on “essential questions”
with content taught in greater
depth
Effectiveness of instruction is
Effectiveness is internally validated
externally validated—standardized
by teachers using various
testing, etc.
strategies
Emphasis is placed on how
teachers like various approaches
and topics
Improvement strategies are
assessed based state & local
standards and student learning
WHERE WE ARE NOW
CULTURAL AND
EDUCATIONAL SHIFT
PLC --Cultural Shift
Professional Learning Communities
Collaboration
Cultural Shift – Primary Focus
Professional Learning Communities
Primary focus is on learning.
Cultural Shift - Decisions
Professional Learning Communities
Decisions are research-based with collaborative
teams of teachers seeking out “best practices”.
Cultural Shift - Validation
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
Approaches are internally validated. Teams of teachers
try various approaches and collaborate about how the
approaches impacted student learning.
Effects on student learning as the primary basis for
assessing various improvement strategies.
Collaboratively developed assessment.
Cultural Shift - Recognition
Professional Learning Communities
1.
2.
3.
4.
Celebration is frequent and singles out individuals as well as
groups.
In addition to celebration and recognition when a standard is
met, celebrations recognized “improvement”
The school works hard to “create” winners and celebrate their
success.
Celebrations are linked to the vision and values of the school
and improved student achievement—Renaissance Program
Cultural Shift – New Initiatives
Professional Learning Communities
1.
The school is committed to “staying the course” in the
attainment of the school vision. New initiatives are
only implemented if it is determined that the change
will help the school achieve its vision of the future.
Educational Shift:
Curricular Focus in a Learning Community

Until a school has clarifies what students should know
and be able to do, and the skills and dispositions they
should acquire as a result of schooling, the school
cannot function as a learning community

There are four major assumptions for curricular
development
Educational Shift
Teacher should work collaboratively to design a researchbased curriculum
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If a curriculum is overloaded --“Pay attention to
everything”– it cannot have the necessary focus on
results
Teachers need to be informed about initiatives and
search for the right combination of theory and practice
for their students and school at a particular time
Pooling uninformed opinions just results in making
uninformed decisions
Teachers should be familiar with what is known about
best practices and utilize and adapt those findings to the
culture of each individual school and student population
Educational Shift
The curriculum should clarify the specific knowledge, skills,
and dispositions that students should acquire as a result of
their schooling.
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Collaboratively agreed upon curriculum focuses on
essential and significant learning topics.
“Organized abandonment—deciding what not to teach.”
Reduced content allows meaningful content to be taught
at greater depth
Develop a process of identifying significant content,
eliminating non-essential material. Curriculum is “a mile
long and an inch deep”.
Analyze each unit: what does every student need to
know, what information would benefit students if there
were time, what is insignificant enough to eliminate?
Educational Shift
The curriculum process should allow teachers to monitor
student achievement at the classroom level
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What do we want students to do as a result of this unit?
Not students will “understand” a topic, but what will they
do to demonstrate that understanding
What methods and material will we use to teach the
lesson? (Science department: required activities,
elective activities)
How will we know whether students have achieved the
intended outcomes? Observation, written tests,
questioning, review of homework student performance
projects, etc.
Educational Shift
Curriculum and Assessment Process should foster
continuous improvement
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Culmination of the three previous sections. An effective learning
community will:
Ensure that a teacher’s daily instruction is consistent with the
essential learning goals identified through the curriculum process
Insist that students are asked to learn content that has been chosen
based on essential outcomes rather than on the idiosyncrasies of an
individual teacher
Establish the expectation that each instructional unit will provide
students the opportunity to practice the kinds of skill they will be
asked to demonstrate during assessment
Ensure that assessments are aligned with curriculum and instruction
WHERE WE ARE HEADED
Year 1
2005-2006
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Define Vision and Mission for each department
Develop departmental goals
Departments begin working toward development of
common curriculum and assessment
Academic departmental folders were established on the
S-drive for departmental work
Curriculum Committee of PLC leaders was established
to monitor progress, concerns, etc.
Curriculum Committee felt the need for framework or
structure in which the departments could work
Year 2
2006-2007
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Framework was developed so that every department needed
to re-align each individual curriculum relative to the
standards and re-structure if necessary
Led to an examination of each individual curriculum relative
to the NJ State Standards—Science department
restructured the curriculum using this data
Assessments in Science, Social Studies and World
Language were developed to reflect NJCCCS and generate
data on student achievement relative to the standards
Scoring and dissemination of assessment data took place
Common Final Examinations were developed and placed in
shared departmental folders
Goals for 2007-2008 were established
Year 3
2007-2008
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Align all curriculum to the state standards
Begin to develop a working curriculum for each
course
Identify essential topics
Develop mandatory and optional activities for
each unit
Develop common unit assessments
Use data to target areas of weakness and
develop strategies for improvement
Year 4
2008-2009
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Continue to focus on data driven information regarding
student learning
Teachers work in groups to determine essential topics
for each course aligned to the State Standards
Topics will form the basis of unit assessments that will
be given at all levels
Remediation should be targeted to specific deficiencies
Data should foster discussion regarding teaching and
assessment techniques to improve student learning
Formative assessments will be developed to assess
student learning and benchmark proficiencies
2009-2010 and Beyond
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Continue to clarify essential outcomes for each course
Develop formative assessments that can serve to assess student
proficiencies
Collect and analyze feedback on formative assessments to
continually assess student performance
Develop activities ( required and optional) that address the essential
activity and remediate any misunderstandings or problems
Continue to develop and refine common unit assessments
Establish a cyclical process of data driven, research based
responses to student achievement
Recognize and celebrate student – teacher successes
Recognize that PLC is a constant “work in progress”
PLC AND EDUCATIONAL
CHANGE
In times of drastic change, it is the learners who
inherit the future.
The learned usually find themselves beautifully
equipped to live in a world that no longer
exists.
Eric Hoffer, 1972
Q&A

Thank You
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