Improving PLTs

If you’ve been around education, you have probably heard of DuFour and PLCs, or Professional Learning Communities. We have been working on growing the success of PLCs (we call them PLTs, for Teams) on my campus for a few years now. We started the improvement process by focusing on the Team Leaders and equipping them with the tools they need to lead an effective team by modeling growth and learning.

“Highly effective teams know what we’re working on, why we’re working together and how we’ll work together.” – Elena Aguilar

In planning the team leader training we (the ICs on my campus) found there is a plethora of research out there on the importance of teams for student achievement. It was difficult to curate through all of it to narrow down a focus for success for the needs of our campus. We used a lot of Elena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching Teams. If you are working on teaming on your campus, that is a GREAT book to use! We also used Marzano’s: Collaborative Teams that Transform Schools.

We are still, of course, working on this as a campus. Growing the team leaders and improving how teams work together, learn together, analyze student work together, and takes risks together is crucial to the culture of the campus and to improving student learning outcomes!

A resource that we did not dig too deeply into (as we had so many others already), was to look at Learning Forward. Recently, Stephanie Hirsh from Learning Forward wrote an article that was very helpful in reminding me of the work we still need to do on campus and was a great way to refocus our efforts as we start the spring semester! Check it out here: Edweek–PLC by Hirsh

So, as you begin (or maybe you have already begun) 2019, how will you improve your PLC time? If you focus on these three things from Hirsh, you are on your way to success!

The data is out there! PLCs (or PLTs as we call them) are crucial to improving teaching and learning. They help teachers and students succeed!

  1. A cycle of learning–everyone on the team commits to learning! Plan the lessons, do the lessons, talk about the lessons/student work, and then make changes!
  2. Curriculum–do you know your standards (or TEKS as they are called in Texas). What is the district expectation for your curriculum? Have you really dug into it? Have you unpacked the TEKS (here is one I’ve used for teams on my campus as a guide, and it goes along with backwards planning guide I created with another IC on my campus), taken time to develop the lessons, apply your understanding of the standards and of the needs of your students?
  3. Assessments–Do you have common assessments with your team? What about formative checks? Sometimes we focus too much on the summative assessments and forget to check for understanding along the way. Formative checks (DAILY) are crucial to be able to adjust your lessons immediately and keep a pulse on the success of a particular strategy or lesson.

What are PLCs/Collaborative Learning Structures like on your campus? What successes have you seen? What struggles do you have?

“An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve”

– DuFour, DuFour, Eaker & Many