PLC’s….Something’s missing

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:05 am

I’ve gone to many conference, read books, articles and been involved with Professional Learning Communities in its official form for about 5 years. Assessment For Learning which is so tightly tied to effective PLC’s is also something I’m very comfortable with. Today as I listened to many qualified, knowledgeable and engaging speakers and presentations, I kept thinking something’s missing.

The focus of most of these presentations were around improving student achievement. Terms like “pyramid of intervention”, “common assessments”, “standards”, “accountability” and “collaboration” were used frequently. All good stuff. It was hard to disagree with much but my focus on the changing classroom and all that relevant and engaging learning looks like, forced me to question where the ideas of this conference take us. While improved student achievement is great, I”m still questioning what their achieving.

If they’re just achieving better grades, better study habits and better test taking skills, it doesn’t seem all that important to me.  Now I realize that none of these speakers would say that’s what this does and they even reference rigorous standards and I think I heard the term 21st century learning (whatever … Read the rest

PLC….Continuing the Journey…Doug Reeves

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:05 am

I’ll take a crack at some live blogging. I think Doug Belshaw might be “irritated” but here we go:

My thoughts are in UPPERCASE. I can see much of this might be incoherent…if there’s value or need for clarification or discussion, leave a comment.

Conference page

Doug Reeves: Four Questions

  • What do students need to learn?
  • How do we know they’ve learned it..before the tests?
  • What are the most effective teaching and learning strategies?

Speaking about accountiblity for central office administrators…everyone is accountable


Reassess what you’ve learn with PLC’s and dig deeper…don’t retool…I LIKE THAT

Equity Gaps

Clear evidence to say that reducing this gap is not about outside factors such as socio-economic factors…it’s about what schools and teachers do

Brand names or programs are a myth….deep implementation of a few things makes a difference

Leadership Map

Lucky…high achievers…replication of success unlikely

Losing…low achievers… replication of success unlikely

Learning….low results…replication of success likely

Leading…high achievers…replication of success likely

Don’t use scores alone….demonstrate and account for learning that doesn’t yield high test scores…focus on improvements

What is your level of implementation? No need … Read the rest

Professional Learning Communities and Social Learning

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:17 pm

Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) continue to get a lot of attention as new models of Professional Development for learning.  I’ve been part of formal PLC’s for about 6 years. In the new school district I work for, many of our teachers and schools are new to PLC’s and are discovering their power.  Some of these teachers come from small, rural schools where they teach mulitple grades and classes and only at the end of the day can they come up to breathe. Some have had very little support and have learned to operate in isolation.

What they have experienced in their PLC’s is a feeling of support and access to resources and ideas that have lightened the load and made teaching manageable and more fun. Initially, groups needed time simply to get comfortable with the idea of social learning and sharing. Initially it might be described as “collaboration lite”;sharing units and tips but avoiding the real tough questions.  The goal is to get teachers to work together to examine the hard questions of teaching and learning and begin to work to improve student learning. Working together with people … Read the rest

Focus on learning not data

It’s been amazing to be able to virtually participate in a number of conferences thanks to bloggers and servcies like hitchhikr.

Alan November’s Building Learning Communities in Boston would have been another great conference to attend.

Steve Dembo’s post on Dr. Andy Hargreaves keynote has caught my attention. I’ve been involved in supporting teachers establish and build professional learning communities for the past several years. I would be the first to admit that it hasn’t always been smooth. The issues that have been most difficult to deal with has been time and focus.

PLC’s need time. We’ve relied on the work of Rick Stiggins and Rick Dufour (good luck finding a suitable hyperlink to Dufour) for much of our framework. Both recognize that teachers likely need at least an hour a week in these teams. That has not been the case for the majority of our teams. We’ve been lucky to get them together once a month for a hour.

We’ve also struggled with finding a focus. Initially we started by giving teachers a wide open format for their choice of focus. This ranged from teachers wanting to develop webpages to unit creation to working on instructional strategies. The … Read the rest