Professional Development Also known as “PD”, these are sessions where there is one or more facilitators disseminating new information. Think of PD as a mini-college class. It is a place where educators should increase their content or pedagogical knowledge with experts and through collaboration. PD should reflect the needs of the students, the teachers, and the school. It should also be highly responsive to best and promising practices that are research-based.
Professional Learning Communities Also known as PLCs, these are usually meetings amongst contents in a school. However, it is possible to have cross-content or whole group PLCs with proper facilitation. PLCs should have established norms and roles. It is suggested that they also have “standing” and actionable agenda items, centering on student progress. Four critical questions that PLCs must answer are:
It is important to establish a culture of importance and benefit for PLCs. Ultimately, PLCs meet because they want to and they are solely focused on student learning. Standing agenda items can include: curriculum reflections and development, lesson planning and instruction, student data and work, and interventions and extensions. Other agenda items may be added as they arise, but should always focus on student learning and progress.
Meetings As educators, we attend many of these, for many different reasons. IEPs, ILLPs, classroom management and student behavior, committee work, leadership and management, changes in schedules and operations, to do lists, etc. Sometimes, meetings are not always effective. To increase effectiveness, it is best to use similar practices to PLCs in establishing norms, roles and agendas. Agendas should always include action items in order to remain productive. While there may be a lead facilitator, it is important that all are given a chance to communicate and collaborate. Again, establishing this culture is key to success. The last thing we want to do is attend a meeting to become more confused, feeling like we’ve wasted our time!
Planning Often coplanning is confused with the work of PLCs. While both are intimately connected, collaborating on planning is very different. The information from PLCs work will inform planning, but these sessions should solely focus on developing and designing instruction for the weeks to come. Planning also involves reflecting on what has been taught and evaluating effectiveness through formative and benchmark student achievement data. A suggested model of planning is that within content grade levels, teachers meet to discuss implications of PLCs, data, curriculum and PDs to inform the next week’s instructional design. While having a collaborative discussion, each teacher is responsible for taking detailed notes (aka, a “draft” of a lesson plan), including routines, strategies, assessments, differentiation, interventions, extensions, etc. These notes should be detailed enough that, if the team so choses, they may divvy up lesson plan writing responsibilities. If the team decides to share these responsibilities, it is then each individual’s job to tailor the plan for their different classes or for unique student needs. Coplanning is much different than scripted curriculum and lessons – it is up to each teacher’s professional judgment how lessons should be adapted to teaching and learning styles. While one class may be adding a project, a movie, or a text, compared to the other, there are still many similar elements and they always address standards according the curriculum pacing and unit guides.
Your comments in continuing clarification are welcome as we all grow together!