CREATING TEACHER COLLABORATION TIME WITHIN A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY
What is a Professional Learning Community (PLC)?
What is a professional learning community? According to Rick and Becky DuFour, it is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively inrecurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. So what does that REALLY mean? Simply put, a professional learning community is not a passing phase or initiative – it is a commitment. The key words are ongoing and recurring because the concept of a professional learning community is all about the continuous improvement process.
Cedar Falls Schools has been and continues to be committed to working as a professional learning community. Specifically, we accept learning as the fundamental purpose of our schools and; therefore, we are willing to examine all practices in light of their impact on learning. Secondly, we are committed to working together to achieve our collective purpose by cultivating a collaborative culture throughout the district. Finally, we continuously assess our effectiveness on the basis of results. To sum up why it is important for schools to continue the professional learning community process, consider this quote from Dr. Tom Carroll, President of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF).
The era of isolated teachers, working alone to meet the myriad needs of all their students, is neither educationally effective nor economically viable in the 21st century … When teachers are given the time and tools to collaborate, they become life-long learners, their instructional practice improves, and they are ultimately able to increase achievement far beyond what any of them could accomplish alone.
- All Elementary Schools will dismiss at 1:50 p.m. every Wednesday – providing a minimum of 60 minutes of collaboration per week
- Cedar Falls High School will begin Period 1 at 9:20 a.m. every Monday – providing 90 minutes of collaboration per week
- Holmes and Peet Junior High Schools' will begin Period 1 at 9:30 a.m. every Monday – providing 90 minutes of collaboration per week
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic (and more) for the 21st Century
The primary purpose of the Cedar Falls School District’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) process is a commitment to high levels of learning for all students. As part of the collaborative team meetings on Tuesday mornings (secondary) and Wednesday afternoons (elementary), educators are determining the essential skills students need to know for each grade or class. A common theme among high performing education systems worldwide is setting high expectations for all students. Much of the research to determine the standards students need to possess in today’s global economy has already been done through the development of the Iowa Core. The Iowa Core provides standards for literacy (reading, writing and thinking critically), math, science, social studies and 21st century skills from kindergarten through 12th grade.
One of the Iowa Core standards for second grade math is: tell and write time from analog and digitalclocks to the nearest five minutes, using a.m. and p.m. Educators will work together determining:
1.) Are all second graders currently expected to learn how to tell time to the nearest five minutes? If not, how do we add this skill to the math expectations for second grade?
2.) How will our team determine if students have learned this skill?
3.) If it’s determined that some students have not learned to tell time to the nearest five minutes, how will we work together as a team until it’s been learned by everyone?
4.) For students who already meet the standard, how will we challenge them to learn even more about the concept of time?
On a weekly basis, educators are meeting to continually improve student achievement by looking at the circle of what’s being taught, was it learned, and what adjustments need to be made to ensure all students are learning. The Iowa Core also challenges educators to make sure student work is focused on more than just memorizing facts but also solving problems and creating new work. For example, the second grade educators may plan an activity where students determine what time they have to wake up so they aren’t late for school. Learning to be on time - that’s a skill we can all use!
These terms and concepts are being used by our educators during their collaborative team meetings and increasingly in communications with students and parents. Ask your student’s teacher how th eactions associated with these terms and concepts increase learning for your student.
Continuous Improvement Process: the ongoing cycle of planning, doing, checking, and acting designed to improve results—constantly. This process is the heart of the collaborative work time for educators during Tuesday late-starts or Wednesday early-outs.
Common Formative Assessment (CFA): tool created by teams of teachers in a given grade or class to assess student learning. They are used frequently throughout the school year and the data from the assessments help the collaborative team identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching strategies or curriculum. CFAs also help identify students who need additional time and support fo rlearning.
Summative Assessment: an assessment of learning designed to provide a final measure to determine if learning goals have been met. Summative assessments are generally graded.
Essential Learning: The critical skills and knowledge each student must acquire as a result of each course, grade level, and unit of instruction. The Iowa Core along with other national standards are used by educators to determine what district students should be learning.
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum: a curriculum that gives students access to the same essential learning regardless of who is teaching the class and that it can be taught in the time allotted for theclass.
Systematic Intervention: a school wide plan that ensures every student in every course or grade level will receive additional time and support for learning as soon as he or she experiences difficulty. It means what happens when a student does not learn is no longer left to the individual teacher to determine but is addressed according to a systematic building plan.
For more terms and information, visit this website: http://www.allthingsplc.info/pdf/links/terms.pdf.