Learning is a gradual process and its essence in the education profession is becoming incessant. The education profession nowadays considers professional development as a growth factor in the teaching profession (LaRocco, 2007). Such trends in education demands have motivated the American schools to come up with a reform model known as the Professional Learning Community (PLC).
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Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are educational reform systems that work towards fostering a collaborative learning practice that comes with specific goals and objectives (LaRocco, 2007). The four main goals or purposes of the PLCs in the American schools include ensuring that there exists an efficient student education, professional teacher development, a culture of collaboration, and a focus towards educational results. Although the four goals are eminent within the schools, little remains clear about their ultimate success in the individual schools (LaRocco, 2007). This section of the PLC topic focuses on discussing an interview carried out with a school principal to review the progress of a PLC model in the school.
The increasing demand for better education has forced teachers to face increased accountability in ensuring that they achieve an efficient learning that is result-oriented (Rick, 2013). While venturing into ensuring an efficient learning, the PLC educational reform program invested in three big ideas, focusing on learning, building a collaborative culture, and focusing on academic results (Harris & Jones, 2010).
The PLC also focused on four major questions that a committed school with a PLC program must consider. According to the prevailing literature, the PLCs in schools must focus on answering the four major questions of the PLC educational reform program (LaRocco, 2007). “What do we want students to learn, how will we know if they have learnt, what do we do if they do not learn it, and what do we do if they do learn it?” (Rentfro, 2007, p. 1), are the PLCs four major questions that schools must answer in their lesson planning, instructional programs, assessment techniques, and teaching processes.
In the recent days, the questions that are prevailing in many analysts are whether the schools have the required commitment to achieve the ultimate goals of the PLCs and whether they use relevant instructional plans, student assessments, lesson plans, and proper teaching practices (Rick, 2013). For a school to have a competent PLC reform program, it must have the six characteristics that match the demands of the PLC educational reform platform.
According to Harris and Jones (2010), the six essential components or characteristics of an efficient PLC model include the presence of a shared vision, a mission, values, and goals, the presence of collaborative teams that focus on learning, the presence of a collective inquiry, action oriented plans, and a commitment towards a continued progress. Even with these stringent frameworks, most schools have failed to excel in ensuring that their teachers and their teaching plans focus towards ensuring that the PLCs are working properly (Rick, 2013). The present studies are still questioning why academic achievements are still varied.
Question One from the PLCs First Goal
First Question: As a School Principal with the whole idea about the need for proper learning, do you think that your school has been performing well and up to the standards of the PLC learning model? Answer from the School Principal: Yes, the school performance has been considerably good, given the fact that the several performance indicators have shown some significant success.
The principal further stated that to ensure that students are learning the school has remained committed to ensure that the school goals and objectives value the demands of the PLC model. Since its integration, the PLC educational reform model in this school has fostered a positive learning environment where standards of education, correct instructional techniques, and individual teacher efforts are paramount success factors. According to the School Principal, the school management has provided learners and teachers with a favorable learning environment that fosters academic growth and success.
Second Question from the PLCs Second Goal
Second Question: Being the School Principal who must be aware about the PLCs goal of professional teacher development, are there any independent school efforts that are contributing to the achievement of this purpose? Answer from the School Principal: Yes, but the efforts are still miniature. In explanation to this point, the School Principal claimed that their school has been keen about the freedom, the interest, and the participation of the teachers in the professional learning communities.
According to the School Principal, since getting dedicated teachers that have interest in the performance of the students is nowadays a rare occasion, motivating the willing teachers to participate in the PLCs is the commitment of their school. In submission to the fact that their efforts are still miniature, the Principal indicated that time, limited school resources, and curriculum demands, are constraining factors. These three factors inhibit the frequent participation of the teachers in the PLCs teacher development programs.
Third Question from the PLCs Third Goal
Third Question: As an experienced School Principal, who independently understands that need for teamwork and collaboration in schools, can you be certain that the PLC goal of ensuring a culture of collaboration prevails in your school? Answer from the School Principal: Collaboration somewhat exists. In his explanation, the School Principal affirmed that their school has been working towards fostering a collaborative environment as per the demands of the PLC, but unfortunately, some issues within and outside the school affects this achievement. In the professional learning communities, members must work in collaborative teams and on common responsibilities.
However, according to the School Principal, this concept has somewhat been impractical in this school because the aims of collaborations have been inadequate, mutual growth has been miniature, and members work towards achieving their independent goals. There is little teacher commitment, and the teachers rarely collaborate in lesson planning.
Fourth Question from the PLCs Fourth Goal
Question Four: Your school, being a member in the PLC educational reform program, how well can you explain whether there are any efforts made to ensure that there is focus towards getting better educational results in your school? Answer from the School Principal: There are several efforts made to ensure that the school has a focus towards ensuring that teaching is result-oriented. The school has delved into programs that promote efficient curriculum development, efficient school-based teacher training programs, proper testing of the learner’s progresses, and proper designing of the instructional systems.
Since the PLC reform program emerged into the system of this school, teachers have given a sharp focus towards student development, academic achievement, and rich curriculum ideas. With such indicators being the commitment of the school towards achieving better educational goals, it is eminent that the school is thriving to ensure result-oriented teaching. These efforts are noteworthy, as the records have demonstrated considerable changes.
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Lessons Learnt from the Interview
My experience with the School Principal and the interview was something interesting as it brought to me the understanding of the goals of PLC and the manner in which the American schools are struggling to achieve them. From my interaction with the School Principal, it is now clear to me that Professional Learning Communities or the Collaborative Learning Communities in most of the American schools have partial achievements in their targets.
In this interview with the School Principal, my intuition is that individual schools are struggling to maneuver in the achievement of the PLC goals and objectives, but several issues are hampering their success. Whereas the school heads are very aware about the four major goals of the PLC educational reform model, there is some laxity that is hampering the efficient achievement of the PLCs established goals and purposes. From the four goals of PLC, I noticed several lapses.
The first goal of the PLC educational reform model is to ensure that schools are thriving to excel through ensuring that there is efficient learning in schools. The Principal mentioned that their school is maintaining the standards of education, is using correct instructional techniques, and is supporting individual teacher efforts. The collaboration factor in this idea comes when one considers the level of the school commitment, the teacher’s commitment and the commitment of other PLC stakeholders.
From further questioning, the Principal revealed that PLC as a reform program has motivated success through ensuring that the school remains assisted in planning and executing the instructional components of learning. Such efforts demonstrate that schools are operating on standardized learning goals, properly designed instructional plans, and effective student assessment systems. Nonetheless, the absence a culture of collaborative teaching in some schools like the one in this scenario is a devastating issue to the achievement of an efficient learning in the American schools.
The three big ideas of the PLC are focusing on learning, building a collaborative teaching and learning culture, and focusing on results (Freeman & Randolph, 2013). In the interviewed school and from my personal assessment on the situation, all is practically well, but collaboration in teaching and learning seems to affect the three big ideas. In the interviewed school, teachers often focused on independent professional growth even though collaboration in instructional planning and lesson designing was minimal. From my personal assessment of the interview, the three big ideas of the PLC seem achieved in a half manner in the school involved in the interview.
The school has in its independent efforts focused on the academic achievement, efficient learning, and better educational results through allowing the PLCs to enhance the result-oriented programs. However, an overhaul of the whole situation in the school’s PLC system shows that collaboration is minimal and somehow functionless.
What I can actually explain about the whole idea of the PLCs in schools is that school structures and management are important factors that determine the efficiency of the programs in each independent school. This interview revealed to me that the four questions of the PLC that make up the three big ideas are not driving the achievement of the PLC goals. “What do we want students to learn, how will we know if they have learnt, what do we do if they do not learn it, and what do we do if they do learn it?” (Rentfro, 2007, p.1), are the four major PLC questions that are not receiving the maximum attention needed for the success of the PLCs in the schools. Joining the three big ideas in the four major questions that the PLCs seek to answer seems to be a problem in the school that engaged in this interview. Generally, the three big ideas of the PLC reform program are underachieved.
My Interview Experience with the Principal
The interview experience was something that exposed me to a broader picture of what the PLCs practically mean. It is a questionable subject as to whether the PLCs are achieving their ultimate goals of fostering educational reforms or they are merely struggling to pervade through the rigid bureaucracies and status quos maintained by different schools (Rick, 2013). While I thought that the three big ideas of the PLC seem cached in the four main questions that the PLCs often seek to answer, my intuition was wrong when I compare the theories I have learnt and the interview responses I received from the school principal.
In my interview experience, it remained clear to me that the expectations of the PLCs in the schools are falling short of their targets because some schools have different control and teaching frameworks that seem to impede the effective achievement of the PLC goals and purposes. Such lapses are affecting the success of the PLCs in schools.
My interview experience revealed to me some serious implications in the integration of the PLCs in schools. According to Freeman and Randolph (2013), teachers are actually facing increased accountability to ensure student success and that is why the PLCs should be perfect solutions to the success of the students in elementary and secondary schools. However, reinforcing a united atmosphere where teachers work cooperatively towards writing the common student assessment objectives, plan the core school curriculum together, and teach collaboratively are some of the PLC pillars that are lacking significant considerations.
According to Rentfro (2007, p. 1), “the school has to have a solid, shared mission, vision, values, and goals; collaborative teams that work interdependently to achieve common goals; and a focus on results as evidenced by a commitment to continuous improvement.” Although available in the interviewed school, they literally failed to blend with the goals, the three big ideas, and ambitions of the PLC educational reform program.
In conclusion, theories that exist concerning the ultimate goals that PLCs need to achieve point out that there are three big ideas of PLCs, four main goals, and four main questions that the American teaching fraternity must consider. What is more surprising is that schools are working with their independent frameworks that seem to involve the PLC goals in a partial manner or seem to ignore most of them.
The interviewed Principal plainly revealed that teachers have remained committed to work in accordance with the goals of the school, but are not working cooperatively to enhance the achievement of the PLC goals or answer the four PLC questions. Individual teacher plans in professional development, the commitment of the teachers in academic excellence, and the prevalence of a minimal collaboration culture are issues that need some amendments. Perfecting the PLCs would always require an undeterred focus towards the PLC’s three big ideas, four main goals, and the four main questions.
Freeman, G., & Randolph, I. (2013). Leadership Strategies for Maintaining Success in a Rural School District. International Journal for Leadership in Learning, 1(1), 1-10. Web.
Harris, A., & Jones, M. (2010). Professional learning communities and system improvement. Improving Schools, 13(2), 172-181. Web.
LaRocco, D. (2007). On the Path to Becoming a Professional Learning Community: Charting Change in one Suburban Middle School. Journal of Research for Educational Leaders, 4(1), 75-101. Web.
Rentfro, E. (2007). Professional Learning Communities Impact Student Success. Leadership Compass, 5(2), 1-3. Web.
Rick, D. (2013). Professional Learning Community Handbook: We Be, PLC. United States, New York: Jones & Bartlett. Web.