Creating Effective Professional Learning Communities
My name is Deanna Ford, and I have worked as teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools for the past twelve years. Currently I am an instructional coach and interventionist at Cochrane Elementary School. I work with students and teachers in grades K-5. I collaborate with colleagues to model lessons and provide resources. I also work with students as a reading and math interventionist. I am very lucky to work in such a great community.
Classroom Teachers Enacting Positive Solutions
I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in a wonderful program called Classroom Teachers Enacting Positive Solutions ("CTEPS").
CTEPS is a program for Kentucky teachers and focuses on personalized project-based learning. Teachers who are selected to participate in CTEPS create projects focused on personal teaching challenges in their school or district. Teachers use action research and their expertise to de-construct the problem and generate solutions. The program allows
teachers to take leadership roles and network with other educators across the state. CTEPS mission is based on the KY Teacher Leadership Framework, and promotes the idea that teachers engage with self-assessment tools. Members of CTEPS also attend content-driven webinars that challenge them to grow as coaches, facilitators, community builders, writers, and collaborators. Members are supported throughout the process by mentors who provide support, guidance, and feedback.
The official CTEPS website can be found at: http://www.kycteps.org/
Creating Effective Professional Learning Communities
My CTEPS project was Creating Effective Professional Learning Communities ("PLCs"). My Personal Narrative provides detailed information on the whole process, beginning to end. Overall I focused on professional development, team building, and school culture to create more effective PLCs which lead to improved teaching and overall growth with student achievement.
If you ask most teachers, they agree there is significant value in working collaboratively together to learn. As educators we know that working together toward a common goal is an effective practice, so why don’t we have the same expectations for our colleagues? Unfortunately my school has some teachers who are disengaged, have fixed mindsets, and negative attitudes. This is not a combination for success, so I contemplated how can I change this? I determined that Professional Learning Communities (“PLCs”) could be the key to our improvement, as truly effective PLCs create a positive school culture which leads to improved academic instruction and student growth. (DuFour, 2006). Therefore I decided to focus on creating effective PLCs to improve teaching practices and positively impact student achievement.
My personal narrative encompasses my whole project process. You can read it in its entirety at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15gSip04Gg-QOzzXAurTMIdt-XiHZuXObjvDYdYl676Y/edit?usp=sharing
I provided colleagues with professional development opportunities to improve their understanding of PLCs. I provided a book study opportunity, trainings, peer observations, and research information. Listed below are a few valuable resources that I used.
- Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, and Thomas Many (2010)
*This book is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Doing-Handbook-Professional-Communities/dp/1932127933
- All Things PLC @ http://www.allthingsplc.info/
- How to Cultivate Collaboration in a PLC
By: Thomas W. Many and Susan K. Sparks (2015)
*This book is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/How-Cultivate-Collaboration-PLC-Solutions/dp/1942496052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1493515182&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+cultivate+collaboration+in+a+plc
Richad DuFour on the Importance of PLCs
PLC Norms and Expectations:
Teachers created individual team norms and expectations to make PLCs more effective.
Teachers discussed what a PLC should look, sound, and feel like for their team.
PLC Agendas and Products:
Teachers send weekly Agendas before meeting, and then sent out PLC products after meeting. These documents were sent to the entire staff to build community. Example: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KidHaOPYr4rh8OvdZ0WBKbpjE6XmId2B55jnk0ozqh4/edit?usp=sharing
This is the PLC Survey that I used during my action research project. This survey is rom the National School Reform Faculty (2014). The survey can be found at: https://www.nsrfharmony.org/system/files/protocols/plc_survey_0.pdf
PLC Rating Rubric:
After analyzing the PLC Survey results, I used the PLC Rating Rubric to determine needs and next steps. This document can be found at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MiqA1XYYBFl26ed_9lowqQDajJrfPicJVMxM3Bx-NBQ/edit?usp=sharing
Team Building Activities
* Shout Outs and Celebrations: We begin weekly faculty meeting with Shout Outs and Celebrations. Teachers can share something about themselves, like student success stories or personal triumphs. It also includes colleagues complimenting others.
* Scavenger Hunt: Teachers were randomly placed in teams of three and worked together to travel to our "Emergency Evacuation" location on foot. The winning team members each received $10.00 gift cards. All team members had to be present to win, so nobody could be left behind. Teachers motivated and supported each other.
* Paper Airplane Construction Competition: Teachers and administrators were placed in teams of four to create a paper airplane that could fly the farthest. They could test their airplane one time, and then they could re-design it for the final test. This problem solving activity was great for our collaboration efforts.
* Potlucks: Of course we know that food is always a good thing. We developed monthly potlucks to bring staff members together. This was a very good collaborative effort for the entire school, as well as a great relationship building opportunity.
* Fun Friday Outings: These outings began with meeting to eat on Friday afternoon. We had so much fun together that we started going to movies, painting, and concerts. The relationships made PLCs more effective because we had better relationships.
The goal was to create community, building relationships, and promote collaboration.