This week’s module explored teacher leadership and learning communities that address social justice. It reminded me of the professional development we are working on with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) in my school district. Our first objective was to write a PLC goal. We then established norms and determined roles that would be rotated on a monthly basis to give everyone shared leadership. Last year, our goal was to set a purposeful agenda in order to improve student learning. In prior years, setting an agenda for each PLC meeting seemed like a simple task, however the agenda became a laundry list of nuts and bolts items that consumed most of our time. Smylie, Conly, and Marks (2011) emphasize the importance of establishing an agenda. They state, “Teachers examine all data from multiple perspectives to determine where gaps exist. Then they establish a purposeful learning agenda that will support their own acquisition of new knowledge and skills to assist all students” (p 11). I now can appreciate the value of setting the agenda at the end of our PLC meetings for the meeting to follow. Each discussion should be a part of a cycle that is ongoing. What we learn through our analysis of student data should determine our agenda for next steps.
The PLC cycle we followed helped guide us and moved us past the analysis stage, so we could begin to use the data analysis to plan and implement new strategies to improve student learning. The PLC cycle steps include: studying current levels of student understanding, selecting an area of focus, planning instruction to build on strengths and weaknesses, implementing instruction and collecting evidence of student understanding, analyzing impact of changes to discover what was effective and what was not, and applying new knowledge to the next cycle. Applying what we learn about student data is often the most challenging. It is easy to share student data and determine what students had difficulty with but our team needed to continue with the cycle. We needed to improve our own skills and brainstorm teaching strategies that we could implement to increase student understanding. Smylie, Conly, and Marks (2011) state, “Well intentioned teachers can be committed to great teaching, and still, the beliefs, habits, and strategies they have adopted over the years may work against them” (p. 11). This is where working collaboratively can be powerful because teachers can learn the strengths and weaknesses of all the classes and then work as a team to share and implement strategies that will benefit the students. This connects to the importance of shared leadership in a learning community. Hirsh and Hord (2010) state, “School leadership overall is ultimately enhanced by the different knowledge and skills brought by a variety of people and by the commitments that are developed among those who perform leadership tasks together” (p. 275).
Hirsh, S., & Hord, S. (2010). Building hope, giving affirmation: Learning communities that address social justice issues bring equity to the classroom. Journal of staff development, 31(4), 10-12, 14,16-17.
Smylie, M.A., Conley, S., & Marks, H.M. (2011). Exploring new approaches to teacher leadership for school improvement. In E. Hilty (Ed.) Teacher leadership: The “new” foundations of teacher education (pp. 265-282). New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. (Chapter 25).