Professional Learning Community
The definition of a professional learning community is built around three main ideas:
Ensuring That Students Learn
Every professional in the building must engage with colleagues in the ongoing exploration of four crucial questions that drive the work of those within a professional learning community:
1. What do we want each student to learn? (essential outcomes)
2. How will we know when each student has learned it? (common assessment)
3. How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?
(re-teaching or remediation)
4. How will we respond when a student when students already know or learn quickly what we want them to learn? (enrichment or acceleration)
A Culture of Collaboration
The powerful collaboration that characterizes professional learning communities is a systematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice. Teachers work in teams, engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning. This process, in turn, leads to higher levels of student achievement.
A Focus on Results
Professional learning communities judge their effectiveness on the basis of results. Working together to improve student achievement becomes the routine work of everyone in the school. Every teacher team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing a goal to improve the current level, working together to achieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress. The focus of team goals shifts. Such goals as “We will adopt the Junior Great Books program” or “We will create three new labs for our science course” give way to “We will increase the percentage of students who meet the state standard in language arts from 83 percent to 90 percent” or “We will reduce the failure rate in our course by 50 percent.”
Essential outcomes are the state standards, benchmarks, and Grade Level Content Expectations on a grade by grade or course by course level that are critical for student success. These are the “must Know” outcomes rather than the “nice to know” outcomes. Because we believe these outcomes are essential, we will find ways to provide additional time and support for those students who struggle. Teacher grade level teams identify
8-10 essential outcomes per subject per semester.
Essential outcomes answer the question - “What do your students need for success - in school this year, next year, and so on (leverage; readiness for next levels of learning), in life (endurance) and on your state tests?”
Norms are agreements about how we will function as a group and as individuals within the group. Having a set of norms-or ground rules-that a group follows encourages behaviors that will help a group do its work and discourages behaviors that interfere with a group’s effectiveness.
A common assessment is used to measure learning outcomes of all students within a specific grade. The assessment is chosen prior to teaching the objective (s). A common assessment is normally given on the same day to all students within a grade level. This assessment usually focuses on a specific skill or unit of study. There is a set benchmark (expected outcome) prior to giving the assessment.
Each teacher shares data from the common assessment with the grade level team. Data is used to target strengths and weaknesses, share best instructional strategies, drive whole group re-teachings and/or small group remediation. Each common assessment is given in a timely manner. The common assessment schedule is a natural part of the grade level or subject area pacing guide. These are designed to be assessments for learning rather than assessments of learning.
Specific - Data driven
Measurable - Answers the questions who, what, how measured, by when. It must be quantifiable.
Attainable - Is it focused? Do we believe that success is realistic?
Results-oriented - Focused on the outcome – student achievement – not the process for getting there. This refers to our desired end result, versus inputs to the process
Time bound - When will the goal be accomplished?
SMART goals help a team to focus on the results rather than the means. SMART goals are identified by each team and are focused on closing student performance gaps. The goals are established as teacher teams review student achievement data. Example: By June 2006, 85% of the 5th grade students will score a 3 or 4 on the district Writing Assessment.
A tuning protocol is a collaborative professional development activity that helps educators fine-tune their practice by examining student work or other artifacts of teaching and learning. Note: Each building has at least one copy of a book titled: Powerful Designs for Professional Learning that contains a variety of tools teams can use to learn together.