I first heard of the concept of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) over 12 years ago. I was fortunate to go to several conferences to hear from experts such as Rick and Becky DuFour, Robert Marzano, Bob Eaker, and Eric Twadell. It was in these conferences that I was first introduced to the four essential questions for PLCs:
- What do we expect students to learn?
- How will we know when they have learned it?
- How will we respond when some students haven't learned it?
- How will we respond when some students already know it?
It was Becky DuFour who said (and I summarize) that we should examine every practice and procedure and their impact on student learning. The focus was to be on teaching and school practices, but ONLY in regard to the focus on student learning.
There was a SHIFT of focus from teaching to learning.
It was refreshing. It was "results focused," and it was team oriented. Under the PLC concept, teachers were collaborating with others, comparing results, sharing ideas, and working to improve the learning that was taking place in classrooms. It was the opposite of the "close your classroom door and teach" philosophy.
The PLC concepts were all concepts that I had experienced as an athletic player and coach. At the end of each game or match, the score is on the board for all to see. It's posted online, it's in the newspaper... in other words, it's a public display of your impact as a coach. Because of the public results and the competitive nature of coaches and athletes, successful coaches are always looking for ways to get better. Each year, there is a different group of athletes to reach and motivate in different ways. There are new drills, workouts, and strategies that are developed.
The successful coaches I know talk about the game, pick other coaches' brains for ideas, attend workshops to keep learning, and more. Coaches ask, "What do I need to do as a coach to win?" It's asked because coaches understand that what they do impacts the outcome. The focus is on the players and their results.
Let's not just ask, "What do I need to do as an educator?"
Let's finish the question and ask, "What do I need to do as an educator that will have the greatest impact on student learning?"
Let's also not hold our student results hostage. Let's put kids up to the same challenges, see how they do, talk about how we prepared them, and then figure out what works best.
One game doesn't define a player or a coach, and one test score doesn't define a student or a teacher.
Tomorrow's post... What classroom teachers can learn from coaches.