At Beechwood, we have amazing professional teams that collaborate beautifully. At most grade levels, our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have gone from curriculum planning to a focus on student learning. So, if our goal is to constantly learn and improve, how do we take this signature practice to the next level? Now that the Dufour Model of PLC's is part of our school culture, at what point do I trust that the model will happen without obtrusive accountability measures?
I have found this tool to be incredibly helpful in reinforcing and reflecting upon the integrity of our teams. I have used it as a "pre-test" and a "post-test" to track growth of our implementation by team. Critical Issues for Team Consideration
At Beechwood, teachers in grades K-5 receive two 40-minute release periods per week. Teachers in 6-8 have one 53-minute period per week. We spend approximately $50,000 out of our site funds to hire a PE teacher and music teacher to accomplish this. As part of the Dufour Model of PLC's, our teachers set norms and turn in notes to me via a google form for each meeting. Since we are spending so much money, there should be accountability to ensure that these meetings are profitable, right? Hmmm...
The staff at Beechwood aren't fans of the fact that I require notes to be turned in. This year, we will look at the forms together to see how we might maximize our PLC time to focus on student learning rather than record keeping. And yes, there will still be a form.
Recently, I've been looking for research on the impact of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) on teacher efficacy and student achievement. Unfortunately, most of the articles are fairly anecdotal, until I came across "A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning" by Vescio, Ross, & Adams. The article is not the most engaging, so here's a summary: the implementation of PLC's improves teaching practices and increases student learning. This certainly validates our own experience.
Something in this article that struck me was the idea of "Horizons of Observation". The researcher asserts that when a group of professionals gets together to collaborate on a regular basis, there are limitations to their collective experiences, training, and context. This tells me that we need to expand our Professional Learning Networks (PLN's) beyond our school community via the use of Twitter, visiting other classrooms and sites, as well as bringing in consultants in areas which we are already strong, in order to strengthen our site level PLC's
I love the work of Daniel Pink. If you haven't read Drive, his TedTalk is a good introduction to his research on motivation. I watched it again as I was reflecting on our PLC processes. There are certainly great applications for school leadership.
So my learning here is this: Good leadership doesn't focus on autonomy or accountability. The right balance of autonomy and accountability together brings about great results! Striking that balance is the key! Learning in progress!