Professional Learning Community/Cluster is a group of people who meet regularly to share their experiences, learning, expertise and work collaboratively to improve their teaching craft and inturn impact student learning. This is a form of professional development in Education.
According to Edusource, professional development is like a one single shot workshop/s based on the expertise of one individual delivering in the session. It is often target-based and means to address or share one concept/idea or philosophy to a broad audience.
While in Professional Learning Community/Clusters, the group gets together with a purpose to learn from each other, share ideas, have follow-up sessions and implement coaching strategies. It is said, when you teach someone something or explain someone how to do it, you embed your learning deep within you. According to Kruse, Louis, and Bryk (1995) Formulation of the Professional Community must include several characteristics for it to be successful.
Characteristics of the professional community are:
- Reflective focus: A specific goal, intention or purpose
- Collective focus on student learning: The target objective is to provide enhanced learning opportunities for students.
- Collaboration: No ONE person is perfect, knowing this and keeping an open mind, viewing ideas from different perspectives can be enriching.
- Shared values and norms: Individuals come from different backgrounds and value systems; creating a shared model, helps keep the focus on the task and objective. (NOT about self and egos)
- Structured time to meet and discuss: Fixed time brings commitment and dedication to achieve the goals on time.
- Interdependence: Knowing that many hands make light work, and many minds make work simple helps in bringing out a product that is rich and with depth.
- Educator empowerment: PLC brings about a change in the educator’s mindset leading to natural professional growth for the individual.
Most importantly, the professional learning community must include the following:
- Trust and respect
- Supportive leadership
- Openness to self- improvement (Growth Mindset)
Steps to a PLC
- Create a team
- Start a collaborative culture of trust and respect by creating essential norms and agreements so that everyone is contributing to the task
- Start with defining the task or objective
- Decide and explain how things will be executed
- Set SMART goals – Specific goals, Measureable goals, Assignable, Relevant and Time-bound goals
- Consider including outsiders to comment, reflect with the team to add perspective.
All this takes time, patience and courage to sustain this process.
For us, Librarians, it is very crucial to keep in touch with the changing roles in Education. Most schools have only one Librarian. Therefore it becomes very essential for the Librarian to create a professional learning network, where he/she can build on their skills, knowledge and craftsmanship.
Advantages of a Professional Learning Community
According to Dr. Jennifer Serviss, in her article with ISTE shares the benefits of PLCs.
- PLCs make educators better teachers
- PLCs build authentic relationships between each member of the team
- PLCs help educators stay current with new trends in research, pedagogy and tools
- PLCs help educators become thinkers by reflective ideas and conversations
If you are interested in starting or participating in a professional learning community, reach out to me, and we can work together and learn together.