High School and Professional Learning Communities Essays

Submitted By pentucket
Words: 982
Pages: 4

Professional learning communities. Most educators have heard of them. Many school districts have initiated them (VandeWeghe & Varney, 2006; Wells, 2008). Professional learning communities (PLCs) are old news in the educational community, an idea that has been around for years. Like many initiatives in education that have come before it, it runs the risk of being pushed aside for newer, sexier initiatives (Dooner, Mandzuk, & Clinton, 2008; DuFour, 2004), guaranteed to promote learning and finally, for once and all, “solve” our country’s educational crisis. It is far too early to give up on PLCs. PLCs have incredible potential to improve student learning in our schools. Research showing the benefits of having successful professional learning communities in high schools is extensive (Dufour, 2004; Dooner et al., 2008; Huffman, 2011; Lieberman & Miller, 2011; Servage, 2008; Wells, 2008). Professional learning communities (PLCs) can be extremely effective in improving pedagogy, developing leadership in members, and increasing parent involvement (Dufour, 2004). These groups also build community in schools, provide shared learning opportunities for teachers (Huffman, 2011), allow teachers to develop innovative ideas (Cornelius, 2011), and “create and sustain a culture of learning for all students” (Huffman, 2011, p. 321). Research shows that school communities need to work together to find the best ways to improve student learning (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006; Huffman, 2011). The collaborative culture developed through PLCs creates a shared culture of learning for all participants (VandeWeghe & Varney, 2006). The potential for educational improvement through PLC work is substantial (DuFour, 2004; Dooner et al., 2008; Wells, 2008); however, few schools have Professional learning communities. Most educators have heard of them. Many school districts have initiated them (VandeWeghe & Varney, 2006; Wells, 2008). Professional learning communities (PLCs) are old news in the educational community, an idea that has been around for years. Like many initiatives in education that have come before it, it runs the risk of being pushed aside for newer, sexier initiatives (Dooner, Mandzuk, & Clinton, 2008), guaranteed to promote learning and finally, for once and all, “solve” our country’s educational crisis. PLCs, however, are the solution. The potential for educational improvement through PLC work is substantial (DuFour, 2004; Dooner et al., 2008; Wells, 2008); however, few schools have successfully realized the full benefits of this challenging work. Highlighting the difficulty of implementing PLCs, Fullan (2005) writes that “terms travel easily” but the understanding “of the underlying concepts does not” (p. 67). McLaughlin and Talbert’s (2006) study (as cited in Lieberman and Miller, 2011) of 22 high schools engaged in PLC work concluded, based on the participants’ responses, that just one of the 22 schools researched actually used the ideas embedded in a true PLC. While school restructuring to implement these PLC groups is generally effective, the necessary reculturing of the school to fully realize the potential of such groups has proven difficult, particularly in high schools (Brady, 2008; Grossman & Stodolsky, 1995; Little, 2002). My problem of practice will focus on identifying the characteristics of effective collaboration in high schools, the challenges of realizing effective collaboration in and how education leaders can support teachers engaged in PLC work to make PLCs more impactful in high schools. This preliminary review of the literature discusses several themes related to the challenges of effective collaboration in high schools including the traditional isolation of teachers, the focus of high school teachers on departmental rather than school wide goals, the role of teacher autonomy, teachers’ unfamiliarity and discomfort with the challenges of collaborative work, and the lack…