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Professional Learning Communities

What does a professional learning community (PLC) look like?
There are six (6) essential characteristics of a PLC.

  • Shared mission, vision, values, goals: Educators in a PLC benefit from clarity regarding their shared purpose, a common understanding of the school they are trying to create, collective communities to help move the school in the desired direction, and specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound (SMART) goals to mark their progress.
  • Collaborative teams focused on learning: In a PLC, educators work together interdependently in collaborative teams to achieve common goals for which they are mutually accountable. The structure of the school is aligned to ensure teams are provided the time and support essential to adult learning.
  • Collective inquiry: Teams in a PLC relentlessly question the status quo, seek new methods of teaching and learning, test the methods, and then reflect on the results. Building shared knowledge of both current reality and best practice is an essential part of each team’s decision-making process.
  • Action orientation and experimentation: Members of the PLC constantly turn their learning and insights into action. They recognize the importance of engagement and experience in learning and testing new ideas. They learn by doing.
  • Commitment to continuous improvement: Not content with the status quo, members of a PLC constantly seek better ways to achieve mutual goals and accomplish their fundamental purpose of learning for all. All teams engage in an ongoing cycle of:
    • Gathering evidence of current levels of student learning.
    • Developing strategies and ideas to build on strengths and address weaknesses in that learning.
    • Implementing the strategies and ideas.
    • Analyzing the impact of the changes to discover what was effective and what was not.
    • Applying the new knowledge in the next cycle of continuous improvement.
  • Results orientation: Educators in a PLC assess their efforts on the basis of tangible results. They are hungry for evidence of student learning and use that evidence to inform and improve their practice.

 PLCs deal with the following questions: 

  • What do we expect all students to learn?
  • How will we know when students have learned?
  • How will we respond when students experience difficulty in learning?
  • How will we respond when students already know the key concepts, skills, and content?
  • Based on a collaborative analysis of the results of our efforts, what can we do to improve student learning?

Eaker, R., DuFour, R., & DuFour, R. (2002). Getting started: Reculturing schools to become professional learning communities. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.