George Lucas Educational Foundation

Advice Needed for Leading Professional Learning Communities

Advice Needed for Leading Professional Learning Communities

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Hello everyone,

I have recently volunteered within by school to lead our professional development program. I am hoping to move away from a professional development program in which one person presents an area of interest to the community to one that is more collaborative in nature. It is my goal to create a community in my school that is more focused on collaborative inquiry that shares leadership and ownership of problem solving, problem finding, and pedagogical advancement within the school to drive meaningful change that represents the values and ambitions of all the stakeholders and promotes knowledge building for professional learning. 

I would greatly appreciate any guidance with this endeavor, as well as the sharing of experiences and resources to assist myself, and us all in creating effective PLCs.

Thank you.

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Tara's picture

Congrats on leading your PD day! I found myself in a similar position some time ago, and it was a wonderful learning opportunity ! As an educator, I've always felt as though we attempt to re-invent the wheel over and over again - when, in fact, we know the wheel is there, but we can make adjustments if we need, to make it work better for us....
I too found that the "old fashioned" PD wkshps lacked in so many ways and could certainly be used for better, more communal sharing opportunities.
Depending on the time you have, you may want to try one of these concepts:
- ask everyone to bring one "item" to the table ; you can break it down to veteran teachers bringing a concept, or teachers of 5+ yrs - anyway you feel it may work .. They can then , in a certain time frame (a few mins ea) share the importance of the concept they're bringing with them. It can be a physical thing which represents something, like a beaker that talks about their first labs and how they've made mistakes and learned from them (but give more specific info) - again, depending on how many teachers you have, you 'll need to plan out the timing, etc.... You may need to break it into depts if you have a large faculty or are under more time constraints.
- you can do the same idea above but have faculty bring a favorite worksheet to the table ... this one has gone over very well too in the past.. No matter what you teach, you'll find some common elements pop up and some of the materials teachers bring become so valuable to newer teachers, or even veteran teachers who just want something new to try out...
-"Mindfulness and Stress Relief" is a wkshp I've done for some years now, and it goes over quite well. I was trained in Mindfulness studies about 12 yrs ago and implemented it into my classroom over the past 8 years.. It's been a wonderful method to start and end our day. I do suggest you have someone who is trained or practicing to lead this one , as it does take some time, but becomes a great resource for staff and students. There are activities like "mindful eating" and "mindful walking" that are great practices! Most of the staff I've presented to usually love trying these out!
Good luck with your pd work!

Robert Nemcko's picture

Hi Tara,
Thanks so much for the wonderful advice. I love your ideas and I will give them a try. You are right about mindfulness techniques requiring someone who has training...I don't think I am the best candidate for that, although I will definitely try to do some research and see what I can learn and attempt to implement. I will certainly share any useful tidbits that I may find.

Robert Nemcko's picture

Thanks for sharing that Samer. It is great advice. I will have to consider how I can approach this model in my school setting. I like the ideas that are presented, especially about how the learning needs to practical and something that can be implemented the next day. This is how I would like to approach our PD program for the year to ensure that our colleagues feel a sense of gratification and that they have truly gained a bit of knowledge that they can use to improve their practice.


Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

Glad to help, Robert. I'm a fan of the unconference model and think it has a lot of potential to help people find what they need.

Beckett Haight's picture


I hope I don't come off as sounding contrarian, but in my experience in working in PLC'S, it seems that PD and PLCs are focused on different things. An idea to illustrate that would be more that PD is focusing on general things whereas a PLC is set up to focus on more specific and ongoing things.

That being said, I would say that one mantra that always guides our PLC processes is the four PLC questions of what do we want the students to learn, how do we know they learned it, what do we do if they don't, and what do we do if they already know it.

I have a feeling that this may not have answered your question well, but I hope it did.

haleemah.a's picture

Hello Robert,

I think it is a great goal that you want to create a community in your school that is more focused on collaborative inquiry that shares leadership and ownership of problem-solving, problem finding, and pedagogical advancement. These are all great qualities to create a learning community.

Thanks for sharing!

Ellen Eisenberg's picture
Ellen Eisenberg
Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching

An effective professional development (PD) program must lead to professional learning. It's not just the "stuff" shared with and by teachers but how well the "stuff" is learned and can be applied in a variety of learning environments. There must be follow up and consistent support in a non-evaluative setting in order for change to occur.

Every school wants to offer effective PD but may not know how to do that. Enter instructional coaches... they offer differentiated, ongoing, job-embedded PD in a safe environment, focusing on school wide improvement, building teacher capacity, and increasing student engagement. It sounds like you want to create a culture in your school that fosters shared learning and collective problem solving. Kudos to you.

Based on my experience, however, I don't think this can be accomplished through a volunteer mode of delivery. Have you thought about helping your school understand the role and function of an instructional coach and how that coach can help the school accomplish both long-range and short-term goals? Or, how a coach can help every member of the school become a member in a community of learning and practice? Coaches help staff members collaborate with one another and implement effective instructional practices which appears is your goal. Think about becoming an instructional coach in your school!

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