professional learning communities

Unveiling the Benefits of Professional Learning Communities

Professional learning communities are an approach to meeting school and district goals where groups of teachers work collaboratively at the school level to improve the way students learn and, eventually, student outcomes.

Teachers in these teams learn from each other, share ideas and best practices, and techniques for improving their teaching methods to create a more supportive environment for students.

Find out more about professional learning communities and their impact on the classroom setting and school improvement process below.

What Else Can Match the Term Professional Learning Community?

Since professional learning communities exist in different settings, you can expect them to have other names. However, they all embrace the professional learning community concept.

The most common terms you will find include:

  • professional learning groups
  • collaborative learning communities
  • critical friends groups
  • communities of practice

These terms all refer to professional learning communities, but they have different applications and vary in their effectiveness. This is mainly because they vary in terms of membership and scope.

Professional Learning Communities Membership

PLCs typically have four to six members. This number can be flexible but must bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the table.

It needs to allow for specific discussions on each member’s work while maintaining an atmosphere that is not too crowded with opinions or positions voiced by members who may no longer feel as invested in the group as before.

It may also be appropriate to include non-teaching community members. Consider including parents, students, or other interested parties when appropriate to align everyone’s interests with the vision for a brighter future for educational institutions.

What are the Elements of Professional Learning Communities?

PLCs share some common elements. These include:

Focus on Student Learning

At the heart of every professional learning community is the focus on student learning. This is often accomplished by professional development with a clear connection to the classroom.

Shared Knowledge and Expertise

Another element of learning communities is sharing of knowledge and expertise among classroom teachers. The key here is that this shared knowledge should be tied back to student improvement, either through professional development or lessons learned.

Continuous Learning

Educators are aware that they need to continuously learn to stay at the top of their game. Learning communities help ensure this by making learning an ongoing process and providing other means for professional growth that often lack in traditional settings.

Frequent Communication

PLCs provide a forum for frequent communication among participating teachers. They allow sharing of ideas and collaboration on common professional issues and an opportunity to build relationships with colleagues that extend beyond the classroom limits.

Data-Driven

Professional learning communities strive to stick to evidence-based decisions backed by actual student data. They use student achievement data to guide their work and enable teachers to make changes quickly based upon the needs of a particular class or group.

For instance, research shows how important it is to have an educator present for children's learning experience. Students taught by an absent teacher achieve lower scores in the subject matter than students with present teachers since there is low engagement and motivation.

A Positive Action implementation can begin reversing the trend of low student and teacher engagement. As this happens, students become more interested in their school environment, and teachers find renewed interest in coming to work.

Collective Responsibility for Student Achievement

Teachers in a professional learning community (PLC) share knowledge so that all students can benefit from different teaching methods and classroom techniques. Members understand that learner outcomes are the responsibility of the whole community.

Benefits of Professional Learning Communities for Educators

Professional learning communities offer educators many benefits, including:

Professional Development

Professional growth outside the classroom in a non-judgmental environment provides teachers with professional support to face challenges and grow as professionals. PLCs also provide continual improvement opportunities that most schools are not able to provide.

Cooperative Learning

PLCs foster a cooperative environment among peers through the professional development activities they’ve participated in with other members. The collaborative nature of these communities encourages teachers to become more invested in their work.

Supportive Connections

PLCs provide a network of professional peers who work in collaborative teams while offering resources and support in pursuing professional goals, which leads to higher levels of interdependence among members.

Professional development isn’t just about professional growth: it also provides an opportunity for individual teachers to create social connections with their other educators that extend beyond their professional relationships.

Improved Teacher Satisfaction

Every teacher aims to improve the quality of teaching in their classroom. PLCs offer an opportunity to do just that. The collaborative environment and opportunities for job-embedded learning lead to better satisfaction among participating teachers.

Lower Teacher Turnover

Teachers who participate in PLCs are less likely to resign. PLCs offer many benefits such as support for improving instructional practices in the classroom, collaborative relationships, continuous improvement, and a supportive environment, all lowering teacher turnover rates.

A past study highlighted the relationship between teacher retention and professional support. 27.4% of teachers who remained to teach as opposed to 19.5% who quit attribute their choices to practical professional development activities.

Building Stronger Communities

PLCs help teachers connect outside of the classroom, leading to solid professional relationships among members. This shared work environment fosters team building at school and between schools in neighboring districts or states.

Benefits of Professional Learning Communities for Students

Professional learning communities offer students many benefits as well.

Student Learning

A particular study proved that schools who adopted PLCs modalities increased their mean scores by up to 5 points in the 2004-2005 school year. In the process, team members get to learn about effective teaching strategies geared towards promoting student success.

Student Achievement

PLCs offer professional growth opportunities and resources to teachers to enhance student’s learning, which ultimately benefits the students. This professional development focuses on student mastery of the subject matter.

Educators work together with other experts in different areas of teaching, education, or schooling topics. Professional learning community members understand that student performance is the responsibility of the whole community.

Lower Absenteeism Rates

Their class attendance determines a student’s success. Students who miss classes have difficulty catching up and waste everyone else's time as teachers try to compensate by repeating the material. This delays achieving the intended curriculum goals.

When professional learning communities provide professional growth opportunities for teachers outside of their classroom, they increase a teacher's engagement in their work and empathy towards learners, reducing absenteeism rates among students.

Lower Dropout Rates

Student absenteeism eventually leads to a higher dropout rate. Professional learning communities offer teachers professional growth opportunities and resources to enhance their classroom practice, ultimately benefiting the students.

Students in harmony with their learning environment, including teaching methods, are more likely to stay in school and achieve better grades. On the contrary, when a student experiences difficulty learning, they lack motivation and might drop out altogether.

Helpful Resources for Educators

There are many PLCs that offer professional growth opportunities and resources for teachers. Many tools on the internet provide the same realizations of PLCs, which can be beneficial to professional development.

Positive Action is one such tool. It is a website where you can find evidence-based programs and courses for school leaders to promote healthy learning environments. They've built their curriculum based on research, so teachers know the most effective ways of working with students both inside and outside the classroom.

If you're looking to improve student achievement or just want to teach more effectively, consider developing your positive action plan with Positive Action today. Our accolades and success stories speak for themselves.

You will find many helpful resources and tools on the website. Whether it's a behavior management system for students or guidance from expert teachers about creating an engaging classroom environment, valuable things are waiting for you on these pages. Visit now.

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