While creating and participation in a professional learning community (PLC) can be a completely beneficial aspect of the teaching experience, it is difficult to discuss the benefits without also discussing the inevitable challenges that may be faced.
DuFour & DuFour (2010) emphasize that the focus of the PLC should be on learning, collaboration, and results, with an emphasis on using the results to assist in more effective teaching. Said results are generated by using common assessments across all classrooms in the same subject, and then analyzing the results to focus on areas of instruction that may need improvement. (DuFour 2010) The challenges arise, however, with a school staff that may not be accustomed to collaborating with all staff members who teach the same subject. Many times, plan periods and out-of-school time are set aside for grading and individual planning for one’s own class. Creating and implementing an effective PLC requires significant time, and often a change in one’s own planning schedule. According to Melanie Morrissey, author of Professional Learning Communities: An Ongoing Exploration, “Finding a way to set aside this kind of time in schools may be one of the most difficult challenges to school improvement facilitators.” (Morrissey, 2000)
Morrissey goes on to emphasize that “a professional learning community is most successful when it is used as an infrastructure to support a school staff’s vision and goals for improvement.” (Morrissey, 2000) This is key, as many times, creating a PLC can be more or less forced on a staff who otherwise would not collaborate. Jumping head-first into being a PLC from a formerly non-collaborative staff can cause issues, as the mission and vision of the group may be self-serving as opposed to a more effective, student-centered and instruction-centered mission and vision.
A school staff needs to be ready and willing to change the manner in which they plan, meet, assess, and instruct in order for a PLC to be successful. Change is never easy, especially when it comes to one’s work, but teachers who are reluctant participants in the PLC need be reminded of one important fact: an effective PLC can improve instruction and student learning. (DuFour, 2010)
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. (Second Edition ed., pp. 59-153). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Morrissey, M. (2000). Professional learning communities:. Retrieved from http://allthingsplc.info/pdf/articles/plc-ongoing.pdf