Sunday, October 14, 2012

Building Stronger Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities have been around for a few years now and when adopted properly, they can create powerful and rich learning for teachers and more importantly help improve student learning.  This video clip from the Liberty Mutual Responsibility Project demonstrates how groups of people working together can have a positive impact on a community.

I spent that last 3 days at my school learning how to become a "Critical Friend" for other colleagues at my school.  Our training was provided by the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF), The hope is for our school to strengthen our Professional Learning Communities (PLC) by training a group of us  to be Critical Friends that might fascilitate rich conversations with other teachers or groups of teachers in the school as it pertains to improving student work, lesson planing or solving a pedgagical issue. 

What can a Critical Friend do to strengthen a PLC?   There are several stumbling blocks when it comes to whether a school's PLC is meeting it's objectives of improving student learning and building collegial relationships.  Rarely do PLC develop on their own.  Like any relationship, they may require deliberate effort on the part of the participants.  Critical Friends are trained to help intentionally foster openness to improvement, trust and respect, improve foundation in the knowledge and skills of teaching and support leadership.  The focus on making this happen is learning several "Protocols" that would guide a Critical Friend through a structured process.

The Protocol list provided by the NSRF is impressive and comprehensive.  There are activities that build trust and respect like the ZONE OF COMFORT.   There are also many Protocols that provide guidance and structure for Critical Friends as they work with teachers on improving their practice like EXAMINING STUDENT WORK. All the NSRF Protocols are available for Free at this link

The 3 days of training was very valuable for me as I learn more about how I might strengthen my role at my school in fostering a robust Professional Learning Community.   I appreciated the structure that the Protocols provided in ensuring that conversations with other teachers are meaningful and productive.  Yet, I still am left unsure about how to deal with the reluctant teacher.  Would these Protocols be effective when you have a teacher in your PLC that isn't open or willing to grow and learn?  I still have 2 more days of training in February and I am looking forward to our facilitator addressing this very important issue.  

What has been your experience in dealing with teachers in your PLC's that aren't open to growth?  Do you have any ideas of strategies that might help me and others?



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