This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a powerful three-day learning experience, facilitated by Solution Tree, which focused on the essential elements and practices of effective professional learning communities (PLC’s). In the context of education, the idea of utilizing PLC’s and the power of collective teacher efficacy is not a new concept. But, just how powerful is the correlation between teacher collaboration and improving student learning outcomes? John Hattie, the author of Visible Learning, conducts meta analyses, which evaluates multiple research based studies surrounding a specific instructional practice or strategy, as well as well as school, home, and teacher based influences that impact student achievement, in order to identify the effect size or impact that strategy has on student learning. To put it simply, an effect size of .2 indicates below average gains, .4 indicates average gains, and anything above .6 correlates with a significant effect on student learning outcomes. With an effect size of 1.57, collective teacher efficacy is ranked as the number one factor influencing student achievement (Hattie, 2016).
Most districts effectively utilize several of the essential elements of professional learning communities such as: peer coaching, data analysis meetings, and creating opportunities for teams to meet during common planning time. During the institute, one of the speakers, Eric Twaedell, Superintendent of Adlai Stevenson High School, challenged participants to reflect on the three big ideas of PLC’s:
In addition to the three big ideas in PLC’s, it is imperative for educators to reflect on the four critical questions surrounding effective professional learning communities:
A key take away from this institute was the importance of focusing on an organizational mindset committed to continuous improvement. When goals are met or surpassed, new goals geared toward improving student achievement and learning outcomes are set and plans for reaching them are collaboratively developed. Reflect. Plan. Keep moving forward. That’s how we move from good to great.
By: Colleen Root, CA BOCES Professional Development