Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

PLC Movement Facing a Crossroad

Making schools learning places for teachers as well as students is an appealing vision. A vision that prompted many districts to create school-based professional learning communities (PLCs). While this is good news, observations in 40 districts across 20 states indicated the PLC movement has reached a critical stage in its development. How schools and districts choose to proceed will determine whether learning communities realize their promise or lose appeal as a driver of improved teaching and learning. This is the challenge learning communities face: Schools and districts need implementation models flexible enough to adapt to local conditions but sufficiently specific that educators aren’t forced to reinvent the wheel on their own.

Brad Ermeling and I found several common problems in a review of forty efforts to stand up PLCs. We concluded that the PLC movement is at a crossroads, in danger of relying too much on inspirational examples and overly general implementation models. We believe there is a middle ground between leaving educators to work out their own approach and educator-proof recipes antithetical to a learning community. A key is identifying tested implementation models detailed and flexible enough to guide development of effective PLCs suited to local conditions. Despite a limited evidence base, there are enough successes to know that this is possible. Identifying, validating, and sharing tested implementation models represents a clear and important call to action for the PLC movement.

For a PDF of our 2013 article in the Journal of Staff Development, click here.

For Ermeling’s paper on how to “connect the dots” to make PLCs work, click here