This week The Teacher College Record
published on-line a contribution by Dr. Brad Ermeling asking a critical question: Are too many professional learning communities leaving teaching behind. Here’s the abstract of his article, The Common Core State Standards have potential to improve student learning but are arriving with a questionable assumption: common standards plus increasing accountability pressures will translate into improved practice and achievement. Standards define where students need to be; accountability systems document where they are. Educators are supposed to discover ways to close the gap. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) could play a pivotal role in closing this gap, but not unless we re-conceptualize their structure and content to include meaningful reflection on instruction and provide teachers with a roadmap to productively guide collaborative work around the CCSS.
For a copy of Brad’s article click here.
Connect the Dots is the title of a new article by Brad Emeling, published by Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council), in the Journal of Staff Development (April, 2012, volume 33, No.2). Connect the Dots summarizes what it takes to turn schools or districts into communities of educators learning together how to sustain improvements in student achievement. Connect the Dots provides concrete guidelines to educators who want to convert PLC aspirations into functioning reality. The key, as Brad explains, is not only establishing settings for teacher teams and leaders, but strengthening the connections between settings so that each role group is focused on assisting learning of the next immediate group they directly lead or support. He means district personnel assist principals who assist school leadership teams that assist teacher teams. Each role–group takes ownership for planning for and providing assistance to the learning and productive work of the next immediate group–one month at a time. The result is a coherent system of settings functioning to improve teaching and learning.
Not only has Brad spent a decade+ building learning teams and PLCs in America, he participated in lesson study for 7 years as a teacher and administrator in Japan. As a fluent Japanese speaker he is one of the few America educators with such extensive experience with lesson study. In 2003, Brad joined a research team at UCLA and Stanford that had been researching teacher collaboration and learning teams for more than three decades. Connect the Dots is based on Brad’s years of experience helping highly challenged schools set up learning teams that get results. The learning teams program he helps direct is based on ideas and concrete guidelines that are direct applications of 40+ years of research by Claude Goldenberg, Bill Saunders, and myself.
Personal point of privilege: The privilege was serving as Brad’s doctoral committee advisor, and as a member of the UCLA/Stanford research team on which Connect the Dots is based. Brad’s dissertation extended the team’s work for the first time to secondary settings. After finishing his UCLA doctoral program, Dr. Ermeling helped scale the research to districts and schools across the nation.
For a PDF of Brad’s Connect the Dots, click here.