The How-To Guide for Educators

Introduction to Professional Learning Communities

A professional learning community or PLC is an opportunity for a group of colleagues within a specific field to  participate in collaborative learning.  Typically PLCs are used in schools as a way to organize teachers, students and/or community personnel into specific working groups where they can help enhance curriculum, share visions, contribute and encourage each other with the ultimate purpose of improving education.  Professional learning communities are the joining of Professionalism and Community.  It brings the specialized knowledge and focus of professionalism to the caring, responsibility and support within a group or a community

The Benefits of PLCs are to provide like minded individuals the opportunity to explore and reflect on current trends and conditions related to their shared interests. Through the process of inquiry learners form a shared network to resolve issues. The advantages of forming community practices is the increase of knowledge shared in the collaboration process. The virtual environment engages learners to role play and interact as a unit. The accrual of common interests builds relationships within the PLC. Thus, learning is expanded as a result of discussion and inquiry among peers and professionals. 

Examples of Professional Learning Communities include a group of teachers engaging one another for the purpose of creating a more consistent curriculum, a group of computer instructors collaborating and discussing which software applications to purchase and a team of administrators coming together to support one another with regard to implementing state standards. However, it is important to note that an effective PLC is not limited to grade level or school hierarchy. An effective PLC welcomes a feedback loop between school board officials, system and building administrators, the teaching staff, facilitators, community members, students and other school personal. In other words, PLCs are best exemplified as an attitude of shared leadership and team effort, of trust and cooperation, of open and honest discourse - and debate if and when necessary. A PLC is a bottom up approach rather than a trickle down system in which administrators rule with perceived omniscience.