I have done some extensive research on the topic of professional learning communities (PLCs). Specifically, my dissertation topic was, Professional Learning Communities and the Effectiveness of the Teams within those Communities, where data was collected from 51 middle school principals and approximately 1,500 teachers.
This data strongly suggested that schools striving to become PLCs must focus on building effective teams—specifically Dr. Harvey and Dr. Drolet’s 17 Characteristics of Effective Teams, which can be found in the book, Building Teams, Building People.
Think about it: If you want a collaborative culture where teams are working effectively and interdependently towards a common goal, you cannot have dysfunctional teams running rampant throughout the school.
The problem lies in the fact that far too many leaders are stating, “We are a PLC school. We are a PLC team. We are going to a PLC meeting.” This is, unfortunately, giving those less understanding of the concept the impression that this is the latest fad in education. It is a school culture—not a program!
With my post-graduate studies, the data that emerged from my dissertation, and my experiences in opening of a new school, I pinpointed four cornerstone pieces that must be in place before a PLC truly can. They are:
- The leader must stray from the tradition, autocratic approach and become skilled in inclusive processes.
- The staff must come together and develop explicit protocols that steer the staff in communication, decision-making, and interpersonal relationships.
- The leader must tap into each staff members values and beliefs to co-create a shared purpose.
- Team leaders must become better skilled and prepared to build effective teams.
If these four pieces are not in place, the school culture known as the PLC will never become a reality.
Perry Wiseman, author, Strong Schools, Strong Leaders: What matter most in times of change