It has seemed to me as I have attended training on PLC’s and have listened and tried to understand how to apply the principles, that understanding the distinction between teaching and learning is crucial. If I plan a professional development event and teachers attend to learn teaching strategies, are they learning to teach better or are they learning to help their students learn better? I have slowly understood the difference, but can’t say I can grasp it totally. At first I thought it was a state of mind, but now I realize that is more than that. It seems to be how we approach our students. Do we react to them and change our methods and processes based on how they are learning, or do we boldly and continually teach the same concepts in the same way and get similar results every time. I believe I am a good teacher. Does that mean I can ever be satisfied with my performance? I say nay. A good teacher is more concerned about student outcomes than his or her performance. Are the students learning? A good teacher is also open to hear what other teachers are doing. It is only the arrogant who think they have all the answers no matter how good they are.
Richard Dufour in 2004 stated:
“To create a professional learning community, focus on learning rather than on teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results.” (Richard Dufour, 2004)
He has also said:
In Hot Pursuit of the Wrong Questions
Eventually, after years as a principal, I realized that even though my efforts had been well intentioned—and even though I had devoted countless hours each school year to those efforts—I had been focusing on the wrong questions. I had focused on the questions, What are the teachers teaching? and How can I help them to teach it more effectively? Instead, my efforts should have been driven by the questions, To what extent are the students learning the intended outcomes of each course? and What steps can I take to give both students and teachers the additional time and support they need to improve learning?
This shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning is more than semantics. When learning becomes the preoccupation of the school, when all the school’s educators examine the efforts and initiatives of the school through the lens of their impact on learning, the structure and culture of the school begin to change in substantive ways. … teachers and students benefit when principals function as learning leaders rather than instructional leaders.
Richard Dufour (2002)
Let’s take the words of Dufour and apply them to our classes for a moment.
When learning becomes the preoccupation of the class, when the teacher examines the curriculum through the lens of its impact on learning, the structure and culture of the class begins to change in substantive ways. Teachers and students benefit when they function as learning leaders rather than instructional leaders.
Below is a chart I created that might help us see the difference between a teacher who is focusing on teaching and one who is focusing on learning.
|Instructional Presentations and Practice
|Instructional Presentations and Practice
|What Students Do with New Information
A Professional Learning Community or PLC has been defined in several different ways by several different people. The name may lead people to misunderstand what an effective PLC really is. Is it just a group of professionals sitting around and talking? Certainly you can call that a PLC if you wish, but the purpose of this effort at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education is more aligned with what K-12 programs have done for years. It is a collaborative effort and process to improve “learning” by bringing the isolated teacher into a community, discussing strategies, unwrapping standards, and developing techniques based on classroom data that is also generated by the faculty.
The idea is to help teachers be part of the development of the curriculum and instructional practices where they have more of a stake in the outcomes. This process in itself is professional development and leads to additional professional development. To read more about Professional Learning Communities in K-12 programs, consider purchasing Building a Professional Learning Community at Work by Parry Graham and William M. Ferriter.
We at SAC SCE have just started an official Professional Learning Community . Our program is so large and so set in its processes and policies that first we had to study and review data related to PLC’s. In our community we have been discussing and testing some of the techniques that Richard Dufour has introduced. Richard Dufour is one of the pioneers of this movement in K-12. We are also following the efforts of programs that are currently establishing PLC’s in similar programs and we are seeking training from CALPRO as well.