So I’ve been doing a lot of research of late into the power of Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s), and looking into ways that we can tweak and improve our own current situation with regards to continuous professional learning, which if structured correctly will heavily impact ourselves as learners as well as the learning of our students. The best definition that I’ve found so far which describes the true purpose of a PLC comes from the AllThingsPLC website, which describes them as “an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”
I’m excited about this for our community for sure, but honestly, all this PLC research has driven me to wonder about whether or not there is a place for our students in all of this? I’m thinking about how this structure could be adapted and applied to our kids, and rolled out as a form of Student Learning Communities, or SLC’s…hear me out.
All good schools that I know of are finding creative ways to engage students in the learning experience, and in many ways, allowing them to drive their own learning and personal growth. Good schools also purposefully structure time for teachers and teacher teams to analyze and discuss student data, as well as each individual student as a person and learner. But why not set up a situation where students get a chance to go through the same powerful process? I’d like to set up a structure that allows all students to work together every so often to talk about their learning with their peers, to analyze their own feedback and assessment data, to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, to learn from each other, and to provide important feedback for their teacher or teachers about how they best learn.
Once a cycle or once every week or two, students will get into their student learning community (grade specific or subject specific, or ultimately, passion specific that isn’t tied to grade level bands or subject areas) and collaboratively reflect on the day to day experience of school. They can listen to each other talk about their successes, they can learn from each other, they can teach each other, they can talk about some struggles that they might be having, and when the trust is right, they can share their own assessment data and feedback from teachers to see how and where they might be able to improve.
All of this can be documented and shared with the teacher as feedback for them, to help the educator in the room to better plan a differentiated lesson, to better understand which student needs some extension or some intervention, and to get a much richer idea of what each individual student needs. Of course, during the SLC, a teacher can walk around to each group and engage in the collaborative conversations, getting immediate feedback on how each unit is going, and checking for conceptual understanding. It doesn’t have to be only focused on academics, it can be a wonderful portal into each student’s social and emotional well being. The students could be directed and encouraged to talk about bullying, relationships, their home life if they’re comfortable, and how they feel about themselves as people…these SLC’s could provide incredible insight into each student’s individual experience, and could help individual teachers and schools to dig deep into the most important data of all…the personal perspective and feedback from the kids!
Anyway, these are my initial thoughts on what this might be like, and I’m keen to bring this to life at some point for our community. I’m asking for some feedback from you on what you think…are you doing something like this already with your kids…do you have a structure in place where this is already happening, can you see any reason why this wouldn’t be powerful and realistic, and can you offer up and suggestions how to roll it out initially as a pilot program? Let me know what you think…PLC’s as we all know are incredibly powerful in moving schools forward, so why not bring students into the mix? SLC’s might just be the perfect extension of the PLC model, and a way to get the most important voices into the conversation…the voices of our kids! I’ll be presenting this idea at our regional conference in a few weeks, and I’m excited to discuss it as another way that we can engage our students in their learning…I’ll keep you updated on where it goes. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…
Quote of the Week –
Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t – Bill Nye
TEDTalk – 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation – Celeste Headlee (Please Watch This!)