Using PLC Time to Support Literacy Instruction
The idea of improving schools by developing professional learning communities (PLCs) has been in vogue since the early 2000’s. Rick DeFour, sometimes referred to as the godfather of PLC, has long noted that some educators use the term PLC to describe any kind of meeting, or as he put it “every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education”.
A group of educators who meet as an effective PLC should actually have a much more specific focus. Their PLC should meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. When we work with schools that provide time for PLC, it becomes a logical and natural opportunity for teachers to support implementation of literacy instruction practices that they have learned from Keys to Literacy professional development. Those skills include comprehension, vocabulary and writing from our various programs.
In a March, 2016 article in Phi Delta Kappan titled “The Futility of PLC Lite”, Rick and Douglas Reeves present excellent suggestions for how to make sure a PLC is properly executed in order to truly improve teaching and learning. They present four questions that should drive the work of collaborative teams in a PLC, and that are “an excellent test for distinguishing between a genuine PLC and a school engaged in PLC Lite”. I have listed them below.
- What do we want students to learn?
- How will we know if they have learned it?
- What will we do if they have not learned it?
- How will we provide extended learning opportunities for students who have mastered it?
What is the “it” in terms of literacy instruction? The answer is any of the comprehension, vocabulary, or writing skills that we want to teach students from Keys to Literacy routines. When specific skills that teachers learn during initial training become the focus of PLC time, it ensures that this time will ultimately improve the skills and knowledge of educators, which in turn results in improved student literacy.
Here are some additional resources to learn more about effective PLCs:
- Best Practices for PLC, Education World
- Professional Learning Communities Still Work If Done Right, Education Week Teacher
- How to Create a PLC, Edutopia
- PLC – A Review of the Literature, Journal of Educational Change