I came across a new study titled “Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development.”

While the study is focused on teachers, some of the insights can be applied to our Learning Community.  In the study teachers said they would prefer professional development that:

  • Helps them plan and improve their instruction
  • Is teacher-driven
  • Includes hands-on strategies relevant to their classrooms
  • Is sustained over time
  • Recognizes that teachers are professionals with valuable insights

These same points can apply to any community.  Any Community can benefit from learning that:

  • Helps them plan and improve their business
  • Is driven by people in that Community
  • Includes hands-on strategies relevant to their Community
  • Is sustained over time
  • Recognizes that others in the community can have valuable insights

In addition, the study also found that teachers who said they see themselves as members of strong collaborative cultures saw significant benefits in their day-to-day work in key instructional areas, such as planning lessons, developing teaching skills and content, and aligning curriculum and expectations. They reported dramatically higher satisfaction “with day-to-day work,” their “perceived effectiveness,” and “their ability to meet challenges.”

These responses are consistent with other research showing that the best job-embedded professional development occurs when Community members working together, in a structured format, to improve the Community.

A 2009 study by McKinsey & Co. of the world’s best school systems, for example, found that “the expansion of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is indicative of the increased emphasis on teacher collaboration as a powerful means of professional development … professional development that is increasingly collaborative, data-driven, and peer facilitated, all with a focus on classroom practice.”

The same can be said for Learning Communities in General.  Communities can benefit from

  • Professional development that is increasingly collaborative
  • data-driven
  • Peer facilitated
  • With a focus on “Best Practices.”

”Not ‘Just Another Meeting’

What Community members don’t want is “just another meeting.”

What we don’t want is education that simply provides an opportunity to “share their frustrations,” or “a social hour.”

If this is how Community members are actually spending their time when provided with the opportunity to collaborate, there time is being wasted.

A professional learning community is not simply a meeting: It is an ongoing process in which community members work collaboratively in recursive cycles of collective inquiry and action research in order to achieve better results for the entire community.

The Solution

In our Learning Community the process includes the following essential elements:

  • Community Members work in collaborative teams rather than in isolation and take collective responsibility for the learning.
  • Collaborative teams implement viable curriculum, unit by unit.
  • Collaborative teams establish the criteria they will use in assessing Community achievement, apply the criteria consistently, and monitor Community learning through an ongoing assessment process that includes frequent, team-developed common formative assessments.
  • The Community uses the results of common assessments to help one another improve their individual practice; build the team’s capacity to achieve its goals; and identify individuals for intervention and enrichment.
  • The Community provides a systematic process for intervention and enrichment based on the needs of individual Community Members.

Failures of Leadership

A process like that does not emerge by accident. It requires leaders to provide purpose and support for work to be done by collaborative teams and to maintain the groups’ focus on specific goals and initiatives.