In districts across Texas, teams of educators are working to provide opportunities for profound learning for all of their students. Aligned to the Vision, the clarity and focus that accompanies educator collaboration within Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) is a valuable asset that positively impacts teaching and learning.
Previously, teacher practice was largely an individual effort, completed independently without the support of others. In the collaborative culture of a Professional Learning Community, though, teachers learn from one another, contribute to the learning experience of all students, and practice a shared accountability for one another.
In order to operate as a healthy, productive Professional Learning Community, a certain skill set is required and its value should not be overlooked. Beyond establishing collective commitments and writing goals, teams must define roles and responsibilities as well as prepare to work through conflict. The time and effort necessary to establish these skills is an investment in order to prepare to operate efficiently and effectively for the good of the students.
We cannot work toward perfection, or 100% agreement, on every decision made within a team. Rather, we work toward consensus. First, though, the team must come to consensus about consensus. One method is to use the fist to five strategy. That is, a fist represents the level 0, one finger represents level 1, and so on.
Level 0: If allowed, I would strike this proposal regardless of the will of the group.
Level 1: I am opposed to this proposal.
Level 2: I have reservations and am not ready to move forward with this proposal.
Level 3: I am okay with this proposal. I am willing to support it, if needed.
Level 4: I strongly support this proposal.
Level 5: I will champion this proposal to others.
The team must recognize that consensus must look like all members expressing level 3 and above. Without this consensus, the collaborative culture may be compromised.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to share more tools to support the work of teachers as members of professional learning communities and the potential outcome: high levels of learning for all students.
More information about supporting professional learning communities can be found here:
- Amplify Your Impact: Coaching collaborative teams in PLCs at work by Many, Maffoni, Sparks, and Thomas
- Learning by Doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many, Mattos