Ask yourself this question–as a school leader, as a teacher. In fact, ask your students this question! If you are like one of the thousands of schools across North America and around the world who has went through the process of gaining consensus from educators and approvals from parents, district officials and board members to create embedded time within the school day for educators to collaborate over the last several years, one a scale of one to five (five being highly impactful), how might you rate the impact of your collaborative time?
It’s an interesting question, and from our experiences working with schools across North America (and my own experience as a former high school principal of a model PLC school) the responses to this question on from teachers have largely been in the ‘twos’ and ‘threes’ on the five scale, depending on whether their school or district leaders were in the room. However, when we ask educators the same question using the PLC 2.0 definition of OBSERVABLE impact, which is ‘observable changes in teacher practice in the classroom as a result of collaboration that lead to improved student outcomes’, the self-assessment of their collaborative efforts by those very same educators tends to drop significantly.
Despite the best intentions of our educators and their efforts with their peers and their students, we began to hear things during our PLC time from our collaborative teams such as:
- “Every outcome is important—they’re all essential!”
- “This might work for departments like English or Math, but I am the only Spanish teacher—who do I collaborate with?”
- “It’s hard to keep people focused during collaboration.”
- “Some of our teams are working ok, but others…well, not so much.”
- “Getting ready to lead collaboration time feels like another prep.”
- “Can I collaborate by myself?”
Do any of these sound familiar to you? If so, you would not be alone! In “Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development,” hundreds of teachers were asked, “Overall, how would you rate your satisfaction with the PD offered to teachers in your school district/school?” Of seven factors, including things such as courses, conferences, and coaching, participating in a professional learning community was rated the lowest in teacher satisfaction by a significant margin! The report went on to state, “Professional development formats strongly supported by district leadership and principals, such as professional learning communities and coaching, are currently not meeting teachers’ needs.”
This does not mean that collaborative time is not important (if not essential!) to the process of improving our practices in the classroom to prepare students for life beyond the K-12 system: the research on teacher collaboration is clear. However, the PRACTICE of teachers collaborating has been much cloudier, and when it comes to impact, hard-working and busy educators are often left to wonder whether the return on their collaborative efforts has come out on the positive side of the ledger. This is why PLC 2.0 has been created–to help educators see the observable impact of their collaborative efforts.
PLC 2.0 Collaborating for Observable Impact and the PLC 2.0 Toolkit
In PLC 2.0 Collaborating for Observable Impact and the PLC 2.0 Toolkit, educators will find tools and collaborative team protocols that make the precious collaborative time that we get to spend with our colleagues and community members as meaningful and impactful as possible
that have been created to be interactive, step-by-step ‘mini-workshops’ to make the products of collaboration time visible, and to make the process of collaboration varied and (gasp!) enjoyable! Being a teacher is hard work, and collaboration is not something we should dread—collaborative teams should look forward to working together on things that matter to their classrooms. Furthermore, many of the activities in the protocols are ones that teachers can easily adapt to use in their classrooms to make the products of student learning visible. Why shouldn’t we walk away from a collaborative meetings with things that we can actually use?
In PLC 2.0, the measure of success for teacher collaboration is NOT to be a professional learning community–it’s OBSERVABLE IMPACT. The time we spend working together to improve practice needs to lead to visible changes in what students and teachers are doing and demonstrating and the types of activities and assessments that take place in the classroom. Period.
PLC 2.0 is a process that is designed to help educators create a vision of the learning that they want in their classrooms for their students and to then use tools and protocols to make that vision observable for all learners. PLC 2.0 helps teachers, school administrators and district leaders answer six guiding questions in THEIR context. These guiding questions of PLC 2.0 are:
- What’s our co-created vision of a learner?
- What’s our evidence-based reality?
- What’s our learning?
- What’s our action and observable impact?
- What’s our reflection?
- What’s our customized support?
A key message for PLC 2.0 is “Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be!”. The PLC 2.0 approach has multiple entry points. If your district has a vision of a learner–great! How can we make this vision observable in our students, our educators, and our activities and assessments. Your school already has a professional learning plan for the year to guide educator learning? Fantastic! Use the tools in the PLC 2.0 Toolkit to determine whether your professional learning is having the level of impact in the classroom that you and your team is hoping for. There is no wrong place to start in the PLC 2.0 model, because each district, school, department and teacher is at a different spot when it comes to making observable impact in the classroom.
PLC 2.0 is all about connecting educator actions to the impact they have on students in the classroom so that teachers know that their collective actions make a difference to student learning. And we know that teachers believing that their collective efforts make a positive difference to student learning regardless of the students that they teach (AKA. collective teacher efficacy) has the highest effect size for student achievement of ANY factor that contributes to student success! As Jenni Donohoo, author and world thought leader on collective teacher efficacy said:
“Collective efficacy is strengthened when teams see the result of their combined efforts, and they will do so by engaging in the PLC 2.0 process. PLC 2.0 is the impetus needed to collectively move PLCs to observable impact.”
So if you would like to answer the question “What is the observable impact of our collaborative efforts?” and help connect your educators’ actions to impact in the classroom, check out PLC 2.0 – Collaborating for Observable Impact in Today’s Schools and the PLC 2.0 Toolkit.
“Action” means we did it. “Impact” means it mattered.
Cale Birk, PLC 2.0 Imagineer and Vice-President of FIRST Educational Resources
*Purchase 10 copies of the PLC 2.0 Bundle for your school and receive all of the tools in interactive form via Fillable PDFs and Word Documents