Academic Playbook : Professional Learning Communities

What's Next on Your PLC Journey?

The PLC Journey can transform a school into the most positive, collaborative culture where teachers and students collectively ensure more learning for all. It takes time and doesn't happen in one year. It is a continuous journey of learning that never ends, so do the best you can as you move forward. Please take these steps as a guide and reach out to others for assistance. We are in this TOGETHER!

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Clarity and Understanding

First, there are some misconceptions about what the term PLC: Professional Learning Community truly means. PLC IS NOT a meeting. It is the culture, who we are...a way of being. Please help spread this message across our state to solidify a firm foundation and continue the mission of the late Dr. Rick and Becky DuFour.

Guiding Coalition

Do you have a Guiding Coalition to help lead the work? How will the Guiding Coalition support the teams and students? With school "looking different" upon returning, how will the guiding coalition support the changes to ensure high levels of learning for all?

The Why

Have you communicated "the why" for PLC at Work to all stakeholders? Many schools have struggled with the PLC Process because they begin with "the what and how" before building their "why". Why are we getting up and coming to work? Why are we so passionate about kids? Let's help others discover their "why"! (The work is an inspiring, empowering, recurring cycle of collective inquiry and action research to ensure more learning for ALL learners.) Another benefit of this empowering process is that educators find it to be some of the most rewarding. Educators already work HARD, so let's work hard on the RIGHT WORK!

Three Big IdeasFour Critical Questions
  1. Focus on Learning
  2. Focus on Collaboration
  3. Focus on Results
  1. What do we want our students to learn?
  2. How will we know if they learned it?
  3. What do we do if they don't learn it?
  4. What do we do if they do learn it?

Mission, Vision, Collective Commitments

Has your school collectively created a mission, vision, and collective commitments? Are these directly tied to student learning? Are they shown in your daily actions? The best mission statements are short and to the point so they become ingrained in the minds of our school community. If your team has already created collective commitments, it will be wise to revisit them in upcoming professional development to ensure distance learning commitments have been included.

Collaborative Team Time

Is there collaborative team time, of at least one hour a week, built into the master schedule? Is this time protected from interruptions? Are the meetings focused on the 3 big ideas and the 4 critical questions from the chart above? The teams with the best improvement bring student work to the table each week to use in discussion. How will your team continue this process through distance learning?

Meeting Norms

Have your collaborative teams co-created their norms for communication to ensure the focus is on learning? Distance learning may require norms to be revisited.

Guaranteed Viable Curriculum

Focus on Critical Questions #1 and #2-Is there a guaranteed and viable curriculum-essential standards by grade? Are they unpacked and aligned? What assessments will be used to guide the work? How will you know if students have achieved mastery?

Bob Marzano and Douglas Reeves have shared that a guaranteed and viable curriculum will only exist if teachers study and identify essential learning and create a system that guarantees every child will master those standards through Tier 2 and Tier 3 support.

The guaranteed and viable curriculum should also include the essential behaviors to support students to be successful with academic standards. These include: self monitoring, verbal and physical interactions, appropriate language, respect for property and materials, ability for independent focus, attendance, etc. Many schools already have character education programs so it is just collectively determining common essential language for behavior so everyone is on the same page and then planning a system for accountability of essential behaviors.

Unit Plans

How will you use the Unit Plan template moving forward? Please note, this template takes time to create so enjoy the journey of a continuous cycle of improvement. Find one or two items to work on at a time and make the document your own. For example, after essential standards are determined, a team could work on creating student-friendly learning targets. It is tempting for teams to take a unit plan from another school and try to use it, but the beauty of the work is the shared teacher autonomy in their own teams.

Common Formative Assessments (CFAs)

Remember, assessments should be a tool to give students HOPE. They should motivate them to want to achieve more. CFAs are the linchpin to the entire PLC process. We learn that when common assessments are implemented, results are transparent, and best practices are reviewed, then student achievement will soar. (CSAs-Common Summative Assessments will be the "check' for mastery at the end of the units.) CFAs are for unpacking standards to help guide instruction, and CSAs are for repacking standards to check for mastery. For schools who have already created CFAs/CSAs, it is always best practice to check the rigor and alignment of the assessments.


Focus on Critical Questions #3 & #4-Is there a system of school-wide intervention/enrichment built into the weekly schedule outside of core instruction time? How will you ensure students will receive Tier 3 intervention in addition to Tier 2?

RTI Team

How will the RTI Team support the teams to ensure that all students have the time, access, and support they need for essential learning? What will be the plan for a systems approach for monitoring student learning?


How will you celebrate all wins, large and small, to continually remind staff of the purpose and priorities? This is SO IMPORTANT!

1. State the purpose of the celebration
2. Everyone's responsibility
3. Clear understanding between recognition and the behavior/commitment you are attempting to encourage
4. Create opportunities for multiple winners

Collaboration With Others

How will schools continue to collaborate with other schools this year? Please reach out to any of the teachers or administrators listed in the "Playbook", and they would be happy to help you. Also, the allthingsplc site listed below has information and examples from schools all across the nation. Go to the "See the Evidence" tab and choose PLC Locator. From there, you can click on any state and then select individual schools.

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