Professional Learning Communities
OKAY – What’s this all about?
A “Professional Learning Community” is a concept that was developed by Richard DuFour, a former high school principal. In his high school, staff members focused on a shared mission, teamwork, continuous improvement and results orientation. This was an environment where staff worked together to analyze student progress towards knowing and understanding program of study outcomes. By taking the time to analyze student performance, teachers were better able to meet the needs of students in their effort to learn their grade level outcomes.
In 2003, Alberta’s Commission on Learning released a report with recommendations for improving student learning in Alberta. Recommendation #13 states:
“Require every school to operate as a professional learning community dedicated to continuous improvement in students’ achievement.”
Lakeland Catholic School District did extensive research in this area and then proceeded to implement this government recommendation. A team of leaders went to Rick DuFour’s High School and received professional development on the why’s, who’s, how’s, when’s and where’s of creating PLC’s. It was clear PLC’s were not a passing fad so Professional Learning Communities were formed in all Lakeland Catholic schools, Rick DuFour was invited to the District to speak to all teachers and our journey to school improvement began. Alberta Education sets the direction for education and Lakeland Catholic ensures, through intentional practice, that these recommendations are fully implemented to serve students and our community.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q-Won’t the loss of instructional time be an issue?
R-Grade 1 – 4 students in Alberta are required to receive 950 hours of instruction a year. Students at NDE receive 967 hours of instruction.
Q-Don’t teachers already have planning time?
R-Yes, they have planning time for things like phone calls to parents, preparing lesson materials, scheduling field trips, meeting with students, writing newsletters … PLC’s allow teachers critical time to truly focus on addressing individual student learning needs, to share best practices, and develop strategies to improve the learning of all students.
Q-What about child care on early dismissal days?
We offer Out of School Care in our school We know how important quality education and continued improvement is to the parents at Notre Dame Elementary. This is an effort to improve the overall quality of your child’s education.
Q-Do PLC’s replace Professional Development?
R-Staff at NDE engages in both PLC’s and Professional Development. PD is typically content focused where the teacher engages in the session as a learner whereas a Professional Learning Community provides an opportunity for teachers to engage in critical conversations about student Learning. Teachers “use” the information learned through PD to inform their instructional practices and ensure all students learn the essential outcomes they need to know to be successful in their learning. The teacher also brings ideas and strategies learned through PD, to their PLC where they discuss and plan implementation of these “best practices” in their classrooms. It is this “critical collaborative time” that helps teachers continuously improve their instruction and ultimately student learning. Both are important learning opportunities but the PLC is where the critical work of refining instructional practice to improve student learning is accomplished.