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Implementing Change Through Professional Development

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Tommy Sickels

Implementing Change through Professional Development

July 11, 2012

As an assignment to reorganize this learning organization to be a more professional learning community there will be numerous suggestions submitted that will make this change happen. Even though these changes will cause a great deal of pain and discomfort in some, overall the goals of this plan are to move the organization to the next level and make us a more acceptable educational institution. Hopefully, this will strengthen our capacity and we will be able to grow substantially because of these changes. As you may or may not know, the basis of many of these changes will be taken from suggestions made from the work of DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker’s research which has taken many years of research and development. These suggestions will serve as the framework into our new future and will serve us for years to come.

The Professional Learning Communities (PLC) concept

As a development design the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) concept will be employed as the foundation to the schools reorganization. How does and what exactly is PLC as it relates to reorganization will be described as follows: In order to better understand PLC a clearer view of learning organizations will assist in this process. Learning organizations are united by a shared vision of student and staff learning together. They have common values of respect, along with a caring and shared value system. These types of school communities are known as learner-centered oriented and are committed to constant improvement in the educational process. In these types of school communities the benchmark of a successful learning organization is that educators are constantly learning together in order to produce the results they planned to achieve. In this case educators are committed to working together by the use of processes, and problem solving techniques. Their ability to practice their craft in a professional manner is considered a PLC, professional learning community. (DuFour, 2006)

A professional learning community is a team or group of teams working interdependently to attain a general goal that members grasp themselves mutually responsible toward. (Dufour, 2006) Teams are the primary foundation of professional learning communities. PLC is considered effective, high functioning teams that frequently engage in teamwork through job related opportunities that help build upon and expand shared knowledge of many of the team members. Collaboration is an organized process in which educators work together in order to study the impact of what their educational practice has revealed in a manner to advance student learning. (DuFour, 2006)
Within a PLC, collaboration concentrates very important pieces of the process to include; issues teachers must know in order to be able to maintain the learning process. Ability to understand students have learned a concept. The crucial lessons a student should know. Interventions needed when students cannot learn a concept. Professional learning concepts needed to engage learning. In order for PLC to be successful there must be collaboration in learning teams, teachers, administrators and all stakeholders within the system. Teaching teams that support collaboration employ collective inquiry in their daily performance by doing the following; evaluating student performance, evaluating student progress based on data, developing and evaluating meaningful lessons, prioritizing strategies that facilitate learning and by developing common sense measures to evaluate student progress. Learning teams can engage in collaborative thinking with other educators within and across school boundaries. There may also be a variety or virtual networks that can expand the learning team’s ability and enhance instructional materials. (DuFour, 2006)

Although there is overwhelming evidence showing that working in a collaborative environment provides the best possible chances there are teachers in many districts continue to work alone. In school systems where collaboration is authorized by administrators, faculty still has reservations and the willingness goes no further than talk. Very few teachers will admit that working in isolation provides the best opportunity for schools to improve. These teachers make-up excuses why they fail to work together, they would rather say things like, “we don’t have the time.” Or, “It’s impossible for us to get together on these issues.” (DuFour, 2006) In order for significant collaboration to occur a few things must occur. Schools must be realistic when it comes to implementing new programs and policies. Pretending that new standards set by state law or school board policy will not guarantee students will be successful in curriculum standards nor will they have the same access to common curriculum issues.
Important Issues to Consider In a Professional Learning Community Having action where employees are actively engaged in hands-on authentic exercises provides an excellent way to show commitment. The primary step is to develop the school systems staff’s ability to act as a PLC and to recommend strategies that would assist educators. Members of a PLC create and are guided by a vision of what the organization must develop into. PLCs are teams that collaborate and work together as teams to achieve goals is required. Commonly these teams are action oriented and they are engaged in a continuous series of: applying new standards and knowledge, evaluating the significance of change, put into practice ideas and strategies, develop strengths and weaknesses based on varying strategies and collecting proof of students learning levels. (DuFour, 2006)

A good plan consists of a clear meaning with a purpose and mission statement with the full commitment of staff and all stake holders. The following is a plan that will enable the implementation of a PLC plan. The plan must be implemented quickly. There must not be huge time delays. Suggested changes will not occur until such point employers begin to do things differently. Share knowledge when making decisions. Interpret the schools goals and vision to a view point that can be taught. Keep things simple and not confusing. Develop value statements as behaviors which is something that is not concrete. What the teacher, administrator or leader does is what matters, it is not what it is called. (DuFour, 2006) There must be a clear development of the students focus on learning. This signifies exactly what students are to learn. School officials must be able to answer the following questions; what do we want our students to learn? And, how will we know when they learn it? This will be accomplished through assessments based on state curriculum standards. Students will be prepared to demonstrate their proficiency on state or national assessments. This is because students are learning through common assessments by aligning curriculum standards with the grade level. (DuFour, 2006) A plan to compensate students who do not learn is an essential element to the PLC. During the implementation of the PLC, interventions must be available for students to ensure they will receive extra time in learning a subject when they are experiencing learning difficulties. Students will be ensured they can receive support regardless of who they are, and who their teachers are. Additionally, the help will come from a variety of sources outside the classroom to assist the teacher. Interventions will work, but it is best when supported by learning teams and not independent teachers. It is important to point out that not all students learn at the same level. There must be a plan for those students who don’t learn in a timely manner. (DuFour, 2006) An important element to the PLC is the collaborative workplace culture. All staff members will be instructed about the pitfalls of accomplishing the goals of high performance learning levels. Collaboration must concentrate on proper things; this is a fundamental element of building the PLC. It is important team structures are developed because there is collaboration between teachers. School administrators should allow for classroom preparation, group activities and a variety of shared events with other faculty members. (DuFour, 2006) Improving the results of student’s performance by using appropriate information is done by providing feedback to teachers. This can turn data into information which can improve teaching and learning through team-developed formative assessments. Teachers in a PLC environment must ensure the following; they receive timely feedback on the performance of students, agreed upon proficiency standards are established, there is a comparison evaluation of students trying to meet the same standards. These elements are essential to the manner in which a PLC is maintained. (DuFour, 2006)
Developing Professional Learning Communities In developing a PLC an understanding that change does not come overnight, it comes incrementally. The next step is to move away from how things were done. This requires removing existing paradigms and requires learning new knowledge and skills. Transforming schools into PLCs requires a higher level of change. This change can create problems. This can change everything in the organization, including everyone within it, and causes a departure from what was familiar. (DuFour, 2006) When changes of this nature occur it brings about a response that is usually not positive, but has more feeling. Typically, when changes of this nature occur people react defensively or assumptions made. Results of this nature bring about challenges to competence levels. It can also bring about confusion as to why these changes were implemented. This level of change can cause resentment and conflict among employees. It is important to understand the need for effective leadership from the principal on down. There must not be any indifference within the organization otherwise the plan will have great difficulties. A plan of this level cannot be optional, it must be a mandate. Concentrate on the why of change, and then move on the how. Align your action with meaningful words, not rhetoric. Leaders will establish individual credibility more willingly by what they do as compared to what they say. (DuFour, 2006) On implementation, be flexible yet firm on the real meaning of the change initiative. Advise leaders to be willing to listen and to adapt to change. When developing a coalition of leaders recruit partners with a broad range of experience. Pick leaders with high levels of credibility that possess real leadership skills. Leadership is not a solo act, never think otherwise. Leaders will often celebrate their efforts, ability to learn, and progress they have made, even when things don’t go well. (DuFour, 2006)


DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning

communities at work: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN:

Solution Tree.

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