5 Things About PLC You Might Not Have Heard Of

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PLC, or often referred to as Professional Learning Community is the latest in-thing in Malaysian government schools. Its research done overseas has shown significant improvement in the student learning, student achievement and in teachers’ teaching practices. But, has it been the same case in schools in Malaysia, particularly in Sarawak?

When the concept first made its appearance to schools a few years back, not many school administrators took a serious look at it. Many school administrators had no idea why they should buy this new collaborative concept. Then, came School Improvement Specialist Coaches Plus (SISC+) and School Improvement Partners Plus (SIP+) where one of their responsibilities is to promote, cultivate and sow the seeds of PLC in every school with a hope that one day PLC will be embedded in the working culture in schools.

Over this one year period of promoting PLC, there has been mixed reactions from schools towards the implementation of collaborative tools in Professional Learning Community. School administrators were the first to be exposed to the concept and process of implementation, but apparently this message or information was hardly passed down or already filtered with only 50% main points to teachers at the ground level. When asked, teachers either nod their heads to it or shaked their heads to it. Some couldn’t be bothered to say the least.

I’m writing this to describe some essential points behind successful Professional Learning Community. My aim is to pinpoint 5 key principles behind what makes PLC tick in some schools or sometimes that of a particular subject. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding and you can take whatever you think is good and use it with your community in school.

1. School administrators are not the playmakers

Research has shown that shared and supportive leadership are important to the shape successful PLC culture in school. When my team, the SISC+ PPD Selangau first brought all the school administrators together to listen to talks on PLC by experts and master trainers, we couldn’t be more excited. We thought to ourselves,

  • YES, finally we managed to give first-hand information on PLC to them.
  • YES, they will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills with regards to PLC.
  • YES, they now know how to implement it in their schools.

But the outcome is quite the opposite.

My findings showed that while some school administrators or headmasters took charge in leading their school teachers to develop the PLC culture, many gave reasons (or you may call it excuses) of being tied down by other more pressing task and responsibilities. Some claimed to not see any advantages of cultivating PLC.

Having headmasters who know and understand what PLC is and how to do it do not necessary mean that they are going to do it. The point I want to put forward here is that while school leaders or headmasters are important, they are not nearly as important as the subject committee leaders. Where you find school administrator who could not be bothered about PLC (in worst case scenario), the culture of PLC can still be developed and cultivated among the subject teachers. But, how?

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2. Subject committee leader is the commander-in-chief

Yes, you read that right. Subject committee leader, or in BM referred to as Ketua Panitia is the commander-in-chief for the development of PLC in school.

Over the years, I have worked with my subject matter committee leader to promote this culture of professional learning through the process of sharing, inquiring, discussing, reflecting, questioning and consolidating in thinking about the best strategies with regards to effective teaching and learning in the classroom. And the result is, it works!

In many ways, the responsibilities of promoting professional learning lie with the leader of the pack (the subject team group). The leader is the one who creates a safe environment for every member to collaborate and discuss issues. The leader is the one who plays the role as a mediator who acts as an intermediate agent to take in opinions from different perspectives to find common ground on issues. The leader is the one who gives equal opportunities to each member to voice their opinions. And, the leader is the one who believes in his team members that their team is capable of bringing about positive change in student learning and performance.

IMG_35703. PLC requires passion and professionalism

When we are talking about developing professional development, passion is the key. Wikipedia describes passion as an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something. Passion is what keeps us doing what we are doing. When we are passionate about teaching, we want to keep on learning new things. We open our minds to the world and to the views of other teachers of unlimited teaching strategies, imagination and creative ideas.

Professionalism can be broken down into three components under two acronyms: ASK and SAT.

A – Attitude: have an open mind to continually accept and challenge new ideas.

S – Skill: have the ability to carry out a task effectively and efficiently with pre-determined results.

K – Knowledge: an acquisition of facts, information and understanding through experience, learning and discovery.

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S – Skill: have the ability to carry out a task effectively and efficiently with pre-determined results.

A – Attitude: have an open mind to continually accept and challenge new ideas.

T – Training: have the ability to keep putting the theory into practice, applying and practising the learned skill and knowledge.

IMG_1796 c4. It’s all about our KIDS, our STUDENTS

Kids are the reason why we do PLC. It is the core principle of us trying to work collaboratively to improve our own teaching practices – to ensure that our kids learn.

However, this is often not the case. Many teachers have been trapped by dogma – which is experienced teachers cannot be questioned and beginning teachers cannot question the experienced.

At the end of the day, a result of sharing and discussions through Lesson Study, Peer Coaching, Teacher Sharing Session, Video Critique, Book Club and Learning Walks is that we are looking at what truly works for our kids, what our kids have enjoyed, what make them tick, NOT how well we can teach, not how many activities we have given, not how many sheets of exercises we can give them.

PLC is not about looking at the teacher’s teaching, but students’ learning as a result of teacher’s effective instruction.

IMG_3320 c5. Enjoy the journey of personal development

I might have said this before, but I’m going to say it again. PLC is about personal growth development. It’s about developing ourselves to become better educators and informed teachers.

While the road to heaven is still far from the sight, we can use this opportunity on earth now to continually equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to improve classroom practices. Through collaboration and deep team thinking learning, we can in fact release ourselves free from stress and frustration, especially those stem from our kids and our teaching instructions.

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Reflecting on this process of going through introduction and implementation of PLC around schools, I am glad to see many positive changes in the teachers’ attitudes. Many are now willing to speak up on their issues concerning their classroom. I am proud of some schools administrators who find the time to encourage and to support their teachers to do PLC collectively.

So far, many schools’ commander-in-chief have crafted plans on when to the next cycle of Lesson Study. I couldn’t be more proud of them – to see their kids getting the benefit from this collaborative tool. I believe this whole thing about PLC has transformed the way we think and the way we teach, and I will continue to sell it. Once it has become a culture in school, the school will move forward and academic result will change positively.

These are my thoughts. Have your say in the comment box below!

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