As we enter the 2012-13 school year, I am strengthening my commitment to be a learning leader. This will be a year of many transitions for us: we are preparing to teach Common Core Standards, planning to integrate assessments of learning that will be more performance-based, and pushing ourselves to think about ways to further integrate technology and 21st century skills into our classrooms. It seems like the perfect time to recommit! What I know is if we want to make meaningful, positive change in South Bay... we all need to be learners, and we all need to be leaders.
One of the steps I have taken on my own learning journey is to revisit Rick DuFour's work on Professional Learning Communities. I believe very strongly in the power of collaboration and have witnessed the significant impact a highly effective PLC can have on student learning and on adult satisfaction with their work. In revisiting Du Four's book Learning by Doing, I was reminded of the essential elements that transform good teams of educators into great ones:
1. Great teams focus on learning for all. "The very essence of a learning community is a focus on and a commitment to high levels of learning for each student." They gather and share relevant information about each child's learning, and they provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive extra time and support for learning when they struggle. They also extend and enrich learning when students have already mastered the intended learning outcomes.
2. Great teams create a collaborative culture with a focus on learning for all. "It is difficult to overstate the importance of collaborative teams in the improvement process. It is even more important however, to emphasize that collaboration does not lead to improved student learning unless people are focused on the right issues."
3. Great teams take action and learn by doing. "Members of PLCs are action oriented: they move quickly to turn aspirations into action and visions into reality."
4. Great teams engage in collective inquiry into best practice and current reality. "Working together to build shared knowledge on the best way to achieve goals and meet the needs of clients is exactly what professionals in any field are expected to do whether it is curing a patient, winning the lawsuit or helping all students learn."
5. Great teams commit to continuous improvement. "Inherent to a PLC are a persistent disquiet with the status quo and a constant search for a better way to achieve goals and accomplish the purpose of the organization." Great teams create conditions for risk-taking, innovation, and perpetual learning.
6. Great teams are results-oriented. "Members of a PLC realize that all of their efforts in these areas - a focus on learning, collaborative teams, collective inquiry, action-orientation, and continuous improvement - must be assessed on the basis of results rather than intentions."
As I reviewed these six elements of powerful teams, I was reminded that one of our Board adopted priorities for our work together in South Bay is to develop and support highly effective team-based and grade-level professional learning communities with a focus on learning for all. As we begin our journey together this year, I encourage all of us to reflect on the work that each of us does when we get together in our teams and ask ourselves: Are we a good team or are we a great team? I am committed to being a learner and a leader of this work.
For anyone interested in accessing articles, research, tools, and resources to help make good teams great visit the "All Things PLC website at http://allthingsplc.info/