Do-it-yourself PLC

During convocation at the end of August our district administrators kept saying “we are a Community of Practice.” The phrase must  have been bandied about over a dozen times. With no clue as to what they were talking about, I let it slide, and looked forward to actually getting into my corner of the classroom to finish setting up.

Less than a month later, behold! The topic for class this week is none other than Communities of Practice. Turns out, I did have a clue what the phrase meant – I knew CoPs as PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). While their origins and implementations are slightly different, in the end CoPs and PLCs are a group of people come together to learn from each other. Sharing ideas, getting feedback and self-reflection are enhanced when you can view teaching through a different set of eyes. If you enter collaboration with the goal to serve your students and look – honestly – at your teaching, you will find the new ideas and support you need to improve (Graham, 2007, p. 10).

PLCs can bring about wonderful changes. That is, if you are given the chance to participate in one. Interventionists in my school are not given the time to meet and collaborate. Knowing from past experience that reviewing data and adjusting instruction in a group has benefited me greatly, I’ve had to make my own “PLC”. Since we aren’t given any common planning time, we’re often catching each other in the hallways or in each others’ “cubicles” between groups. Even at this incredibly informal level, collaboration makes a huge difference.

Read More from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Starry Raston, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

It is this collaboration that I hope to bring to the learning activity of my final project. I work with the big kiddos in my school, grades 3-6, and the one thing they all have in common is excitement about books they love. I’m proposing a blog, set up and run by the oldest students and me, where anyone of my kiddos can share the books they love with the whole school – and the world. Whether they want to write, video, create a slide show or podcast, they can broadcast to their teachers, families and peers that they are readers. And, with the specter of world-wide readership, I hope to push the quality of their thinking and writing farther than it’s ever been pushed (Bonk, 2009, p. 331).

It occurred to me that this blog is a kid-sized CoP – people read and contribute to share their knowledge of books and create a culture infused with reading. Could you implement a CoP with the learners (students, employees) in your context? What would it look like? What benefits would it reap?

Adams, C. (2009, August). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119(1), 28-31.

Bonk, C.J. (2009) The world is open – How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Graham, P. (2007). Improving teacher effectiveness through structured collaboration: A case study of a professional learning community. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 31(1), 1-17.

The big find for this post is Wylio! Wylio is an image search engine that helps you use and cite Creative Commons licensed images. There is a 15 day free trial, and after that you can choose the free account or pay a $36 subscription fee (subscribers have citations done automatically – maybe it will be worth the cost?).



2 thoughts on “Do-it-yourself PLC

  1. Communities of Practice are social structures that are used to acquire new skills or knowledge. It is important in any context that people work together to share ideas. Working in higher education, it is imperative for the members of the college community to work together. In my office, we use a shared file on our departmental drive to house all of our operational files. This is very beneficial because it is a storage unit for the department and reassurance, the department has access to the same information. This is a great way to build on ideas and collaborate on documents that are in need of more work.


  2. At Becker, departments meet regularly to discuss student outcomes and assessment efforts. Although some departments are small — some no more than three full-time faculty — everyone knows they have valuable information to share with their group. It is somewhat difficult to get a group of faculty together who are working with the same student, since most students take courses across disciplines, but large-group meetings are held, where faculty can work on common themes, such as integration of critical thinking, reading, and writing in all syllabi campus-wide. As a result, students get the same message about requirements and outcomes from every class at their grade level, whether it’s English Composition or U.S. History. Your learning activity sounds like a great way to get the students in your class interested in reading, and you are right about something posted on the web for all the world to see — the quality goes up!


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