IMS is excited to announce the launch of a pilot set of Math Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for the 2018-19 school year! Funded through a generous grant from the Hocker Foundation, IMS has established one PLC for teachers in each grade from Pre-K to Grade 5. The PLC pilot will allow IMS to tap into our large network of 15 schools to increase opportunities for collaboration and help combat the feelings of professional isolation that teachers often experience.
So what exactly is a PLC? Shirley Hord, an expert on educational administration, coined what is perhaps the most succinct definition of a PLC: “Professionals coming together in a group—a community—to learn.” The success of PLCs depends on the well-known idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that teams of individuals with diverse backgrounds can problem-solve and share strategies far more effectively than individuals (or groups) with similar background knowledge.
PLCs are not new, in fact they are increasingly common features of the U.S. educational landscape. One key element of PLC-related work is identifying and addressing “problems of practice”. Problems of practice are common challenges that all members of the PLC face, that are connected to a core aspect of students’ learning. For example, elementary school teachers in a PLC might discuss how to use data and resources to help students understand fractions more deeply.
In our PLC pilot at IMS, each PLC “team” consists of 5-7 teachers of a given grade from different IMS schools, along with a lead-teacher who serves as Facilitator and an Assistant Principal or Principal. PLCs will meet monthly throughout the school year. Participating teachers were nominated by school leaders, fellow teachers, and the IMS Central Office on the basis of their interest in professional growth and promise as models in their schools. The focus is on asking the question, as professionals do, “How can we improve?”
Our first round of cross-school PLC meetings were in November. Teachers engaged in an icebreaker, established norms, and began identifying a problem of practice to explore. Future meetings, supported by the IMS Central Office, will incorporate video, research articles, exemplar activities, and, of course, careful study of the resources available in Eureka Math. PLC members will hone their use of these tools by looking at a variety of sources of data.
As Catholic institutions that embrace values related to community, mutual respect, and support, IMS is the perfect site for engaging in a program of PLCs. Participants are encouraged to broaden this pilot effort by sharing the resources and details of conversations with colleagues in their home schools. In addition, the network-based IMS PLCs serve as a complement to collaboration already taking place in schools during bi-weekly cross-grade planning meetings.
We are grateful to the Hocker Foundation for investing in this PLC work, and we are excited about the journey we are embarking upon together.