“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson
This quote is particularly relevant in the field of education, and can be applied through the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLC is the general term used for a group of educators who meet regularly to discuss and plan for the improvement of teaching and learning.
The big question of today is why do PLCS? Beyond the fact that PLCs are job-embedded professional development, research shows many benefits of utilizing collaboration through PLCs. Today we will focus on two of the most critical: improved communication, and improved relationship/school climate.
One important benefit of utilizing PLCs in your school is the increase in effective communication between staff. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) incorporate a team of teachers and administrators/leaders working together to discuss and problem solve educational topics.
Successful PLCs promote effective communication through open dialogue and the use of collaboration. Research by Nelson et al. (2010), Stoll et al. (2006), and Hilliard and Newsome (2013), show that PLCs are collaborative, engage participants in the inquiry process, and encourage shared leadership. By encouraging these actions, teachers and administrators learn how to better communicate with each other which can result in better teaching, planning, and learning. Teachers must feel comfortable engaging in open and honest communication with their administrators/leaders in order for a positive school climate to exist (McCarley et al., 2014)
Another added perk is that research shows that teachers who engage in open communication with their administrators/leaders experience more positive attitudes towards their jobs (Rafferty, 2003)!
Improved Relationships & Climate
There is a connection between positive adult relationships in a school building and positive school climate. Collaboration and connection are two key attributes of positive school climate (Cohen et al., 2009); both can be achieved through PLCs. Similarly, a positive school climate results in more productive students and more dedicated teachers (Rapti, 2013). Creating suggestions for improvement through collaboration (like what occurs in PLCs) can lead to improvement in student learning and improved educational outcomes (Cohen et al., 2009).
Other research even notes that schools that engage in PLCs noticed their teachers demonstrated improved job satisfaction and higher morale; there were even fewer teacher absences (Harris & Jones, 2010)!
If you are looking to improve your school climate, staff relationships, and communication, then PLCs can help! Implementing a scheduled time for staff collaboration can have have a lasting impact on teaching and learning outcomes.
Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N.M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180. Retrieved[JB1] from http://www.schoolclimate.org/climate/documents/policy/School-Climate-Paper-TC-Record.pdf
Harris[JB2] , A., & Jones, M. (2010). Professional learning communities. Improving Schools, 13(2), 172-181. doi: 10.1177/1365480210376487
Hilliard, A. T., & Newsome, E. (2013). Effective communication and creating professional learning communities is a valuable practice for superintendents. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (Online), 6(4), 353. Retrieved[JB3] from https://www.cluteinstitute.com/ojs/index.php/CIER/article/view/8102/8153
McCarley, T.A., Peters, M.L., & Decman, J.M. (2016). Transformational leadership related to school climate: A multi-level analysis. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(2), 322-342. doi: 10.1177/1741143214549966
Nelson, T. H., LeBard, L., & Waters, C. (2010). How to create a professional learning community. Science and Children, 47(9), 36-40. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com (Accession No. 521202056)
Rafferty, T. J. (2003). School climate and teacher attitudes toward upward communication in secondary schools. American Secondary Education, 31(2), 49-70. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com (Accession No. 195185353)
Rapti, D. (2013). School climate as an important component of school effectiveness. Academicus International Scientific Journal, 8(8), 110-125. Retrieved from http://www.academicus.edu.al/nr8/Academicus-MMXIII-8-110-125.pdf
Stoll, L., Bolam, R., Mcmahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change,7(4), 221-258. doi: 10.1007/s10833-0060001-8