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Commitments of Proactive PLCs

One of the hardest aspects of working together as a team is managing the emotions that we attach to the outcomes of actions.

A professional learning community is a team that comes together to determine action steps that will hopefully lead to positive learning outcomes for their students. When reviewing the outcomes (or data), we sometimes find "success" but more often find the 1.2 million things we think we did "wrong" and could have done better.

We look at the outcomes (data) and immediately attach emotions and meaning to the results. Often we do this as a reaction, and we get stuck in looking at the past.

Reactive PLCs or teams spend a lot of their time replaying what they could have done better. They spend a lot of their time trying to "fix" mistakes, reteach lessons, or find additional time w/ students that they know they don't have. Reactive PLCs focus more on what has already happened in instruction--rather than looking at the outcomes (data) and asking, "So how do we use this information as we move forward?"

Proactive PLCs, on the other hand, look at outcomes (data) as opportunities for feedback and reflection. Proactive PLCs analyze the data to determine: What is needed next? Sometimes the need is more time spent on a concept--whether whole group or small group--but often there is a bigger, design-based need that the data uncovers.

A proactive PLC uses the lessons learned from a prior unit to better inform what design and instructional strategies are working (and not working) for current students. A proactive PLC also gives themselves permission to immediately use the best research strategies from the start of their lesson or unit design. They don't wait to gather data to find out what they already knew (ie, that students often struggle to comprehend 2-step story problems). They anticipate that struggle and proactively plan and design with that in mind.

There are proactive instructional steps that PLCs can take; there are also proactive steps that districts and schools can take when creating their PLC structures. When we know what's our obligation and duty to do more of it.

Here's a simple checklist you can use, whether you are starting professional learning communities or you are wanting to do a simple process-evaluation.

In The Complete Guide for Implementing Professional Learning Communities, I offer resources, steps, and planning tools that can be used to create these commitments from the start. Healthy teams require healthy structures, so let's proactively plan with these in mind.

While this isn't a comprehensive list, it's pretty close. Print this list for your team and decide which of these are you committed to, and why. If there are items you have yet to commit to, ask yourselves why. If there's something you would add--add it.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits and the post How to Master the Art of Continuous Improvement, shares 3 steps for mastering continuous improvement: do more of what works, avoid tiny losses, and measure backwards.

Proactive PLCs look at the results (measure backwards) and proactively plan for the next iteration. They learn from experience and data and they change what needs to be changed (to avoid more tiny losses). Proactive PLCs also name what is working--and they unabashedly share these strategies with one another.

The only reason I write about, coach about, or share about PLCs is because collaboration works. And, I believe that the more we can create structures to support our teachers--then get out of the way--our teachers (and students!) will thrive.

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