Blog entry by Nguyen Teachers
Examining Failed Professional Learning Communities
After decades of defining, describing, and implementing PLCs, it shows that teachers are the primary experts in the teaching profession. Rachel Sims and Richard look at different kinds of literature and their own studies to examine Professional Learning Community, and they “[warn] that PLCs that are launched just to conform ... to an authoritarian mandate rarely result in the desired impact on student achievement” (cited in Talbert, 2010) (2014,p. 44). They also assert that “the use of data-driven decision-making in PLCs did not see improvement in their students’ achievement in the classroom or on the high-stakes tests. “ (p.43). Instead, they find that a successful PLC needs to be a system of support that allows teachers openly to share their practices and get constructive feedback. In the process, teachers are sharing and being inspired by other teachers to innovate and differentiate their lessons. They point out that “PLC has to do more than just consider data; it has to provide a venue for a rich and deep collaborative discussion of all aspects of the learning environment, teaching practice and outcomes” (p.44) (3). “To be a successful PLC, the PLC should also include open and reflective conversation, open practice, and focus on student learning...Ideas on student achievement and educational practice are shared openly” ( as cited in Fullan, 2007) (Sims & Penny, 2014, p.43).
Berry, Daughtrey, and Wieder’s review of literature about teachers’ collaboration and the results from surveying 1210 teacher leaders suggest teachers are the main experts in students’ learning. The figure to the left: Surveyed 1210 teacher leaders on the question: “To whom do you turn for help about teaching.” The data shows that “other teachers” is the main source of expertise.
Figure Below: Results of the survey question: “To whom do you turn for support [as a teacher]. “
Of course, all administrators want their teachers to care and support each other; however, they also know that they need to measure the outcomes of implementing PLCs. For many schools, they require teachers to fill out forms. Some PLCs spend their time create common assessments. Many view this shift from supporting teachers’ individual expertise and creativity to telling teachers what to teach and how to teach is creating negative consequences that lead many teachers to view negatively about PLCs. They also view that the current implementation of PLCs forces teachers to conform rather than exercising their individual expertise. Former President John F. Kennedy once said:
“Conformity is the jailer of FREEDOM and the ENEMY of Growth”
Throughout history, one’s individuality has brought one breakthrough after another. The education system is supposed to produce diverse individuals with the skills and knowledge for the challenges after high schools. Ironically, many views that most of current PLCs are mainly operated under the idea of collaboration through conformity: Teachers “collaborate” to create common assessments, common lessons, and common ways to teach all students in the entire school. On the other hands, teachers also have to differentiate their instruction to support the individualized needs of the diverse groups of students today. The pressure to collect measurable outcomes and enforce teachers’ accountability lead schools to implement PLCs that focuses on collecting data and conformity rather than to support teachers to embrace their individual expertise to differentiate instruction.
How does this Professional Development Service differ from other educational consultants?
There is a saying:
"You ask; they may do it. You demand; they will attempt it. You empower them, they will sacrifice for you. "When a school culture empowers teachers through technology and transparency, it will foster innovation and collaboration.
As teachers, we focus on providing a Professional Development Service that train and empower motivated and high-impact teachers become influencers. Using online courses, teachers can learn the tools at their own paces and times. This will save schools money about $50,000 annually ( on average, most secondary schools spend more than $60,000 on Professional Development, Conferences, and Training). Most importantly, teachers do not have to give up their instruction time for the training. Teachers who want to learn the tools to improve their instruction will naturally take their own time to learn the tool. There is a saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him/her drink.” Therefore, our Professional Development Services focus on inspiring teachers to empower themselves rather than forcing teachers to learn. As teachers, we believe that only when teachers want to empower themselves, then they can empower their own students.