PLC Conversations That Build Shared Responsibility for Student Success - Steve Barkley

PLC Conversations That Build Shared Responsibility for Student Success

For PLCs to move from functioning as franchises to teams requires conversations built around student work. Teacher collaboration to strategize for student success builds a shared responsibility that is the root of teams. Sharing student goals and student work makes students known to colleagues. That knowing is key to real collaboration.

Vulnerability Trust Concept

Here are two examples of questions and processes that I have facilitated with PLCs.

High School Algebra I PLC

Five teachers in the math department taught sections of Algebra I and met as a PLC around a focus of using common assessments to guide their instruction. To build more focused conversations, each teacher selected three students from their classes that could represent the following levels of performance:

  • Advanced/Highly Proficient – Master standards quickly and should focus on additional standards.
  • Proficient – Master standards with enough practice.
  • Below Level – May lack prerequisite stills and require scaffolding.
  • Intensive – Substantial learning needs/ may focus on different learning outcome goals.

These 60 students will be studied throughout the year with learning and insights guiding teachers’ work with all students. The PLC designed a common assessment for their upcoming unit of study. First, they selected problems that assessed proficiency of the included standards. They then considered problems that measured application above the standard to provide feedback for the advanced group. Lastly, they identified where there were opportunities to see learning growth from intensive students even if it was under proficiency on the given standards.

Students around the chalkboardThey set the following agenda items for the next few weeks and for upcoming assessments:

  1. They would examine the assessments of these 60 students by group (15 advanced) identifying similarities and differences.
  2. Each teacher would identify a student in his/her class that scored just above the level of proficient and one that scored just below. They would present these along with their explanations to each other.
  3. Each teacher would send a copy of an assessment that was just proficient and one just below to each other without identifying which was which. They will come to the next meeting having identified the proficient and non-proficient paper with their reasoning and compare with colleagues’ decisions.
  4. On the next assessment each teacher will send the three assessments from one student group (below proficient) and each teacher will score these 15 assessments and bring them to the PLC meeting for comparison of teacher’s grading practices.

I believe substantial dialogue should emerge from this process that will guide learning and insights for this PLC team.

Elementary School Vertical PLC Conversations

At a previous faculty meeting, teachers brought whole class samples of student writing and as a grade-level PLC they grouped students into categories based on their current writing proficiency:

  • Advanced
  • Highly Proficient
  • Proficient
  • Below proficient
  • Intensive

Then they identified goals that they would like to see each group of students reach by the end of this school year and considered what student learning production behaviors each group should engage in next. This process extended over the next several PLCs.

At the following month’s faculty meeting I facilitated conversations using these questions with teachers seated in K-1, 2-3 , and 4-5 teams:

Lower Grade

Select one of the identified groups of students based on current writing performance. Share samples of their work and identify the goals you have for their writing at the end of May. Share a possible sample exemplar.

Upper Grade

  • What do you notice as you view these students’ current writing samples?
  • What implications do you see for next year if these students meet the desired identified goal?

Lower Grade

  • What have you identified as the current and next most important student production behaviors for the identified group?
  • What are teacher actions/strategies that will promote those student behaviors?

Upper Grade

  • Do you have some students who need to be engaged in the same student production behaviors?
  • How are you promoting those student production behaviors?

Let's Collaborate Decorative Image


  • Are there ways we can collaborate?
  • Materials/activities
  • Cross grade grouping
  • Ideas brainstormed


At the next faculty meeting by sitting K12 and 345, the first and fourth grade teachers can share their goals and plans with the same questions.

Conversation around student work and student goals helps build teacher’s PLC participation into a team effort.

Photo Credit: This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

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