Questions to Facilitate PLCs - Steve Barkley

Questions to Facilitate PLCs

Last week’s blog identified discussions for PLC’s using a backwards planning process from a recent professional development day that I facilitated. Later with the same school I was asked to facilitate some example PLC discussions for elementary teachers.

The quote from the Annenberg Institute provides a starting point for what a PLC might set out to accomplish.

Several kinds of activities promote a commitment to the collective and individual learning and openness to continuous improvement that are hallmarks of PLCs. They include engaging in collaborative problem solving around specific issues or dilemmas, identifying needs, and articulating a focus for the work; building knowledge by studying and discussing current issues and practices in quality teaching and learning, thus exploring ways to develop a culture of ongoing professional learning in a school or district; and observing, analyzing, and providing feedback and ideas about school data and teacher and student work.

Questions for Life

I find that someone preparing questions in advance can jump start productive conversations that motivate teachers’ commitment to the PLC process. I modeled for the teachers how Questions For Life   provided a template for planning questions to guide the critical thinking of a PLC.

In the first example,  PLCs  of K-1-2 teachers  worked together as the second grade teachers examined a recent common math assessment using these questions:

  • Select a standard that you would expect students at this time of the year to master.
  • Identify students who did not master the skill.
  • What similarities are there among these students?
  • How important is this skill to students’ progressing in higher skill development?
  • How much effort do you feel we should invest reteaching this skill? Why?
  • What do you think students need to experience, do, practice to master this skill?
  • How can we create those opportunities?
  • In what ways might we collaborate on this effort

They then repeated the process focusing on advanced students:

  • Identify an upcoming skill we will be instructing that some students have mastered.
  • List all those students who mastered it.
  • What learning activities might we provide those students as we teach the skill to the rest of the students?
  • How might we collaborate to provide this option?

Teachers from grades 3-4-5 who team at grade level teaching one content area to all the students at that grade worked in grade level PLCs with these questions:

  • Select 2 students whose work raises questions or concerns.
  • One teacher shares the students one at a time with colleagues presenting questions or experiences with that student. Each colleague shares that student’s work from their classes.
  • Compare this group of students’ work.
  • What groupings can you make of students needing to develop common learning skills?
  • What are the most important areas for us to address?
  • What ideas do you have for teaching the needed learning skills?
  • How can we collaborate to provide for this?

Since PLC time is often limited, the questions to guide the process can greatly increase the impact on student success.

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