Taking Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to the Next Level

by Marisa Nathan, Midwest Confianza Consultant

Professional learning communities can be defined in many different ways yet they need to be focused on students and actionable outcomes if they are to be effective. Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, and Many (2010) state that “a professional learning community is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective action research to achieve better results for the students they serve”. This cycle often includes a plan, do, study, act series that is focused around student learning.

This article will focus on the do and study phase of the PLC Protocol we encourage you to download for free here. By doing we develop a deeper understanding and make meaning of new learning more easily. As a school-based coach and also as a Confianza Consultant, I have had the opportunity to work in different schools where there are systems put into place in order to do and to study “strategies” that support ALL learners.

An example of success that I would like to share with you is from South High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The staff at South High School has created a “Now Showing Board”. The “Now Showing Board” highlights strategies that the staff plan to try out through their PLC process. Every Friday a google form goes out to all staff that asks for a strategy that they will try out in the week to come. It is up to the staff member whether or not they would like to invite others in their room to see the strategy in action. Notice the apple on the “now Showing Board”. If the apple is present that means that the strategy will have technology incorporated in some way. The Waukesha School District is a one to one school district and prides itself on differentiating with the support of technology.

In order to celebrate the high leverage strategies that are being seen each week, a strategy is chosen to be highlighted in the school’s Monday Memo. This is called the Strategy Spotlight. The strategy spotlight includes the teacher’s name, the strategy and a description along with pictures of the students in action with the strategy.

Another recent phenomena around sharing practice is the idea of hanging a pineapple on your door. Did you know that a pineapple is a sign of welcoming, friendship, and hospitality? I have seen this sign used in other buildings that I have visited. It this resource, How Pineapple Charts Have Revolutionized Professional Development by Jennifer Gonzalez, it digs deeper into this idea of sharing practice with one another in order to boost student achievement.

There are so many great things going on in our schools. I challenge you to think outside the box in order to build capacity in others and highlight the amazing work going on in your buildings!

To Further Your Learning:

What is a Professional Learning Community? from ASCD

The Power of Teams: Supporting English Language Learners from Confianza


See our set of professional learning offering options.


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