Saturday, September 11, 2010
PLN -v- PLC
But now I realise that is probably not enough. It's great to be able to choose the people that I interact and learn with on a daily basis - but I am also part of a community: the teachers I work with, the ones I do see face to face every day. Whether or not I have chosen these people, the fact remains that they are my colleagues and it is my responsibility to connect and collaborate with them so that the educational needs of our students are being met in the best possible way. While last year I focused on building my personal learning NETWORK, this year I feel I need to develop my professional learning COMMUNITY.
I've been thinking about this and asking myself why it seems so much harder to develop a community than a network. I think in part it is because as teachers we do not always agree on the best way forward especially when, despite all our efforts, we have students who still experience difficulties with learning. Sometimes we feel that admitting this in our teams is a sign of weakness, an admission of failure, which can lead to a feeling of inadequacy when others in the team don't seem to be having similar problems - maybe it's better just to stay quiet and hope nobody notices. Because we are under pressure of time - our units of inquiry begin and end on certain dates, summative assessments have to be completed and so on - we are often under pressure to finish and move on. In our teams there is no consensus as to what to do with the students who need more time, who have not yet mastered a particular skill or demonstrated their understanding of the central idea of a unit of inquiry. Should we give more time to assist those students, even though most students have already mastered the concepts, or should we push on and let the struggling students fall even further behind? In order to build a real professional learning community we need to work together on tough questions like this, to question what we are doing, to analyze and improve our classroom practice at the formative assessment stage when we can ask whether all our students are learning what they need to learn, rather than at the summative assessment stage where we find out which students did not. We need to have dialogue not just about planning the units of inquiry, but about implementing what we have planned - to discuss what we are actually teaching and what the students are actually learning, and how we will know when each student has actually learned it - and also what to do if they haven't.
Where there's a will there's a way. I think the will is there to work closer as a professional learning community. What we need to do now is to find the way to actually do it.
Image Credit: Web 2.0 Party by Fritz Ahlefeldt-Laurvig