Monday, October 06, 2008

Professional Learning Communities are Happening All Around Us

(This entry was submitted by Toni Capodanno, Supervisor for Curriculum and Instruction.)

Schools, districts and states around the country are adopting Professional Learning Communities as a vehicle for creating forums for productive dialogue that is centered on topics regarding students and education. This is accomplished through collaborative groups of educators and administrators who read and discuss current research to stimulate purposeful conversation. The topics covered may vary but the goal is always consistent -- increasing student achievement through improvements or enhancements in leadership, instruction, programs, and methodology.

Rick Du Four who is credited with the concept of learning communities has written many books which offer recommendations for those who seek to transform their schools into professional learning communities as characterized by mutual collaboration, emotional support, personal growth, and a synergy of efforts. He offers references to and brief summaries of directions for curriculum, teacher preparation, school leadership, professional development, school-parent partnerships, and assessment practices.

At a recent meeting, the Gloucester County Curriculum Consortium distributed Professional Learning Communities by S. Hard. This book will be the focus for their study group consisting of district curriculum supervisors and administrators. Instructions and guided questions were provided to help the readers focus on the critical aspects of the book. The intention is for the readers to understand the main elements and characteristics of professional learning groups and to establish and foster them in their individual school districts.

Here in the Woodbury School District, our new Strategic Plan holds numerous opportunities for collaboration through the use of professional learning communities. The notion of learning groups has already been introduced and has taken root at the first department chair and team leader meetings at the Jr.-Sr. High School and at our monthly grade level meetings for the elementary school teachers. Teachers received articles taken from professional journals and magazines which were chosen because of their relevance to student data, school and district initiatives or topics to support professional growth, interest or need. It is our belief that bringing educators, administrators and school personnel together to read, and hold informed conversations fosters a deeper understanding of learning theory, strategies and practices which ultimately enhances learning experiences and promotes students achievement.

We are excited about the possiblities that these Professional Learning Communities will have in store for Woodbury's future. Stay tuned -- there will be more to come!

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