Have you had a chance to stop by our ongoing Voicethread conversation on the nuts-and-bolts of structuring professional learning communities with Rick and Becky DuFour yet?

If you haven’t, you’re missing one of the most amazing opportunities to learn more about professional learning communities.

Not only are participants like Dan and Joel asking the kinds of provocative questions that make a guy think, Rick and Becky have been incredibly active in our conversation (and generous with their time!), providing the same kind of practical advice and suggestions that fill their newest book, Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at Work.

Every time that I stop by the conversation, I learn something new—-and learning something new ain’t half bad!

If you’re looking to get caught up quickly, check out this summary of yesterday’s comments.   You might also be interested in these highlights from today’s conversation:

Slide 2 sees participants engaging in a great conversation about the role that formative assessments play in the professional learning community process.  Responding to Joel, who worried that common assessments limit a student’s ability to demonstrate mastery of critical content, Rick DuFour laid out a powerful argument for developing a balanced approach to assessing students that includes more than one measure of student mastery.

Which has me wondering how many learning teams do a good job balancing the types of assessments that they use to measure student understanding.  I know that our learning team probably over-relies on multiple choice assessments simply because multiple choice assessments make data quick and easy to collect.

But I haven’t spent enough time thinking about what the consequences of an over-reliance on one type of assessment really are.

(Note to self:  This is an area where my learning team can improve our practice!)

Slide 4 is an important slide for district level leaders to visit because when answering a question asked by Parry Graham (the co-author of my new book on PLCs), Rick lays out three key criteria that successful district-level leaders do in order to facilitate the work of the learning teams in their districts.  What makes Rick’s response so interesting is that it is drawn from research that he’s just completed on three districts doing great things with professional learning communities.

On Slide 6, Joel—who has challenged my thinking more than once in our conversation so far—asks a question that feeds right into my digital brain when he writes, “Clayton Christensen suggests in his book Disrupting Class that the next trend in education will move us toward individualized instruction and individualized assessment through computer software. As software improves, educators will play the roles of learning monitors and learning trouble-shooters, rather than instructors and assessors. Can the PLC model accomodate this shift in paradigm?”

Great question, huh?  Joel is right in his argument that the cutting edge thinkers about education would like to see digital tools used to individualize instruction for EVERY student…and my guess is that someday, we’ll get to the point where that is more non-fiction than science-fiction.

But what does that mean for PLCs?

(My slightly pessimistic guess:  My learning team will completely perfect a system of regrouping students to provide remediation at the skill level just about the time when individualizing instruction will be made ridiculously easy by digital workstations!)

On Slide 10, Becky DuFour gives an incredibly thoughtful response to Kerri—a media specialist in Wake County—who asked how schools and districts could structure meaningful professional learning community experiences for singleton teachers.  Becky’s answer (which was also right up my professional alley):  Think about electronic teaming!  Why can’t digital tools like Skype and Voicethread be used by collaborative partners working across geographical boundaries.

Honestly, I’d love to see more electronic teaming—-not because it is a perfect replacement for human interaction, but because it would give more teachers experience with collaborative tools that are becoming more common in the workplace, and once teachers start using digital tools in their own work, they are bound to be more likely to use the same digital tools in their teaching.

If you haven’t stopped by our conversation yet, you should!  Here’s the direct link.  I guarantee that you’ll learn something.

If you have stopped by already, here’s your day three challenge:  Rather than posting something new to the conversation today, go in and find a comment made by another participant to respond to.  It could be something that made you think.  It could be something you completely disagree with.  It could be something that you want to know more about.

Make today a day of interaction by interacting with an existing participant.

After all, that’s what good collaborative dialogue looks like in action, right?

Share this post: