Continuous Improvement

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

Published: 11/6/2023 1:29 PM

​What is a PLC?

A professional learning community, or PLC, is an organizational structure by design that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students. The school’s curriculum, instructional design, and assessment practices are monitored through the PLC design to ensure teacher effectiveness and most importantly student learning. PLCs require the utilization of data from assessments and an examination of professional practice as teachers and administrators systematically monitor and adjust curriculum, instruction, and assessment to ensure the goal of graduating all students are college and/or career ready.

PLC Explanation by Richard DuFour

Reference YouTube video featuring Richard DuFour to hear a quick explanation of what professional learning communities involve and how they are beneficial to the educator community.

Why a PLC Protocol?

The PLC protocol is the vehicle for creating a high performing learning organization. The PLC protocol builds a learning organization by making professional learning routine. The PLC protocol provides a structure for all teachers to participate in collaborative learning communities that meet both informally and formally on a regular schedule to inform the ongoing modification of instruction, assessments, and provide data for possible curriculum revision. The PLC process provides a framework for teachers to discuss next steps needed to implement interventions for students with specific and immediate feedback about their learning. PLC protocol examples can be obtained by contacting any Continuous Improvement Coach.

Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA)

These are steps in an improvement process. PDSAs are about making processes better. They can be used to begin from scratch to build a process or to improve a process already in place. PDSAs are a valuable tool for making improvements and monitoring the level of success. Teacher leader Kathryn Claiborne and Curriculum Specialist Amanda Hall (Pulaski County High School) share how teachers within their school participate in department PLCs to enhance student achievement by implementing the Plan-Do-Study-Act process. In the following videos, they describe each cycle of PDSA and the protocol followed by each of the PLC teams which create a culture of continuous improvement.

  • Plan - total time 2:50
  • Do - total time 1:56
  • Study - total time 5:42
  • Act - total time 2:40

PLCs at the Hub Schools

PLCs at Pulaski County High School (PCHS) - total time 7:03
Casey Inabnitt, Assistant Principal at PCHS, begins this video with a three part journey of Professional Learning Communities at his school. First, he explains the Plan Do Study Act model used as part of the Professional Learning Communities process. He discusses how each part (Plan, Do, Study, Act) is implemented and how student achievement has improved because of the processes being used. Mr. Inabnitt gives detailed information of the current PLC protocol used to monitor student learning and to strengthen instruction (3:59). Mr. Inabnitt also explains how the PLC process has evolved over time at Pulaski County High School (6:04). He shares in the video how this valuable tool is executed in order to effectively analyze and apply data to increase the effectiveness of teaching and promote student learning.

PLCs at Franklin-Simpson High School (FSHS) - total time 3:17
Ms. Houchins and Ms. Sawyer, science teachers at FSHS, discuss how the need and focus for PLCs has evolved at their school. They share how their PLCs looked when initially implemented  and how they have evolved over the course of five years.

Lesson Study - total time 3:02
Judy Dotson, Instructional Supervisor, discusses how lesson study allows teachers to collaborate as they develop, implement, analyze, and modify lesson plans in order to strengthen teaching and learning.

Not All PLCs Are Created Equally

According to Anthony Muhammad, there are four types of teachers present within all schools. Believers are very intrinsically motivated. They are flexible with students both academically and behaviorally. They are mission driven with a connection to the school or community. Believers are willing to confront negative talk and attitudes toward children. Tweeners are enthusiastic about the idealistic nature of school, but have not quite hit the tipping point. They follow instructions as given by administration, and try to avoid school and district politics. However, one good or bad experience can swing them to be a Believer or Fundamentalist. Survivors have no political or organizational aspirations. They are affected by the overwhelming nature of the job or life – they experience burnout. Survivors display little to no professional practice. Fundamentalists want to maintain the status quo. They do not like change and will do anything to avoid it. Transforming School Culture provides more information about understanding and overcoming the resistance to necessary change.

Educators from across the state came together to demonstrate Muhammad’s characters that show up in all schools.

Susan Greer
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-5130
Fax (502) 564-8149

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