MSEd Course Insight: Three Core Principles of Professional Learning Communities
As an educator, you know that learning communities change over time. And as these changes occur, it’s important to continually examine your values, beliefs, and vision while exploring your role in the larger context of the profession. Your professional stance influences student learning and outcomes, which is why it’s so important to be aware of best practices in the field as learning communities shift.
Walden University MS in Education (MSEd) students learn what it means to be a professional in today’s diverse and evolving educational landscape. Below is an excerpt from “Professional Learning Communities: Educators Work Together Toward a Shared Purpose,” required reading in the Walden course Teacher as Professional that outlines three core principles of professional learning communities:1
Big Idea #1: Ensuring That Students Learn
The professional learning community model flows from the assumption that the core mission of formal education is not simply to ensure that students are taught but to ensure that they learn. This simple shift—from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning—has profound implications for school.
School mission statements that promise “learning for all” have become a cliché. But when a school staff takes that statement literally—when teachers view it as a pledge to ensure the success of each student rather than as politically correct hyperbole—profound changes begin to take place. The school staff finds itself asking: What school characteristics and practices have been most successful in helping all students achieve at high levels? How could we adopt those characteristics and practices in our own school? What commitments would we have to make to one another to create such a school? What indicators could we monitor to assess our progress? When the staff has built shared knowledge and found common ground on these questions, the school has a solid foundation for moving forward with its improvement initiative.
Big Idea #2: A Culture of Collaboration
Educators who are building a professional learning community recognize that they must work together to achieve their collective purpose of learning for all. Therefore, they create structures to promote a collaborative culture.
Despite compelling evidence indicating that working collaboratively represent best practice, teachers in many schools continue to work in isolation. Even in schools that endorse the idea of collaboration, the staff’s willingness to collaborate often stops at the classroom door. Some school staffs equate the term “collaboration” with congeniality and focus on building group camaraderie. Other staffs join forces to develop consensus on operational procedures, such as how they will respond to tardiness or supervise recess. Still others organize themselves into committees to oversee different facets of the school’s operation, such as discipline, technology, and social climate. Although each of these activities can serve a useful purpose, none represents the kind of professional dialogue that can transform a school into a professional learning community.
The powerful collaboration that characterizes professional learning communities is a systematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice. Teachers work in teams, engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning. This process, in turn, leads to higher levels of student achievement.
Big Idea #3: A Focus on Results
Professional learning communities judge their effectiveness on the basis of results. Working together to improve student achievement becomes the routine work of everyone in the school. Every teacher team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing a goal to improve the current level, working together toachieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress. The focus of team goals shifts. Such goals as “We will adopt the Junior Great Books program” or “We will create three new labs for our science course” give way to “We will increase the percentage of students who meet the state standard in language arts from 83% to 90%” or “We will reduce the failure rate in our course by 50%.”
When teacher teams develop common formative assessments throughout the school year, each teacher can identify how his or her students performed on each skill compared with other students. Individual teachers can call on their team colleagues to help them reflect on areas of concern. Each teacher has access to the ideals, materials, strategies, and talents of the entire team.
This is just one of the many materials you’ll have the opportunity to study when you choose Walden’s MS in Education program. The advanced teaching degree program is delivered online, allowing you to improve your teaching strategies and credentials while continuing to work full time. You can complete your MSEd degree coursework from wherever you have internet access, at whatever time of day works best for you.
If you want to become a teacher who understands the evolving educational landscape—and who can apply advanced teaching strategies that make a meaningful impact—Walden’s MSEd degree program may be right for you.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering a suite of education degree programs online, including an MS in Education (MSEd) program. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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