According to a recent study, teachers spend only about 3% of their teaching day collaborating with colleagues, and most American teachers plan, teach, and examine their practice alone. One of the best ways for teachers to battle the all-too-common feeling of isolation from peers is by breaking down the barriers to collaboration by building or expanding your school’s professional learning community (PLC).
Historically, PLCs have been made up of teachers from the same school, but there’s good news for those seeking to strengthen teacher collaboration with an expanded PLC! An abundance of technology resources can bring teachers together to share ideas and build virtual PLCs in new and exciting ways by breaking down typical barriers like location, time zone, and even language. Now, PLCs can be made up of teachers from outside districts or state, and even from teachers around the globe.
No matter whom you choose to include in your professional learning sphere, spend that valuable time sharing, talking, and collaborating on educational projects and ideas. Guidelines to consider when developing these communities include focusing on student learning, using reflective dialogue, welcoming interaction among colleagues, collaborating on projects, and establishing and maintaining shared values and norms.
Here are five ways to strengthen teacher collaboration with an expanded PLC:
1. Be Open to New Ideas.
One of the biggest obstacles to connecting with other teachers is ensuring that everyone is on the same page. All participants in a PLC should know what is expected of them and what the goals of the association are, and also be made a valued part of the team. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and experience levels and has expertise in varying areas. This differentiation is what can strengthen the community, but social allowances need to be made to ensure the open exchange of ideas. Make boundaries to ensure the conversation is open and productive with a focus on learning to better teacher practices to ensure students have a better learning experience.
2. Leverage the Larger Educational Community.
Most American teachers are already members of the larger educational community but may not be taking full advantage of that access. If you are a member of LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, there are groups already in place to help you find a group to belong to. While site administrators can also create additional groups for the teachers at their site to participate in and to create a sense of belonging, some of the best community learning happens in less formally moderated environments. Twitter chats are amazing ways to participate with world-class thought leaders and other teachers to discuss issues related to teaching and learning on a regularly scheduled basis, so check out these ten education Twitter chats to get started.
3. Attend a Conference or Take an Online Class Together.
Chances are there are several conferences you might like to attend. Fortunately, school districts, education companies, and organizations often have funding sources and scholarships available to make that happen. Make the most of your time at conferences by attending lots of sessions, but be sure to include time for networking with other teachers, as networking is one of the most important advantages of attending a conference. Visit the Edgenuity website if you’re interested in finding out when we’re hosting events in your area to connect with other Edgenuity partners.
In addition to the traditional conference attendance, technology has enabled the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) that offer certificates of completion, and many providers partner with accredited universities and colleges to offer MOOC-based degrees online.
4. Share What Works and Get Feedback.
Make time for journaling, reflecting, and chatting with colleagues to approach conscious teaching and learning best practices. While it can be difficult to hear a critique of your teaching or lessons, ultimately, this information can be very helpful to you and other teachers. Even informal feedback shared during a lunch chat or after-school meet-up at an off-site location can be beneficial. Actively schedule time to be in the same room as other teachers to have shop talk, and take time for personal reflection and set goals to improve.
5. Use Technology to Facilitate Collaboration.
There may already be technology in place in your district to help build your personal learning community. Many email services and student information systems have a chat feature, the ability to share documents, and even real-time virtual collaboration spaces that can act as the gathering place for teachers separated by space. Use automation to simplify this communication and be wary of adopting a different paradigm of communication that becomes checking the “yet another inbox” problem.
Technology can bring teachers together virtually to share ideas and build PLCs. Take the time to consider how you can strengthen teacher collaboration with an expanded PLC, and empower yourself and colleagues to become better teachers as a result, and make 2020 the year you expand your teaching community!
Best Colleges Online. (n.d.). 25 ways teachers can connect more with their colleagues. BestCollegesOnline.com. Retrieved from https://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/25-ways-teachers-can-connect-more-with-their-colleagues/
Mirel, J., & Goldin, S. (2012, April 17). Alone in the classroom: Why teachers are too isolated. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/alone-in-the-classroom-why-teachers-are-too-isolated/255976/
Scholastic. (n.d.). National data: Teachers seek to collaborate in and outside of school to best serve students. Primary Sources, 3rd ed. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/primarysources/teachers-on-collaboration.htm