Repair a dysfunctional PLC

Repairing the Process: How to Fix a Dysfunctional PLC

Many of us have been members of a dysfunctional PLC, and unfortunately, some think it is advisable to wait for someone to address the dysfunctionalities. There is an abundance of issues that can plague a PLC. The best strategy is to identify the issue with clarity, own the issue with sincerity, and develop a plan with tenacity. Even if you are not in a titled “leadership” position there is a lot you can do. Let’s first address a few common issues and then consider a self-help guide to determine the next steps.

Most schools have more teachers than administrators, and successful administrators have or create a guiding coalition that operates with shared leadership (DuFour & DuFour, 2012, p. 8). When teachers can be part of the solutions and share the ownership of plan development, schools can make great strides in moving forward.

Regardless of the situation, it must be assessed to provide clarity on what caused or is causing the PLC to derail. Without this clarity, an exhaustive plan can be developed that has little to no effect.

Recommit to the Foundation

First and foremost, assess if everyone in the school has made a commitment to the first big idea of a PLC—a focus on learning. If not, return to clarifying that the fundamental purpose of the school must be learning. All members, or at least the critical mass, must see this as a priority before the rest of the work can be supported. In my own school, the Three Big Ideas: a focus on learning, a collaborative culture, and a focus on results (DuFour et al., 2016, p. 11–12) drove the overarching processes of our PLC. Living by this vocabulary helped us align and realign our efforts from one year to the next.

Ensure Time for the PLC Process

Next is to be sure that there is frequent collaboration time built into the contract day. At the very least, teams should be able to collaborate on essential skills, common formative assessments, and interventions once a week. If teams are forced to schedule their own collaboration time, that would indicate administration has not made scheduling collaboration time a priority. If the time is not available for the teacher teams, they can lose focus on the on the “right work.” The right work of individual teachers and teams is on the four critical questions:

  1. What do we want the students to learn?
  2. How will we know they have learned it?
  3. What will we do when they don’t learn?
  4. What will we do when they already know it?

We kept the format of these four questions plain and simple, but if teachers do not have dedicated time to focus on these four questions, your PLC will become another acronym from the past.

Leadership is not only responsible for creating time to collaborate; they must also provide clarity regarding what needs to happen during that time. Leadership must be able to lead the school’s vision and mission and articulate the goals. All staff must make commitments to focus their efforts on the three big ideas of a PLC and the four critical corollary questions. Collaboration time should not be time for teachers to fill out forms, check off boxes, and yes, become dysfunctional with compliance instead of a high level of commitment.

Strengthen Leadership

There are times a functional PLC (evidenced by increased student learning) becomes dysfunctional due to a change in leadership. It is not common for a PLC to suffer due to teacher turnover or even a struggling team. However, dysfunctional behaviors can stem from the top with a struggling leader. A great resource for aspiring leaders and struggling leaders is Timothy D. Kanold’s book The Five Disciplines of PLC Leaders, in which Kanold offers suggestions on vision, values, accountability, celebrations, reflection, and influence.

Focus on the Essentials and Create an Action Plan

The following template may help narrow the scope of needs as you look for ways to support continuous improvement at your school. We know that it is not a reasonable approach for teachers to teach all of their curriculum and expect students to learn everything. Therefore, when trying to fix a dysfunctional PLC, it would not be advisable to try fixing all issues at once.

Develop a concise plan of what needs to be done first and have another plan for next steps. Students must demonstrate they can learn the essential standards; a leader must demonstrate the ability to focus on a few things the membership can accomplish at a time.

Grab a cup of coffee, find a place without distractions, and respond to the prompts below. If the response is “yes,” enter an example, artifact, or justification that the “yes” is true. If the response is “no,” develop a plan of action addressing that issue. Remember to include a timeline for the action and anticipated evidence of success. Consider the resources and add others as you find them. Keep this document; you never know when you may be asked to help “repair a dysfunctional PLC.”

Regardless of who is ready to help, don’t wait for others to lead. Take the lead yourself. Read, learn, network, and develop a plan of action. As Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

PLC Evaluation Template

Prompt Yes No Evidence or Plan of Action Possible Resources
All staff have a
number-one priority of learning for all.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) page 11
There is a clear and
commonly agreed-upon
mission for the school.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 25–27

Kanold, T., (2011) chapter 1

There is a shared vision
forthe school.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 39–41
There is clarity of what is
tight and loose.
Kanold, T., (2011) page 41
There are schoolwide
academic achievement
goals, SMART goals.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 89–104

Holcomb, E., (2012) pages 108–110

Lipton, L., Wellman, B., (2012) pages 114–115, 120–121

All teams have SMART
goals that align with the
school goals.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 89–104

Holcomb, (2012) pages 108–110

Lipton, L., Wellman, B., (2012) pages 114–115, 120–121

All teachers have SMART
goals that align with their
team goals.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 89–104

Holcomb, E., (2012) pages 108–110

Lipton, L., Wellman, B., (2012) pages 114–115, 120–121

Time is provided during
the contract day for
teachers to collaborate at least weekly.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 64–67

Farmer, P., (2014)

Mahlke, V., (2014)

Teams are
high-functioning collaborative teams.
Kanold, T., (2011)

Erkens, C., Jakicic, C., (2008)

There is time during the
instructional day for
response to intervention
(RTI).
Buffum, A., et al., (2015a)

Buffum, A., et al., (2015b)

Farmer, P., (2014)

Teachers use a protocol
to analyze assessment results.
Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2012)

Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2011) pages 81–82

Results are being used to
determine levels of
student learning.
Gregory, G., et al., (2016) chapter 6

Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017) chapter 6

Results are being used
to determine the
effectiveness of teaching.
Kanold, T., (2011)

Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017)

Teachers have clarity on
what’s most essential
for student learning for
each unit.
DuFour, R., et al., (2016) pages 114–117

Gregory, G., et al., (2016)

Teachers of the same
grade or subject create common assessments.
Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017)

Marzano, R., (2017) chapter 2

Teachers of the same
grade or subject
administer common assessments within
the same timeframe.
Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017)

Marzano, R., (2017) chapter 2

Teachers use common
assessment data to
identify students who
did not master the
essential learnings and
need additional support.
Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017)

Lipton, L., Wellman, B., (2012)

Marzano, R., (2017) chapter 2

Teachers use common
assessment data to
determine which students mastered the essential learning and need more
rigor.
Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017)

Holcomb, E., (2012) chapters 3, 8

Gregory, G., et al., (2016) chapter 7

Marzano, R., (2017) chapter 2

 

References:

Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2012). Common formative assessment: A toolkit for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.

Bailey, K., Jakicic, C., (2017). Simplifying common assessment: A guide for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.

Buffum, A., Mattos, M., et al., (2015a). It’s about time: Planning interventions and extensions in elementary school. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.

Buffum, A., Mattos, M., et al., (2015b). It’s about time: Planning interventions and extensions in secondary school. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.

Buffum, A., Malone, J., Mattos, M., (2018). Taking action: A handbook for RTI at Work. Bloomington IN: Solution Tree.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., (2012). The school leader’s guide to Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

DuFour, R., DuFour, R, Eaker, R, Many, T., Mattos, M. (2016). Learning by doing: A handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Erkens, C., Jakicic, C., (2008). The collaborative teacher: Working together as a professional learning community. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Farmer, P., (2014). PLC master schedules provide time for collaboration and interventions during the day. http://www.allthingsplc.info/blog/view/247/plc-master-schedules-provide-time-for-collaboration-and-interventions-during-the-day.

Gregory, G., Kaufeldt, M., Mattos, M., (2016). Best practices at Tier I. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Holcomb, E., (2012). Data dynamics: Aligning teacher team, school, and district efforts. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Kanold, T., (2011). The five disciplines of PLC leaders. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Lipton, L., Wellman, B., (2012). Got data? Now what? Creating and leading cultures of inquiry. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Mahlke, V., (2014). The time and commitment to collaborate at the elementary level, http://www.allthingsplc.info/blog/view/266/the-time-and-the-commitment-to-collaborate-at-the-elementary-level.

Marzano, R., (2017). The new art and science of teaching. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Michael Jordan Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved March 9, 2019, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/michael_jordan_385092.

Paul C. Farmer

Paul C. Farmer is a practitioner who has worked at the classroom, building, and central office levels. As principal of Joyce Kilmer Middle School, Paul was one of the first principals in Fairfax County, Virginia, to build a PLC.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.