Building Effective PLC Teams

Use these resources to explore the ideas expressed in  .

  1. - Ground Rules, or Norms, are important for a group that intends to work together on difficult issues, or who will be working together over time.  They may be added to, or condensed, as the group progresses. Starting with basic Ground Rules builds trust, clarifies group expectations of one another, and establishes points of “reflection” to see how the group is doing regarding process. Materials: Stickies. Chart Paper.  Using a T Chart to delineate norms of structure on one side and norms of conduct on the other helps to clarify who, what, when and how.  Norms are the bedrock of successful PLCs. Attention to these, and continual re-visiting before and after EVERY meeting is essential.
  2. - Actively exploring what working style strengths each member brings to the team and what challenges that might create for members who work differently is a great way to work towards understanding and trust. Most participants enjoy this lively protocol, especially valuable for creating “buy-in”.
  3. - Use this as a “bell ringer” for team meetings with directions either at the table or on the wall. Allows members to prioritize a need for structure or conduct and let the rest of the group know about what this is and why they need it.
  4. - A guide to consensus-making and a checklist for facilitators, this is a good tool to allocate time for on an agenda so that every member of the team can be part of creating a common understanding about what it means to arrive at consensus.
  5. Fist of Five - MS Word; PDF - In this method of determining where a group is in getting to consensus, each member of the group can hold up a fist to indicate blocking consensus, one finger to suggest changes, two fingers to discuss minor issues, three fingers to indicate willingness to let issue pass without further discussion, four fingers to affirm the decision as a good idea, and five fingers to volunteer to take a lead in implementing the decision. If a member “blocks” the decision, he or she must be willing to suggest changes, listen to clarification from others, be open to actively finding consensus, and expect a conversation! (no documents for this???)
  6. - Classroom Meetings are a safe, quick way to publicly take the pulse of your group around a particular topic or issue. Using this protocol as a connection to how people are feeling about an issue or in arriving at a common understanding can be really helpful in creating norms of sharing and trust. Create your own question, relevant to the concern that is on the table. 
  7. - Include Connections as the start of every agenda. If we allow members to share what is on their minds in a structured format, it allows them to both focus and not need to have a side conversation later on. Although the protocol calls for ten minutes, we often find that 3-5 is fine if the group is small. Team members need to be gently reminded at the start of Connections that this is a quiet activity—no dialogue. None. Body language is fine though! Listen, think, and relax. Silence is okay.  Some team members find this activity awkward to start as they are unused to having quiet time in a group. You may find that using a prompt to help the team get used to this format can help in early stages; “a student who made you think today” or “ a student who made you laugh” or  a more general question that does not need to be at all related to school. One member may need to talk about the speeding ticket she got on the way in today; another may relate a brief story about teaching his son to scramble eggs.  Persevere with this protocol—it can really help a team focus. What gets shared in Connections—stays in Connections.  
  8. - Use this as a connections activity, a way of introducing people and capturing the range of experiences of a group. You’ll need 100 pennies! Allows teams to both think about what comprises a powerful learning experience (in or out of school) as well as providing further insight into knowing more about each other.  
  9. - A thought provoking connections activity. Allow time for stories. You will need to collect a variety of art or travel postcards which participants use as prompts to sharing a story about themselves.
  10. - One of the facets of PLC is in assessing progress in how the team is functioning, a protocol which should be addressed at regular times in the team’s calendar. 
  11. - The Continuum Dialogue is a provocative yet non-threatening way to get to know the people one works with: their perspectives, their beliefs, their opinions on hard issues, how they think about themselves and others, what they think about teaching and learning. It is also useful to see where people stand on difficult issues that need decisions and hear them out with respect and interest.
  12. - It’s helpful to use this facilitation check list as teams grow in confidence. Learning to facilitate well in a team is often “easy” as long as there are no conflicts but gets a lot more difficult when those arise (as they will); Reflecting and being “transparent” in how to manage challenges is the work of the team. 
  13. - Helpful checklist to use when planning and reflecting on process. Use this both to build the right agenda template that meets your school/district needs and to  re-visit it regularly as a benchmark to assess whether its working well for all uses.  
  14. Agenda Template Exemplars: These are just a few examples of what some schools and districts have created to ensure that meaningful work is accomplished and recorded (and shared). Groups can look at current agendas and compare with these—what works? What doesn’t? Whose agenda is this—and whose values does it have? Beware of that time-eating laundry list! Sample 1;  Sample 2;  Sample 3;  Sample 4. (PDF ONLY need alt for all for samples)

Articles:

  • - A longitudinal study of 400 Chicago elementary schools shows the central role of relational trust in building effective education communities; Anthony S. Bryk and Barbara Schneider
  • - "We need to assess teaching practices and professional development activities in light of sound principles about how learning works"; Grant Wiggings and Jay McTighe