'To create a professional learning community, focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results.' Richard DuFour

Professional learning teams are made up of a maximum of three triads.They effectively develop a culture of collaboration and collective responsibility in schools. Teachers remain accountable for individual students, taking responsibility for improving instructional practices to achieve gains in their learning.

Genuine team-based work implies more than the simple act of working alongside colleagues. It involves teachers working in a spirit of openness and critical reflection, sharing experiences, ideas and expertise and engaging in an ongoing process of inquiry that promotes deep team learning. The work of teams is guided by a clear and systematic model of problem-solving and learning, one that encompasses a learning→application→refinement→application cycle.

Effective teams focus on improving student outcomes. They make their professional learning student centred by analysing the differences between what students are capable of achieving and actual student performance. They engage directly with the subject matter they teach and how they teach it. Effective teams use research-based information to develop teaching strategies matched to the learning styles of students to engage them with that subject matter.

Teams regularly collect and analyse student learning data to define the content of their professional learning. They collect information at the teacher and school level to evaluate the impact of their work. They meet each term to learn, reflect, refine and re-apply their learnings.


Maximise your Professional Learning Team Meetings.
  • Regular time
  • Keep to time – shorter rather than longer
  • Have a focus
  • Share the facilitation
  • Include participants by giving them roles etc – this can reduce blocking and values all contributions
  • Share teaching and learning strategies, activities, resources
  • Bring in a tub of numeracy resources and explore the ways they can be used
  • Bring in some texts and explore the opportunities for teaching of reading
  • Moderate writing/ numeracy tasks etc
  • Plan rubrics
  • Share analyses of student work (e.g. Running Records, Peters Dictation) and share strategies for ILIPs
  • Professional reading – try PAIR reading, TRIADs, Expert Jigsaw, Fina Word Protocol etc, using professional readings.
  • Making some resources together.
  • Planning units of work making the explicit links to literacy and numeracy.
  • Ensure some action from each meeting and who has responsibility for the action.
The work of a PLT

  1. Ensuring That Students Learn
Colleagues must engage in the ongoing exploration of three crucial questions that drive the work of those within a professional learning community
• What do we want each student to learn?
• How will we know when each student has learned it?
• How will we respond when a student experiences difficulty in learning?

2. A Culture of Collaboration and challenge
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.

3. A Focus on Student outcomes
Professional learning communities judge their effectiveness on the basis of student outcomes. 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 to achieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress. The focus of team goals shifts.

4. A Problem of Practice
Does a common trend become obvious from the evidence, data, dialogue or current work? The problem of practice is something you care about that would make a difference for student leanring if you improved it. A problem of practice can help focus the work of the PLT to effect student learning and instructional practice across larger chorts of students in the school.
How can we adjust instruction to move students who are struggling and those who are exceeding expectations?
Which practices are most effective with our students?
Are students learning what they are supposed to be learning?

The following can be used to help teachers analyse and reflect on the impact of their practice and generate ideas for improvement.
  • Action research is a strategy for learning more about the teaching and learning process. Teachers decide what questions are important to examine. It involves teachers selecting a focus, collecting, analysing and interpreting data and then taking action.
  • Examination of student work. Within this model, teams first identify a clear focus for their work and what outcomes they expect. The most fruitful discussions result from using examples of student work that are varied in nature and quality. An example would be written work from several students in relation to the same assignment that includes students' explanations of their thinking. The team then reflects on the implications of what is learned for teaching.
  • Study groups engage in regular collaborative interactions around topics identified by the group. Groups can also read and discuss educational research publications in a collaborative and supportive environment, over an extended period of time. The study group model can include the entire staff of a school in finding solutions to common problems.
  • Case discussions provide teams of teachers with the opportunity to reflect on teaching and learning by examining narrative stories or videotapes depicting school, classroom, teaching or learning situations or dilemmas. They are usually brief, rough-and-ready evidence of what students have done, said or written in class.
  • Lesson study. A small group of teachers meets regularly to plan, design, implement, evaluate and refine lessons for a unit of work. One member of the team conducts the lesson while other members of the team observe it. In concert with their observations and reflection, the lesson is modified and may be taught again by another member of the team.