Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are collaborative learning environments which “support the challenge of helping all students learn at high levels and offer specific strategies and structures” to help teachers and administrators create a learning environment within the school. (Learning By Doing, DuFour, DuFour, Eaker and Many, 2010) A PLC is more than what happens inside the walls of a school building.  For example, as districts work to create this collaborative learning environment, the support and input of the teachers, administrators, parents, and students will be necessary.  All of these groups will need to work together in building the structure and the culture of a true professional learning community.

Most importantly, the PLC process is not a program.  It cannot be purchased, nor can it be implemented by anyone other than the staff itself.  It is an ongoing, continuous, never-ending process of conducting. Implemented properly, a professional learning community can have a profound impact on the structure and culture of the school.

Three big ideas drive the PLC process. The first is a focus on learning (rather than teaching). Secondly, collaborative teams work together to develop, implement and measure student progress. The third big idea focuses on results. In this model, teams rely on four questions to measure student progress and adjust instructional practices. These four questions are:

  • What do we want our children to learn?
  • How will we know if they learned it?
  • What will we do if they don’t learn?
  • What will we do if they already know it?

What are PLCs and why are they Important?

The term professional learning community (PLC) has become quite commonplace in the field of education. Educators use this term to describe multiple combinations of individuals with an interest in education, grade-level  team meetings , groups of individuals meeting together to read a common book, weekly data meetings, a high school department, and so on. While these types of groups have a place, they are not what is meant by a PLC. More accurately described, PLCs are a group who work together interdependently in collaborative teams that are committed to achieving better results for their students. There are three big ideas that represent the core principals of a professional learning community, focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results.

In a PLC, members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, monitor each student’s learning on a timely basis, provide interventions that assure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and enrich learning when students have already become proficient at the intended outcomes.

PLCs are considered one of the most promising educational reform efforts. The benefits of professional learning communities for educators and students include reduced isolation of teachers, better informed and committed teachers, and academic gains for students.


Do you have questions? Want to know more? Get in touch with us!

AEA Cedar Falls Office

Name Title Email
Amy Moine Professional Learning Coordinator Email: Amy Moine
Sandy Ubben Consultant for Mathematics Email: Sandra Ubben

AEA Marshalltown Office

Name Title Email
Kim Swartz Assistant Director of Educational Services Email: Kimberly Swartz