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The Benefits of Working With PLC Styles

Last week I introduced four professional learning community (PLC) styles that provide a framework for deep collaboration.

  • Pragmatic PLC: Teachers who prefer this style want ideas and resources they can use tomorrow.
  • Supportive PLC: Teachers who prefer this style are looking for modeling, co-planning and expert advice.
  • Collegial PLC: Teachers who prefer this style love to share ideas and strategies while retaining some freedom to be creative and put their own stamp on their classrooms.
  • Intellectual PLC: Teachers who prefer this style enjoy delving into why things work, the research and theory behind new ideas, and how they fit with what they already know and do.

You can read about the styles in more depth on handouts 4.3-4.5 at the Solution Tree site for my book Creating a Coaching Culture for Professional Learning Communities. Here’s an example of a team that put the styles to work.

One Intellectual PLC teacher, who relied on lecture to deliver important concepts, was intrigued when his PLC watched a film clip showing exemplary student-centered discourse. When the other PLC members suggested a goal for increasing high-level discourse, he asked for research showing its impact on student achievement. He also wondered about frustration levels for students who preferred self-directed learning, a central concern of his. Sometimes, other teachers view this kind of questioning as critique or resistance rather than effort to gain clarity. In this case, however, his colleagues understood his needs and helped him find relevant data.

Of course, most PLC teams combine teachers with all four styles, which increases your need to take time to

  1. Build an understanding of the strengths and needs of the various team members.
  2. Plan to meet the varied needs for team activities, information provided, and support given, thus incorporating the differentiation we hope to see in classrooms.
  3. Appreciate and use their diverse styles as assets for strategizing to meet the needs of students with different styles.

Are the misunderstandings these differences can cause that significant? I once showed a Collegial PLC teacher a detailed lesson plan I had given to a Pragmatic PLC teacher. The Collegial PLC teacher said, quite harshly, “How could you insult her so? This assumes she has no ability to create a worthwhile plan on her own!” I replied, “Actually, she was delighted with the clear directions. She used the first activity just an hour after we met, and then, after trying a few more, tinkered with the remaining ones to accommodate the abilities and needs of specific students.”

These two styles differ so much in informational needs that one is insulted if the other applies the Golden Rule, providing the information they themselves would need! 

Have a conversation with your PLC using the neutral language of these styles. How can you make the most of what each person has to offer while supporting everyone in the overall goal of helping all students learn?

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Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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