A Clearinghouse for Martensdale-St. Marys Community Schools Professional Development

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whatever It Takes Introduction

Good afternoon!

I hope this finds you well and excited to begin our study of Richard DuFour's Whatever It Takes and the theory and practice of professional learning communities (PLCs).

As explained in your professional development calendar for the school year, your task today is to read the introduction to the text and post your team learning on this forum. That way PLCs across the district can read and respond to your thoughts, answer questions, and engage each other in dialogue. For your post today, please respond to the following questions, taken from the study guide for Whatever It Takes:

1. Consider the brief review of the characteristics of a Professional Learning
Community offered in the introduction. Educators who have considered
this description of a PLC never express opposition to these
characteristics; yet they typically struggle when attempting to create
these conditions in their schools. What are the barriers and obstacles that
make it difficult for educators to implement a PLC in their schools? How
have some schools been able to overcome these barriers and become

2. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future contends
that “communities of learning must no longer be considered utopian; they
must become the building blocks that establish a new foundation for
America’s schools.” Is it possible that schools operating as PLCs could
become the norm rather than the exception? If so, what are promising
strategies for bringing about this transformation?

3. In the introduction, the authors claim that schools should respond to
students who experience difficulty in learning with systematic, timely,
and directive interventions that ensure students receive additional time
and support for learning. Would most educators oppose this proposal? Do
you? Why or why not?

We are all looking forward to your responses and continuing our work beyond the walls of our classrooms.


  1. PLC Group 1 "The Mad Scientists"

    1. There is not enough money or personnel to provide systematic tutoring for kids who need it. Kids will not attend summer school or after-school tutoring; they're apathetic-or afraid of being stigmatized. There is not enough time for frequent teacher collaboration. These challenges were not met all at once or by forcing conformity, but by involving all members of the learning community-including and especially the teacher's association. They worked on such problems thoughtfully, collectively, and continuously.

    2. It is possible that schools operating as PLC's could become the norm. The way to implement this is creating shared mission, vision, values, and goals. Also schools use collaborative teams, collective inquiry, action orientation and experimentation, continuous improvement, and results orientation.

    3. We don't think educators are going to oppose this idea. Educators are going to do what's necessary to ensure that the student is able to succeed. Yes we do as a group. It is in the student's best interest and we are willing to implement strategies to ensure they are able to succeed.

  2. PLC members: Jodi Noga, Melissa Schad, Amy DeWaard, Sara Kuhns, Joe Franey and Jan Devore
    1. Groups were predetermined with varied grade levels. We think PLC groups would be more efficient if we were organized closer to grades above and below us. Each school has unique barriers, our school has limted resourses and staffing. Our prediction to how schools have overcome these barriers is that staff has shared mission, vision and goals.
    2. Yes. Knowledge about past practices, focus on learning, establish measurable goals and timelines.
    3. No. Most educators would not oppose it becasue they want their students to achieve.

  3. 1. Barriers of PLCs are having adequate data and knowing what direction to go with it. Lack of teacher motivation may also hinder PLCs. Some schools have overcome these issues by finding out which data is best used to guide instruction to meet student needs. Teachers also have gotten on board with the PLC theory and are motivated.
    2. Yes, schools can turn the norm into PLC groups rather than the exception. Strategies to aid in the process are simply knowing our own students and their strengths and needs, collaborating with teachers, and analyzing data to guide instruction to enhance achievement.
    3. Most educators would support this concept. We support the concept because it is in the best interest of the students, and that's why we are ultimately in education. The difficulty presents itself when there is a lack of time to plan and collect resources. We are paid for 8 hours a day, but many of us spend much more time to simply fulfill our job expectations.

    ~Mollie, Dianne, Amanda, Jen

  4. 1. What are the barriers and obstacles that
    make it difficult for educators to implement a PLC in their schools? Not enough money, lack of attendance in summer school, time restraints on grading, competition among teachers, and union restrictions.
    How have some schools been able to overcome these barriers and become PLCs? They focused on the three critical questions.
    2. Is it possible that schools operating as PLCs could become the norm rather than the exception? Yes
    If so, what are promising strategies for bringing about this transformation? All parties working towards a common mission with a similar vision for reaching that goal. Staff development along with collective inquiry, experimentation, and orientation of results would move us forward.

    3. Educators are going to take the necessary steps in order to help students succeed. Our teachers already go out of the way to try to assist students with a variety of educational methods.

  5. 1. There is not enough time or money. There is often times not enough staff in your area of expertise. Not all staff is on board; they may lack a shared vision and goal.

    2. We believe PLC groups will eventually become the norm. As a small district, we have an advantage of mixed groups across content areas, where larger schools have an advantage of having several staff in the same area of expertise. PLC groups have great potential of becoming very good and helpful. It makes sense that the outcome will enhance student learning; especially where in our school, many of us share the same students, and have a common goal. Some strategies we have in place consist of collaboration time, and time set aside to work in our PLC groups.

    3. No, we do not oppose the proposal of students having extra time and support for learning. Most teachers are willing to accommodate each student in areas of difficulty. Our staff is really good about working together and discussing options for individual students and their needs. We all have our own individual ideas of success, and students have different ideas of their own success as well. Where do we draw the line? How much time do we take away from other students?

  6. Question 1:
    It depends on how useful these things are and what our attitudes are towards everything. We all need to be on the same plane, have a common goal, and have it be genuinely beneficial. We need appropriate training in order to deliver proper instruction. It has to be a process that builds year to year rather than something that jumps from topic to topic each year. People have to be willing to change their habits and their ways of thinking. There needs to be more working as a team rather than having a teacher do tasks on their own and their own specific way.

    Question 2:
    Yes. It is possible. It goes back to believing in what we are doing, how beneficial it is, if it’s a systematic/school wide effort, if time to collaborate and work together is available, and having the necessary support.

    Question 3:
    No. We don’t oppose that and we don’t feel most educators would oppose it. All teachers want students to be successful in what they do. It’s a main goal as a teacher. Therefore, teachers want to work to meet the needs of students as long as it’s a researched based method that will last rather than a trend that changes year to year. Administration has to work with teachers regarding time management and other factors that are required to successfully administer the methods.

    - Tish, Barb, Kara, Kate, Amanda Skellenger

  7. 1. Measuring the outcomes of student achievement is different from one class to another. Another concern is that we all operate individually so it would take a lot of effort and time to shift to an interdependent system. Money (example: summer school), time constraints, and true collaboration are all barriers to success. To change would be a slow, committed, system-wide effort on the part of administrators, teachers, students and the community.
    2. It would have to be a top-down approach in which schools are supported through the entire process. We, as educators, need time to collaborate often throughout the week. We don’t really have a full commitment of what we want them to learn because our process is so independent now.
    3. We don’t necessarily oppose it we just don’t have the structure in place to promote it.

  8. As we continue to work on developing and fine-tuning our PLCs we will inevitably encounter barriers and struggles. As long as there is a commitment to this process, it can be successful. PLC groups can, and will be, flexible. As we address student needs and review data, groups will be formed with teachers who have similar grades/ages. All of us know that learning together is beneficial. There are many experts among us, and the implementation of PLCs aims to take advantage of these two facts. We need to keep the big picture in mind when thinking about measuring our success. The bottom line remains, "Are we doing something to improve practice and help students learn?"

  9. Rana Webster, Terah Henson, Kim Burns, Brenda Halverson:
    1. Barriers- hard to get out of your comfort zone, have to be interdependant, they are meant to be action oriented, has to have a shared mission and goals. Changing our expectations about what school is, achieve high levels of learning. The schools get over these barriers with dialog, support from administration, all headed to the same goal with focus on results.

    2. Yes it is possible, collaborative teams who work together to reach common goals collecitve inquiry, interventions rather than remediation, openess to new possibillities, and if we could hear stories of how it worked for others.

    3. Yes because it's a good idea, No because it can seem hard to change your view point or also because of the barriers mentioned above.

    Our Outcomes and Decisions Made:
    Our PCL groups need to be willing to share and not compete. Instead of recognition as a teacher we say attribute. Share what works with others. We want to hear what other's see as the end result, common goal- action based plan for the future. Structured dialog about whta is best for the kids.