EDU 520: CoPs & PLCs (Communities of Practice & Professional Learning Communities)
CoPs and PLCs essentially are the same thing. They are groups of people who come together to learn from each other and to share what they know. They can differ in the ways they are implemented or their topics of focus. CoPs have been around since humans have walked the earth, and can be found everywhere; though the term is widely adopted in Corporate America. PLCs, on the other hand, are often found in educational environments.
CoPs and PLCs are excellent conduits for learning. The concept of learning is reinforced when humans are in a group setting; surrounded by those with similar interests. People can feed off of each other, because one can offer up ideas and thoughts and share them with the other members of the group. Learning takes place by the sheer interaction of people working together. People in a CoP or PLC can then take what they have learned from the group meetings and effectively influence their coworkers or their students outside of the group. Co-workers and students will then, in turn, learn from what they have been taught. People will then go back to the CoP or PLC and share anything new they, themselves, have learned, and the process continues. DuFour argued that (as cited in Graham, 2007), “When teachers work together to … help each other develop and implement strategies to improve current levels of student learning, they are engaged in the kind of professional development that builds teacher capacity and sustains school improvement”. Students, teachers, and administrators all benefit from this collaboration.
I am a huge fan of the PLC model, since I work in Higher Education in both an administrative and teaching capacity. I could see how PLCs could benefit staff, faculty, and students alike. Ever since reading about PLCs for this assignment, I have begun to think about how I could create one for faculty teaching the Math 099 & 101 (Elementary & Intermediate Algebra) classes at CCSU. We currently have a Center for Teaching & Faculty Development that holds talks and discussions about various topics of interest. I would like to start a PLC with a more stream-lined focus – that of sharing and discussing teaching practices for 099/101. How can I be a better algebra instructor? What can I do to teach these courses and exhibit my academic freedom while still adhering to the CCSS? Do online quizzes work in the class or do in-person ones seem to work better? Are students taking advantage of the free online questions? The questions posed are numerous. I would love to work to make discussions like this happen. Sharing of information is never a bad thing. I’m still working out the details….
Technology has come a long way, and Web 2.0 can influence CoPs and PLCs positively and negatively. Social networking tools, like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, can all be used to find and connect with people that share a similar interest. This can be beneficial when creating or starting a CoP or PLC, as it cuts down on the time to find people with similar interests. Gunawardena, Hermans, Sanchez, Richmond, Bohley & Tuttle (2008) contend that “Web 2.0 tools foster interaction, collaboration, and contribution” (p. 5). Users can create, edit, construct and then share material (documents/images/spreadsheets, etc.) among other members of a group. This can be extremely helpful, especially if members of your group are geographically located a distance away from each other. On the other hand, having members spread out across continents can possibly lead to isolation since members do not have to actually physically meet in person. People working online may also get easily distracted and not get as much work done as they had hoped. Groups work best when everyone in the group pulls their own weight. If one person in the CoP or PLC is not doing their share of the work, the learning that could take place among all members might not be happening to its fullest potential.
What can I do to help me get started with creating a new educational PLC for my fellow 099/101 teachers? What approaches should I take? Should I just focus on ONE topic?
Some Useful Links:
CoP Design Guide. http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/nli0531.pdf
Bouchard, J. (2012). EDU520 Unit 3 CoP, PLC [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Pg3cx7dW1U&feature=youtu.be
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2014). AllthingsPLC. Retrieved from: http://www.allthingsplc.info/about
Graham, P. (2007). Improving teacher effectiveness through structured collaboration: A case study of a professional learning community. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 31(1), 1-17.
Gunawardena, C., Hermans, M. B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2008). A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16.
Wenger-Trayner, E. (2014). Intro to communities of practice. Retrieved from: http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/