The First Step to Supporting Professional Learning Teams

An interesting question landed in my inbox the other day.

The author — charged with supporting principals in a district working to make meaningful collaboration happen in every grade level and in every school — asked, “What is the biggest mistake that you see the principals of professional learning communities making over and over again?

My answer:  The biggest mistake that I see principals in #atplc schools make over and over again is failing to recognize that the learning teams in their buildings are JUST as diverse as the kids in their classrooms.  Each team brings unique sets of collaborative strengths and weaknesses to the table — and each team is ready to tackle different collaborative tasks at different times.

Successful leadership in a professional learning community, then, depends on the ability of a building principal to provide differentiated support for teams who are at different points in their collaborative journey.

Recognizing the important role that differentiation had to play in supporting professional learning teams, Parry Graham — the coauthor of my two books on supporting professional learning communities (see here and here) — and I worked to articulate six different stages of team development in an article for the National Staff Development Council.  You can read about those stages here:

One Step at a Time

We also worked to clarify some of the steps that building principals can take to support teams at each of the six developmental stages.  You can learn more about those strategies in this table:

Table – Word

Table – PDF

Finally, effectively supporting learning teams depends on having a good sense of where each team in a building currently stands.  Principals should constantly track teams, reflecting on where they are developmentally.  This simple handout can be used to make that tracking easier.

Any of this make sense?  More importantly, do you think any of this is helpful?

___________________________

Related Radical Reads:

Five Resources for School Leaders Starting PLCs from Scratch

The Stages of #atplc Development

Suggestion for New #atplc Schools: Don’t Skip Vision and Values Statements

4 comments

  1. Breanna

    Good Morning, Bill. I’m Breanna McCormack. I am a junior at the University of South Alabama. I am currently in EDM310 class, so I am new to the blogging stuff. I enjoyed reading your post and thought it was very helpful. I very much agree with you.

    • Bill Ferriter

      Hey Breanna,

      Jazzed to hear that you dug my post — and jazzed to hear that you’re in EDM310 down at South Alabama! I’ve had students from your class commenting on my blog for years.

      My challenge to you: Find something to DISAGREE with in one of my posts and leave me a comment telling me why!

      That’s the beauty of blogging — readers and writers can wrestle with big ideas together. If we never take the time to point out places where we disagree with one another, no one ever learns. Challenge matters.

      Think you can do it?

      Bill

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