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Alex Hinseth

Stephanie Kortan
Donna Paul
Jessica Argabright
Team Next Steps Narrative
EDLD 621x
An Application of Learning By Doing: Our Reflection on Our Analysis
and Action Plans of Our Four Micro Units’ Professional Learning Communities
Introduction
In this paper we will be highlighting four different micro-units that function as professional
learning communities, PLCs, and analyzing their collaborative actions, operational and instructional
effectiveness, and next steps for 100% student achievement. We will be utilizing various rubrics and
audit forms from the text Learning By Doing, by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, and
Thomas Many. This project started out with each micro unit being designated at various levels of
effectiveness: green, yellow, and red. Part of this narrative will be a reflection on whether the group is
as effective and/or successful as they think they are. We will conclude by offering would be next steps
as a leadership team for improvement within the macro unit applied to individual micro units.
Management of Responsibility
PLC groups have a responsibility to communicate and collaborate effectively in order to keep
student learning and growth at the center of their work. When collaborative groups come together,
there will inevitably be disagreement in practices and conflicts when taking responsibility for teaching.
Effective PLC groups know how to purposefully argue in order to create a school environment of
improved practices and student learning. For this to happen, there needs to be an agreed upon set of
norms and protocols for each individual group member.
Each of our PLC groups went about creating norms and protocols differently. Within our four
different PLC groups, two of them were red, one yellow, and one green. The first red group does not
have any norms or protocols at their meetings. We believe that in order to be an effective and
productive PLC group, the norms and protocols should not only be followed at each meeting but
should also be created and established together. The second red PLC group did create norms and

protocols together however they did not address what happens when there is conflict between group
members. The opportunities for growth within these PLC groups would be to build norms and
protocols together and to address and follow those when conflicts arise.
For the yellow PLC group, their norms and protocols were created together. Because this
group has been working together for several years, their norms and protocols are not stated at the
beginning of each meeting or put on the agenda. They feel as though they have created an
environment where they know how to effectively communicate and collaborate together without
needing to address the norms at each meeting. However, we feel their opportunities for growth would
come from having these norms and protocols listed on the agenda at each meeting to remind them of
what they agreed upon. It would help them be more prepared and task, especially when conflicts and
differing opinions arise.
The green PLC group has been together for 4 years and has had the opportunity to create
norms and consistently reviews them before each PLC meeting. The group sees value in reviewing
the norms because the three members of the group are strong-willed and opinionated, and must stay
true to the norms in order to function effectively. The group is good at coming to a consensus when
the members do not agree and “agreeing to disagree” is not uncommon. An opportunity for growth
when it comes to norms in this PLC is making sure that the norms continue to be relevant. If certain
norms truly do become the norm, they can be replaced with new norms that will stretch and challenge
the group to grow. A benefit to having a group with different personalities and strong opinions is that it
causes the group to naturally operate at the edge of their comfort zone. This dynamic could be
disastrous in some teams, but for this group it is a major strength. Overall, the red and yellow teams
perceive themselves as being slightly higher functioning than what their own completed rubrics put
them as implementing or initiating. The groups view themselves as being effective teachers who
have solid strategies within their own classes and do not see how their effectiveness as a PLC is
independent. The green team is truly sustaining. They are highly critical of themselves as a group
and from this are highly effective within their PLC and subsequent individual classrooms.

Habit of Inquiry #1
Before a group can move forward with their practices, there has to be a clarified and shared
vision for success. This vision starts with the district mission statement, and then is developed further
within individual PLC groups for essential learning for all students. Effective PLC groups have
“established clarity around the knowledge, skills, and curriculum that students must acquire… and
have committed to providing students with common instruction and supports to achieve the intended
outcomes” (DuFour et al., 82).
For the red groups, both have a foundation to begin working, however they both have many
gaps within their PLC. The NVMS red group meets one time per week and the teachers plan out their
week by talking through strategies, looking at standards and learning targets, and addressing
potential interventions for struggling students. Their opportunities for growth include creating a strong
scope and sequence with established and agreed upon power standards, and creating rubrics for
grading formative and summative assessments for equity across teachers in the 6th grade. This is
important so that no matter who your teacher is, the student is being taught the same priority
standards and given equal opportunities to find success on any given classroom work.
The Watertown group meets once a month to discuss the students that they share among their
caseloads. The team does not have any vertical articulation, however they do plan and address goals
between the general education classes and their small group special education classes. They are red
because within their group they do not create common achievement targets, rubrics, or identify power
standards. These would be their opportunities for growth.
For Seward, or the yellow team, their shared vision of success is that all students learn. They
have common planning and from this meeting comes very deliberate vertical articulation between
grades one through three. They discuss common vocabulary often subconsciously moving up on
Bloom’s levels as they plan across each grade. Their largest area for growth for them would be
standardization. They need to use common developed rubrics that go across all of their classrooms,
and not only for their LAB but in their combined classes of one, two and three.

The collaboration in the green PLC is strong and the team has been developing and refining a
shared vision of success over the past few years. Power standards have been identified through the
collaborative unpacking of standards and the group has shared learning targets. An area of growth for
this group is the absence to vertical articulation between Social Studies Advanced Placement
courses. As students take AP Human Geo in 9th grade, AP US in 10th grade, AP Euro in 11th grade,
and AP Gov in 12th, there should be more continuity when it comes to rubrics.
Habit of Inquiry #3
Effective PLC teams must act purposefully while gathering data. They must think about and
discuss the most effective data to collect, how it will be collected, and how they can involve students
as users of that data to put them on winning streaks. Effective data collection and analysis must start
with the setting of SMART goals and clear achievement targets. When those are set, common
formative and summative assessments must be created and utilized to move toward the SMART goal.
Collecting data is important, however collecting the correct data is key. The red group does a
good job of creating student friendly learning targets, differentiation their lesson plans with scaffolding
and math manipulatives, and using formative assessments to check in on student learning. However,
these student friendly learning targets and differentiation look different in each classroom and student
learning is dependent on who they have for a teacher. Students are also not able to describe how
their learning targets build on each other or what prior knowledge they may need to find success in
the current unit. The feedback for students is also not immediate or constructive. The homework that
students complete is never returned them and only put in the gradebook as a score without
knowledge of what they may have missed to received that grade. Students are also never involved in
create the assessments or given an example of what an exemplary piece of work should look like.
Overall, this group places themselves higher because of the fact that they are reviewing student
friendly learning targets and differentiated in their classrooms but effective PLC’s go so much deeper
than that.
For the second red group their specialization as special education teachers is modification and
differentiation. I did not see any examples of this from conversations that I had with the team. Their

strength and perhaps weakness is that they rely heavily on district provided curriculum and
assessments. Therefore, they do have common assessments and established action plans for each
student based on their IEPs. Their opportunity for growth would be to begin to implement new
strategies into their pull out classrooms that they are identifying and working on as a PLC. Not as
directed by IEPs or the district.
At Seward, which is a Montessori school, differentiation is at the heart of every teacher’s
teaching. Classrooms are combined grades and their is flexible grouping being arranged and
rearranged constantly. This provides my teachers the skills to really differentiate within their own
classrooms to the benefit of their PLC work. They do frequent checks for understanding either
through student work or student responses. In spite of these strengths or perhaps because of them,
these teachers do not develop explicit SMART goals or action plans for their PLC. They much more
informally discuss what they want to work on, based on things they have simply noticed and then plan
as a team around those skills or new learning targets. Additionally they have no common
assessments. I believe this stems from the fact that they are teaching different grades and have not
transcended to the understanding they can be common even across grades. I also found no evidence
of students as users of data. I think as elementary teachers this is a slow growing idea always
spinning around the question of whether younger students can understand and use the data as older
students can. Overall, their effectiveness matches their perceived abilities and reality as a team.
They recognize their lack of common formative assessment yet I would push that they feel much
stronger in their abilities in terms of action plans and smart goals compared to what they actually do
and have formally written out.
The “green” PLC at Mounds View sets a SMART goal annually and consistently revisits it
throughout the year. The PLC also has common assessments that tie to that goal are are frequent.
These common assessments provided data tied to learning targets and students are shared in this
data to allow them to be users of the data. Students are able to use this data to check for mastery on
all learning targets and are also able to base their relearning and reassessment off of this data.

Habit of Inquiry #4
Where do we go next? Once teams have completed a cycle they must ask themselves this
question. “Individuals, teams, and schools, seek relevant data and information and use it to promote
continuous improvement” (LBD, 198). DuFour maintains that this would look like a team:




Responding to students who are experiencing difficulty
Enrich and extend the learning of students who are proficient
Inform and improve the individual and collective practice of members
Identify team professional development needs
Measure progress towards team goals
(DuFour et al., 199)
Collecting data is the first step, what teams do with the data is where huge changes in student
learning can happen. It is not enough to collect data and disregard it. For the red group, they use a
common data template to collect student data and complete a data loop for each chapter within the
math curriculum. Where they fall short is using this data to improve their teaching practices. The red
group does not have any established norms or protocols for around analyzing data together and often
do not spend time looking at the data to reflect on their practices, strategies, or where gaps need to
be filled. The only opportunity for students to catch up on missing assignments and tests or to fill gaps
in their knowledge is at an after school program called ‘Math Zone’. In this program, teachers stay
after school with students 1-3 times per week and help with whatever the student might need. When it
comes to analyzing data and implementing new practices based on results, the red PLC group ‘does’
data looping but is not an ‘effective’ PLC group.
For the second red group, at Watertown, they utilize the district mandated formative and
periodic assessments and identify students who are meeting standards or who are not. Therefore
they are effectively identifying students who require additional time and teaching for standards and
students who are proficient and need either to be replaced, reevaluated or enrichment activities. They
have a common protocol for when students are meeting the standards and go through those steps of
meeting with the general education teachers to identify other areas where growth is needed. If the
student does not make the growth then they retest and reevaluate their IEP. There was no evidence
given for these protocols from the micro unit, however it was stated to me via a conversation with one

of the team members. Their opportunities for growth as a team would be to begin to include the
students in their discussions around their own growth and goals within their IEP. Begin to make
students users of data.
Seward does a very proficient job at identifying students who require extra time and who need
extensions. They do not have formal methods for collecting and analyzing data, it is done much more
informally through observation and during lessons, they do not chart and analyze formative data.
They notice and make adjustments, which is good, yet there are great benefits to having more
intentionality around data and tracking students’ achievements of learning targets.
The green has a protocol that they use after each common assessment is given. Data is
broken down by learning target, gender, ethnicity, free/reduced lunch status, special education, and
finally by teacher. This breakdown allows the team to gather information about students in need of
intervention and students in need of enrichment opportunities.
Often when the data is discussed, individual teacher practice is not a topic of conversation.
Overall teacher strategies, student performance, and assessment authenticity dominate the
conversation while bad individual teaching practices are not called into question. Good practices are
often shared, but practices that are in need of adjustment do not usually come in to the conversation.
Habit of Inquiry #5
After data has been analyzed and students in need of intervention have been identified, a
team must determine how it will respond. When students either did not learn and require extra time
and support or students have learned and require enrichment opportunities, the team should
determine a coordinated system of interventions and extensions regardless of who is teaching the
class. Teams that utilize these practices in addition to twenty-first century grading practices are on
their way to making sure that all students achieve.
If a team does not often look at their data results, they will not know how to proceed moving
forward with student learning. The red group does a good job of implementing 21st century standards
based grading with their assessments. However, when teachers are grading, they do not have
common rubrics and do not grade in the same way across the 6th grade house. Therefore, student

grades are completely dependent upon the teacher grading them. Another area with pieces of
success come from placing struggling students in intervention, or ‘lab’, classes. At NV students who
need extra math support receive two math classes within their daily schedule and the ‘lab’ course is
called Math Achievers. In this class students receive the math lesson again, can ask questions about
their homework, and do math extension activities to deepen their learning. The problem with this
intervention is that student schedule changes can only happen at the end of each trimester and
therefore a student could be struggling and needing extra support for a full 12 weeks before receiving
it. Again this all shows how this PLC group has pieces of effectiveness but also have many holes and
therefore place them in the red zone. The second red team’s strengths and opportunities for growth
are deeply intertwined to their growth steps for habit of inquiry #4. They need to include students and
perhaps move beyond district mandates and curriculums.
At Seward they need to implement a cohesive and systematic method of evaluating, and
implementing data cycles. They do not complete the “plan, do, study, act” with enough intention and
repetitiveness for students to move between needing interventions to needing enrichment. Too often
students stay in intervention and come away with learning gaps that are never addressed, just
acknowledged. Their opportunity for growth, one that I do think they recognize just have not had the
courage to change, would be to formally take the time to sit down and plan out the steps they will take
if a student learns or does not learn the material. They know where their students are at, what they
need to start addressing and attacking is the reality of their students’ academic situations and how
their practices need to change in order to affect growth for their students.
Mounds View High School as a building has worked very hard in the last five years to ensure
that 21st century grading practices are being utilized. More emphasis in the grade has been put on
assessment “of” learning, or performance items, and less on assessment “for” learning, or practice
items. There is a school wide relearning and reassessment protocol which requires each PLC to give
students the opportunity to relearn and reassess but also allows each PLC to decide what that will
look like in their course. The conversation about what the grade represents is alive and well and while
there are steps that still need to be taken, overall the grade that students earn reflects their learning.

This PLC does a nice job of studying data and identifying students who are in need of
enrichment and students who are in need of intervention, but a more systematic approach to giving
students intervention and enrichment is necessary. Two existing opportunities that can be taken
advantage of by this PLC include an advisory hour in which students are able to meet with teachers,
relearn content, and reassess. This is a more flexible option that could include enrichment and
intervention. A longer-term intervention is a course that exists called AP US History Support and
meets every other day and is run through Mounds View’s Early College Program.
Conclusion: Next Steps
In conclusion, all micro units understand and follow the concept of participating in learning
communities. Yet, within the majority of our micro units there is a lack of foundational tenets and
professional willingness to work at the edge of comfort zones. DuFour states that “Professional
learning communities set out to restore and increase the passion of teachers by not only reminding
them of the moral purpose of their work, but also by creating the conditions that allow them to do that
work successfully” (DuFour et al., 264). Egos are still involved within our micro-units which hinders
true growth and success for our students. The green team, in spite of strong personalities, has found
ways to work around themselves as individuals which has provided for real professional growth and
student success.
Even though a PLC team might land on sustaining (or green) area of a rubric, there will always
be opportunities for growth, learning, and implementing new strategies within any given classroom.
Teaching and collaboration are areas that never stop improving and evolving. Our next steps as a
macro unit would be to have our PLC groups look back on their norms and reflect on their
effectiveness beyond a basic, task oriented, level. Do our norms push us professionally, to the edge of
our comfort zone, to reach success for all students; or do they need to be revisited and recreated?
Additionally, requiring PLC teams to self-assess in order for further growth and support from the
macro unit and administration would be our final step to move forward. The most effective PLC’s
never stop in their work towards evolving and improving their teaching practices to meet the needs of
all students learning. Therefore, as an instructional leadership team, we see a lot of hope and real

love for students, and with some intentional support, we see all of our teams moving towards a
sustaining level of effectiveness.

References

DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for
professional learning communities at work. (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.