Moving Toward PLC: 100 People, One Vision

For a school to become a professional learning community, the employees of that building must develop shared mission, vision, values and goals. To do this, leaders must productively engage every employee in brutally honest discussion. If every single person doesn’t have a chance to chime in freely with suggestions, agreement, and disagreement, then the leaders fail.

Leaders must overcome two key hurdles: logistics and agreement.

Logistics

How do you listen to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people and consider all their viewpoints? How do you sustain large scale conversation? This is where computer-based tools for communication and aggregation can be especially helpful. If we’ve learned anything from the phenomena of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve learned that people are longing to participate in open discussion over topics that they care about.

Agreement

Everyone participating doesn’t mean that everyone has to spout out the same catch phrases right away (or at all). It means that through open, honest, sustained discourse, colleagues throughout the building or organization express, compare, and refine their beliefs and assumptions about learning and education.

One ultimate outcome of this discussion is the development of shared mission, vision, values, and goals.  These elements become the foundation for the culture of the organization, guiding all the activities and actions and discussions that occur on campus. The nitty-gritty, day-to-day policies and procedures of the school flow out of this set of shared and stated beliefs.

I say “ultimate outcome,” but what I really mean is “first draft.” For an organization to really thrive, all the employees must continually re-examine and refine their assumptions and beliefs about learning and education. Employees must remind each other of their shared beliefs all the time and question their own thoughts, words, and actions.

Here are two practical suggestions to facilitate the proces:

  • Make sure to set up some simple conflict-resolution practices. When people talk about their deeply held beliefs, things can get heated.
  • Ask really good questions. Jim Collins’s Hedgehog Concept is an invaluable framework for helping people to articulate their deeply held values and beliefs.

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