If you’ve ever indulged in The Twilight Zone series, you may recall an episode from the first season titled “A Little Peace and Quiet”. In this segment, a woman unearths a pendant which allows her to freeze time, simply by saying one word (or two, if we’re being technical). Without disclosing any spoilers, this woman is forced to make a challenging decision: unfreeze time and perish or live alone in a vacant and silent world.
If I were to pose this question to a group of educators, chances are many of them would choose to continue freezing time, if only to provide them with a few more minutes to catch up on the litany of daily tasks or use the restroom in peace. They may even find the concept of living in isolation and silence quite appealing after a tough day.
All jokes aside, a teacher’s day goes by fast, with limited time to tackle their lengthy to-do lists. One of their many responsibilities often includes attending weekly professional learning community (PLC) meetings in order to collaborate with teammates, disaggregate data, and/or reflect on best practices to accelerate student learning. Unfortunately, many PLCS have not managed to make significant progress in student achievement. According to Disciplinary Literacy in Action by ReLeah Cossett Lent and Marsha McCracken Voigt, PLCs often require too many mandates, and not enough time for authentic professional learning and inquiry. Teachers are usually expected to analyze and respond to student data in a short amount of time, which can leave them feeling overwhelmed and dispirited.
A Strategy Toolkit for PLCs
Conversely, well-developed PLCs have the ability to positively impact student achievement and boost teacher morale. When educators are given extended periods of time to collaborate and have access to effective solutions to teach concepts, they build collective efficacy. The higher the collective efficacy, the more meaningful PLC work becomes (Lent and Voigt 22).
While there are many resources available to teachers, cognitive scientists have discovered highly effective, research-based practices to make learning more accessible for students and teachers alike. Based on the science of learning, these flexible guiding principles can be implemented in classrooms of primary learners all the way to adults.
Dr. Cynthia Nebel, a member of The Learning Scientists team, describes six strategies that can support PLC discussions and enhance student learning:
- Spaced Practice - Reiterating material over time with space in between, rather than learning concepts over a concentrated period of time.
- Interleaved Practice - Mixing up practice so that students are studying multiple concepts and making connections between these concepts.
- Elaboration - Asking how and why questions while learners study course material to help understand how things work and make meaningful connections.
- Self-Explanation - Internally describing how students solve a problem or complete a task in order to reinforce the sequence of steps used.
- Concrete Examples - Using real-world examples that students can relate to when learning abstract ideas or concepts.
- Dual Coding - Combining verbal and visual stimuli to help learners encode information and reduce the amount of working memory needed to learn.
The Learning Scientists offer a library of instructional videos about these strategies and dive deeper into how they can be applied to a variety of educational contexts.
How Can PLCs Become Meaningful Time-Savers?
If educators are looking for a more structured approach when selecting evidence-based strategies, QoreInsights’ Classroom Education Plan® (CEP) is a cutting-edge technology tool that saves teachers a ton of time. The CEP integrates teacher and student input with the latest science to suggest immediate researched-based solutions that have been vetted by culturally responsive pedagogy and social and emotional learning experts. It also connects teachers to active professional learning communities so they can collaborate and receive the training they need to support their specific student populations.
The Classroom Education Plan® can support PLC efficiency by providing:
- Real-time, tech-based, classroom-ready strategies at teachers' fingertips
- Structured learning paths for teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders
- Differentiated strategies for classroom management and instruction
- An increase in student outcomes in just four short weeks
While this resource may not provide time-freezing abilities, it will certainly create space for teachers and assist them in making effective instructional decisions. Read more about QoreInsights’ Classroom Education Plan® on their website, as well as listen to their interview with a Director of Professional Learning, who is using the CEP in Fairfield County, Ohio.