PLCs Can Impact Teacher Innovation

Focus on Teaching Edthena tips for teachers and coaches about professional development and professional learning

  • Collaboration within professional learning communities (PLCs) helps teachers innovate in the classroom.

  • More teacher collaboration improves student outcomes, according to Edutopia.

  • Effective PLCs share a common definition of student success measures.

  • Beware! A poorly functioning PLC can stifle innovation if the end-result is all teachers doing the same thing.

  • Successful PLCs embrace productive conflict and need strong facilitators who engage in hard conversations.


Just as student-student collaboration is important within classrooms, teacher-teacher collaboration is important as part of the professional learning communities (PLCs) structure.

Effective professional learning communities include a common understanding of the student learning, a space for innovation, and ongoing collaboration among the teachers. PLCs are a proven practice that advance teacher practice and expand student achievement.

Edutopia writer Andrew Miller is the director of personalized learning at Singapore American School and serves as a consultant for ASCD and PBLWorks. He has been an instructional coach and secondary teacher in both China and the United States.

Andrew emphasizes the importance of PLCs in his article describing how effective professional learning communities can improve student outcome.

Determine Common Learning and Assessments

PLCs are grounded in the idea of student success. A PLC must determine an objective for what students should learn, and create an assessment that checks for student understanding.

Teachers must align themselves to the common goal of the PLC. By agreeing on learning outcomes, teachers are able to explore instructional practice on their own with a remained focus on student success.

Regardless of what objective the PLC is unified on, the final question a teacher should ask is: “How do I know my student has learned this?” Without an effective assessment that concentrates on understanding, the PLC cannot be complete.

Make Space for Innovation within PLCs

Although professional learning communities needs to be strictly aligned on some things, there still needs to be space for innovation. Teachers need to be given the liberty to navigate their instructional practice on their own.

This way they can decide what works best for their students. PLCs can engender this innovation by collecting evidence of student growth to see what strategies are the most powerful.

Ensuring PLC Teams Work Effectively

Sometimes teachers in PLCs feel obliged to agree with their colleagues on everything. However, productive conflict should be celebrated, not neglected. It is important for teachers to voice their honest opinions, regardless of if they differ from their peers. What matters most is that they have these hard conversations in a thoughtful manner.

Strong PLCs are needed for a school to operative effectively. Teachers within a PLC must define a clear objective that also leaves room for their own creativity and innovation. When teachers create their PLC with thought and care, the team can conflict on certain ideas but still be rooted in collaboration and student success.

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