Effective Professional Learning Communities: Part 2

Structuring your Professional Learning Community(PLC) meetings

White-board-Maskot-Getty-Images-485211701In Part 1 we examined the prerequisites for effective professional learning communities. We emphasised the importance of communicating a vision with a view to communicating effectively, building trust and changing cultures.

In this post, I will suggest a standard meeting structure for PLC meetings based on Wiliam & Leahy (2014) who argued that participants were arriving at meetings unsure of what they were learning and how they would be organising their learning. The recommendation that each meeting follows the same structure is a way of overcoming both problems.

Pre-programme Schedule

  1. Communicate the vision as described in Part 1 emphasising the need to shift from ‘fixing the teacher’ to collaborative expertise (Hattie, 2015).
  2. Explain the expected outcomes for each of the three PLCs and illustrate what a year’s progress will look like.
  3. Issue a choice of PLC’s to the staff body. Include Teaching Assistants, Learning Support Assistants and other support staff where possible in this circular. Your SEND professionals are a vital asset when it comes to joint planning, so my advice is to make every effort to include them from the beginning.
  4. Invite your staff to select their preferred PLC topic and their second preference.
  5. Allocate teachers and support staff into groups of 8-12 people. Multiples of 3 work well: two teachers and a teaching assistant (where possible).
  6. Issue a calendar of meeting dates and times. The advice from Wiliam is to meet every six weeks but I would insist on fortnightly meetings in the first instance to generate some momentum.
  7. Issue a small amount of pre-reading in preparation for meeting 1 which will be led by a nominated person. I prefer not to nominate a member of the SLT for this role as meetings can become hierarchical and limiting.
  8. Meet and train PLC leaders in how to organise their meetings.
  9. Issue the agenda for Meeting 1.

    Meeting Structure

The suggested structure is based on a 80-90 minute session and differs from Wiliam and Leahy’s arrangement in that it provides extended time for planning.

Introduction (5 minutes)

The agenda and learning intentions for the meeting are shared.

Feedback (20 minutes)

Each member of the group gives a brief report on what he or she has achieved, tested, learned since the previous session. The rest of the group listen appreciatively and then offer support to the individual in taking the plan forward. Precise information is shared in relation to the direct (observed) impact of participants’ planning on pupil outcomes.

New Learning about the Focus Topic (20 minutes)

To stimulate learning, discussion and action, one member of the group will prepare and lead a learning activity each meeting. The activities should introduce new ideas or develop those discussed previously. These activities might include a task, a video to watch and discuss, or a book study.

Joint Planning (30-40 minutes)

Using the new learning and suggestions from the feedback section of the meeting, participants work in triads to jointly plan learning episodes (lessons, schemes of learning, activities, starters, plenaries, assessments) and schedule peer observations which are an integral facet of this strategy. Each participant should be peer observed on a ration of once to every three meetings.

Summary of Learning (5 minutes)

A short opportunity to discuss whether the learning intentions for the meeting have been met. If not, there is time for the group to decide what they will do about it.

Based on Wiliam & Leahy (2014) Sustained Formative Assessment with Teacher Learning Communities


In the concluding section of this series (Part 3) we will focus on evaluating the impact of each PLC on student outcomes and how best to present this information to school leaders, inspectors and governors/boards/trustees. Furthermore, the implications for performance management of collaborative groups (Poocharoen& Wong, 2016) will be explored.


Hattie, J., (2015) ‘What works best in education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise’, Open ideas at Pearson, Pearson, London.

Muijs, D., & A. Harris., (2007) ‘Teacher Leadership in (In)action: Three Case Studies of Contrasting Schools’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 35 (1) pp. 111-134 

Poocharoen, O, & Wong, N., (2016) ‘Performance Management of Collaborative Projects: The Stronger the Collaboration, the Less Is Measured’, Public Performance & Management Review, 39, 3, pp. 607-629 

Wiliam, D., (2014) ‘Sustaining Formative Assessment with Teacher Learning Communities’. Available at: http://www.dylanwiliamcenter.com/whitepapers/ (Accessed: 17/06/2016) 





About blakeeducation

Assistant Head in Hampshire. Advocate for social mobilty through effective parental engagement, quality T&L, literacy, social capital, curriculum and culture.
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