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What is a PLC? A Definition and Resource Roundup

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September 25th, 2020

Educators nationwide are working to first reestablish connections and relationships with students and then help them get back on track with learningIn order to do that, maximizing instruction and collaborating within PLCs will be crucial. PLCs can provide a structure for sharing best practices and supporting our colleagues in the months and years ahead. 

But wait, what is a PLC?

The term “PLC” stands for professional learning community. 

As traditionally defined, a PLC is “an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve” (DuFour, DuFour & Eaker, 2002). It operates with the motivation that when educators receive continuous learning, this will in turn impact student learning as well.

In other words, PLCs can be a place for communal growth and knowledge sharing. Educators can work together to understand data they’ve gathered and help one another to make better decisions around student needs. 

PLCs are often marked by a few key elements:

  • They focus on student learning and whole child success – The focus of a PLC should be developing teachers’ “Knowledge of Practice” around the issue of student learning. And during this time, it’s more important than ever to collect qualitative SEB data to understand learning loss and student experience due to school closures and COVID.
  • They’re data-driven – PLCs are a dedicated time to look at and discuss data as it relates to students and teaching practices with peers. They work together to interpret assessment and other whole child data to align instructional and intervention supports
  • They’re collaborative – The goal of any PLC is to “work together in hopes of growing together.” Whether it’s sharing instructional practices or establishing norms, the meetings should be a safe place for collective, productive teamwork. 

How can PLCs support us this year?

  • Supporting each other in accelerating learning: As we all work to close learning gaps, we continue to be each other’s best resources. Communicating regularly about where our students are struggling or succeeding—and sharing strategies with each other—helps us ensure all students are growing.
  • Monitor that learning and growth is happening equitably: They work as a team to review data carefully around students who have historically experienced inequities, especially those who were also disproportionately impacted by the school closures. Equitable work is collaborative work, and PLCs are a great place to ground those practices.
  • Developing assessment literacy: We need high-quality assessment practices more than ever this year, but many of us do not yet feel totally comfortable using assessment data. And often, that increases as our assessment literacy increases. By working in a supportive PLC, we’re able to grow together and continually enhance what we know about assessments and data and using both to support students.

Now, some resources to support your PLCs

In light of the unique and challenging nature of this school year, many educators are having to make adjustments to everything they do, including PLCs. If they’re done right, PLCs can be extremely helpful in closing learning gaps caused by COVID.

Below, we’ve provided several resources around PLC and data culture that will offer good principles or best practices for you to implement in your role.

Are there any resources that have been helpful for you? If so, please share them in the comments section below. 


Illuminate Education equips educators to take a data-driven approach to serving the whole child. Our solution combines comprehensive assessment, MTSS management and collaboration, and real-time dashboard tools, and puts them in the hands of educators. As a result, educators can monitor learning and growth, identify academic and social-emotional behavioral needs, and align targeted supports in order to accelerate learning for each student. 

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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