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Professional Learning Community (PLC)

The key to our work as a PLC is the ongoing cycle of collaboration between our teachers around the Four Critical Questions. As they teach a unit, an essential learning, the teachers in each team work through a cycle to address the individual learning needs of students.

The Four Critical Questions

  1.  What do our students need to learn?

  2.  How will we know when they have learnt it?

  3.  How will we respond if they haven’t learnt it?

  4.  How will we respond if students have already learnt it?

successful learners

1. What do our students need to learn?
What are the specific skills and knowledge that must be learned to achieve this outcome; to be proficient in this essential learning? How can each teacher within the stage be crystal clear about what this learning looks like? These become the learning targets and are written for the students as “I can” statements, e.g. I can use the Split Strategy to solve addition problems.

It may look overly simple, but without ‘drilling down’ in this detailed collaboration elements of the learning might look different in each class of the same year level. Students who already understand a learning may not be moved onto new learning and students who don’t quickly understand can miss out because of a pressure to move on to a new topic.

St Finbarr’s is committed to a focus on what students need to learn and what they have learnt.

After ensuring they are crystal clear about what specifically needs to be learned within a unit, the teachers in each team then address the second question, how they will know if each student has learned it.

2. How will we know when the students have learnt?
What will proficiency in this learning look like? How do students demonstrate their knowledge and skills? The teachers collaborate to develop simple common assessment tasks that they use throughout their teaching of the unit to check that each student has learned the expected knowledge and skills.

St Finbarr’s is committed to focusing on checking students have learnt what is being taught. Focusing too much on ‘getting through’ content may create a habit of some students learning needs being overlooked.

3. How will we respond if students haven’t learnt something essential?
If, at the end (or at any given point) of the planned teaching cycle, some students are not proficient or are not demonstrating the expected learning, teachers utilise additional time, outside of the regular learning time for a Key Learning Area, to implement planned intervention targeting specific skills and knowledge. Some learners need more time.

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It is a very different approach from the conventional teaching model. At St Finbarr’s teachers and students name, specific skills and knowledge that are essential for further learning and guaranteeing the learning will be the same no matter what class the student is in. For these essential learnings, we agree to not move onto a new area of learning until we have enabled all students to be proficient.

4. How will we respond if they have already learned it?
If any students demonstrate that they are already proficient in this current essential learning,  what learning will they move onto? At the outset of the unit, our teachers plan further learning in this area for these students followed by enrichment and then extension if required.

Parents should not be concerned that our growing focus on the attainment of essential knowledge and skills is in any way reducing the curriculum to a basics-only approach. This fourth critical question ensures we are equally focussed on continually challenging students who have the essentials on board. Learning must be rigorous for all learners, and our needs to enable each child to meet his or her immediate learning goal.

The teachers at St Finbarr’s collaborate in a professional manner so each student may learn at a progressively higher level, beginning with what is most essential learning for life.