Average Daycare Director Salary Statistics 2021

Professional Learning Communities in Early Childhood Education

Create professional learning communities to enhance your teaching practices.

Professional Learning Communities in Early Childhood Education

Professional Learning Communities in Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education involves more than teaching children; teachers are also constantly learning and growing to enhance their teaching styles and abilities. As a result, community and collaboration among early childhood educators are becoming increasingly popular. Professional learning communities (PLCs) provide a valuable opportunity for educators to come together and discuss ways to improve their teaching practices. Through these collaborative efforts, they can support each other, encourage accountability, and find new ideas and approaches to teaching. 

In this article, we'll discuss the importance of professional learning communities, how to build them, and their community roles and responsibilities.

What is a professional learning community?

A professional learning community is a group of educators, including teachers, administrators, and other early childhood education professionals, who meet to share ideas and strategies. These communities and sessions often occur at the district level. They’re a foundational component of teaching and learning because they help educators improve their practice and, ultimately, their impact on the children they teach. 

Professional learning communities can be organized by grade, content, or teaching staff. Through these regular meetings and professional development sessions, educators share best practices and the latest research, and brainstorm how best to apply those learnings to their classrooms, curriculum, and programs. If done correctly, these communities can help teachers innovate in the classroom and increase children's achievement.

During these meetings, educators learn how to balance their ability to take risks and autonomy based on shared expectations for the children's learning. Professional learning communities are designed for teacher learning and to try new strategies. Through this constant cycle of analyzing data, setting goals, individual and collaborative education, and implementing and adjusting practices, teachers will try the methods and techniques they've learned to see what does and doesn't work.

Teachers conducting a professional learning community meeting to discuss methods of improving children's performance.


The importance of professional learning communities

Regular training and learning are necessary for educators to remain effective in their practice, making professional learning communities important. They create a supportive environment that focuses on knowledge development, helping educators improve their methods and enabling them to extend those teachings to impact their children's success. When teachers receive support, they feel seen, heard, and more satisfied, improving retention rates.

Additionally, professional learning communities facilitate collaboration, innovation, and communication amongst individuals in the same field who have varying insights, teaching methods, and years of experience. This helps create a constructive dialogue to enhance professional development and prioritize children's needs and interests to drive academic growth. 

Finally, professional learning communities are essential because they can enhance the quality of learning and teaching. By sharing insights and expertise, learning best practices, and discussing new information, these educators can extend these benefits to the children, improving their learning and the overall school culture.

How to build a professional learning community

When building a professional learning community, ensure everyone understands what it is and how it impacts them. Explain that it's a collaborative and ongoing process focusing on educators learning ways to improve their teaching practices. 

Identify a problem or goal

Open the door for other educators to join the community. Start by using this as a chance to work together to identify a single problem or goal for the school or program. Use this opportunity to learn how to fix or improve it. 

Establish a judgment-free and collaborative environment 

Carve out a time and place where you and your fellow educators can discuss ideas and suggestions for improvement. During this time, everyone learns from each other and forges a relationship that can enable them to create better results for the children. 

Communication is necessary for a professional learning community to work, so don't hesitate to implement tools that can help facilitate these conversations and collaborations. A tool like brightwheel's communication feature is a helpful way to foster a sense of community and support regular communication around community discussions. 

Set the tone

Establishing what's acceptable within the professional learning community ensures that it can run smoothly. Use this time as a working session to develop a collaborative tone, define norms, and map out how the community will work.

Set SMART goals

You can only form an effective professional learning community by setting goals for what you hope to achieve. Choose plans that are specific, m​easurable, a​ttainable, relevant, and t​ime-bound (SMART). In addition, you should select goals you can measure and, if not achieved, reveal what needs to be adjusted and improved in your approach.

Consider bringing in an expert

Forming a professional learning community is a big task. If you hit any roadblocks or aren't seeing the results you'd hoped for, it could be time to bring in a consultant to provide insights. They can help your community focus, facilitate conversations, and train others to do the same.

Continue to put in the work

Building a professional learning community, making progress, and seeing results take time. Along the way, evaluate and adjust your strategies as needed. Assess the effectiveness of your efforts and activities to improve your outcomes.

A graphic breaking down how SMART works for setting goals.


Professional learning community roles and responsibilities

Collaboration is a vital part of a professional learning community. It's more than educators coming together to discuss lesson plans and assessments; it's also about the impact that it has on their skills and knowledge. Three critical elements go into forming an influential learning community:

  • Continuous improvement ensures that effective learning remains at the core of professional learning community activities. It requires multiple meetings and steps that eventually lead to high-quality learning.
  • Collective responsibility involves peer accountability. It's the thought that all educators within the community consider themselves responsible for each child's growth and development. There's strength in numbers, and by harnessing the power of collective responsibility, everyone contributes their expertise to the process.
  • Alignment and accountability are vital to an effective learning community. School and system learning goals should align with educators' professional development. They should also be held accountable through policies to ensure they work toward these shared goals.

Everyone has a role or responsibility to contribute to the end goal within a professional learning community:

  • The facilitator helps keep the group moving forward and encourages everyone to join the conversation.
  • The recorder takes notes of the meeting minutes and work accomplished.
  • The reporter holds everyone accountable and reminds them of the previously established norms.

You can always create additional roles to ensure that everyone contributes, feels like a productive member, and can utilize their strengths.

Final thoughts

Building a professional learning community can be challenging, but the results can be gratifying for educators and children. In addition, when educators from different backgrounds and with various strengths come together, they can increase their impact and achieve their common goals.

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at mybrightwheel.com.

Subscribe to the brightwheel blog