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I am a former middle and high school science teacher pursuing a doctorate in Science Ed. at George Mason University, with a concentration in cognitive science and the evolution of cognition and learning. Postings on this blog represent my own views, not those of my employer or school. All writing displayed on this page is original work unless otherwise noted, and thus copyrighted.

06 March 2009


We have numerous meetings about a concept called PLC, or Professional Learning Communities, which sound like a great idea until you examine the outcomes. PLC's are supposedly a way to improve student performance by teaming, collecting and analysing student data, and adjusting teaching methods to those that are best suited to your students based on that analysis. So far, so good... except for the fact there is no conclusive data demonstrating its efficacy. ( Go on, look at the site the DuFours put together... see any trends in their data, with statistical significance? Nor did I).
This isn't all of what irritates me about the PLC system. Being forced to use something that doesn't definitively work is part of being in K-12 education... we do this for every new fad in education. The main issue is where the responsibility for student success lies. Teachers are required to teach, assess student learning, and correct errors; This is the core of our job description. However, under the PLC concept, our job description also includes calling home for every absence (attendance office anyone?), devising methods to motivate students who simply don't care, and bending over backwards to accept work late. This has nothing to do with learning, this deals solely with accountability. When my 20 yr old gangbanger sophomore doesn't come to school for a week, the administration's first question to me should not be "What are you doing to get him in class?". Quite frankly, it isn't my problem if he doesn't come to class, it's his mother's and his own. Deciding that I'm responsible for making a student complete the work necessary to learn removes the responsibility from the student... and therein lies the problem. While my students may not (read: will not) use much of the information learned from my course throughout their lives, unless they have a specific job requiring it, they will use the life lessons they glean from school at every opportunity. We're setting up our students to absolve themselves of responsiblity for their own actions, teaching them that a lack of effort will be rewarded with someone else bailing them out.
Speaking of effort: the majority of students who do try assume that because they did what they were asked, they deserve an 'A'. (source: informal survey of 100 HS students, all of them in my classes). It's too bad that life doesn't care how hard you worked if you didn't manage to successfully complete what you needed to do, because this is what they expect. Again, the education system, coupled with parent enablers, is to blame here. These young adults are in for a rude shock when they have to deal with all of real life at once. (note: some of them deal with some aspects of real life, such as the juvenile justice system)

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