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PLC Norms

PLC Norms


In this lesson, students examine the development and importance of norms within the PLC.

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Video Transcription

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Hello, and welcome. My name is Gino Sangiuliano. And in this lesson we will take a closer look at the development and importance of norms as they relate to a professional learning community. Let's get started.

If you've watched some of my other videos, you've noticed I often make connections between my school life and my so-called real life. A few weeks ago I was traveling, and stopped into my favorite coffee shop. While waiting in line, I realized how similar my experience was at this location to the experience I have at the location of the same shop located in my hometown. Why is that? Because of norms. The employees are trained a certain way, and the product is consistent. Sadly that isn't always the case in schools. However, by establishing an adherent to norms, at least the meetings you attend will have some consistency.

A professional learning community has to have certain features in order to succeed. They are norms, a vision, a mission, and goals, as a team or a community of practice. There's a cyclical nature to the work of a site-based management team, in which the steps are frequently revisited based upon student, academic, and social-emotional data, as well as teacher, parent, and student feedback. An important piece of this entire process however, is the focus of this lesson. And that is the development of norms.

Norms are sometimes referred to as common commitments, because that's exactly what they are, and how they should be viewed. Norms could be described as protocols, behaviors, and expectations, that a team agrees upon when engage in collaborative work. Norms are important, and shouldn't be taken for granted. Because they establish mutually agreed upon ways of working together, that provide the needed foundation of the PLC's work.

Before any PLC team begins working on their vision, mission, or goals, they must first establish, and agree upon a set of norms. In order for them to stay fresh in everyone's mind, they should always be reviewed at the beginning of each meeting or work session. Doing this sets the stage for a productive working environment.

There is a recommended manner in which to establish norms that I would like to share with you today. It is best to start by having the team members brainstorm what behaviors and sometimes get in the way of productive collaboration. And conversely, what behaviors support productive collaboration. Once a healthy list has been created, the team agrees to five or six behaviors that they want to use as the basis for their meeting and workshop expectations.

So here's an example. An RTI team has been put into place at the beginning of the year, and it includes some new members. The chair of the team opens the first meeting by asking the members what practices and behaviors have worked, and which haven't on previous teams that they've been a part of. The brainstorm might look like this. For positives, talking about students, teams often having great ideas, and solid documentation is provided. Some of the negatives, not enough time, people coming late, same people doing all the talking, and people distracted by technology.

The team then spends time discussing the responses, and creating norms. In this example they might look like this, equity of voice, nothing can stifle conversation more than someone taking the meeting hostage, use of technology respectfully-- this could be a tricky one since we rely on technology so much, but there is an etiquette that should be followed. Meetings will begin and end at designated times-- predictability and respect for our professional time is crucial. The teams will focus on solutions-- you don't want your meetings to become a gripe session. Members will bring any documentation needed-- professionals should be prepared.

I like to think of this as a buyback of time. If done well and thoroughly upfront, future meetings will be far more productive. So here are some helpful hints of best practices when creating norms. Stick to 5 to 7. It's important for each team member to feel that they have an opportunity to engage in the development of norms. And agree to the norms by consensus.

When applying norms, it's imperative that they are reviewed at the start of each meeting. This can be challenging if you have members that don't see the value or aren't completely on board. However this step should never be compromising in the PLC. Violations to the norms should immediately be addressed using the language of the norms, albeit respectfully, and reminders given that they were agreed upon behaviors.

And when it comes to revising norms, you might consider doing this whenever a new team member is added, making all members feel empowered. Also, if the norms aren't working you might have to adjust them. But this can only happen after, as a team, you've reflected on the effectiveness of them. You might want to do this about twice a year.

It's time to take a look back at what we covered in this lesson. We looked at why norms are important in the PLC. We defined norms, and learned the steps to follow when establishing them. We also shared an example of how to come up with a set of norms. And finally, we reviewed best practices for norms.

I'd like to leave you with this food for thought, think about some of the teams you have been a part of, what were the agreed upon norms? If you didn't have any, what would you have wanted them to be? To dive a little deeper, and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. Here you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. Thanks so much for being part of this lesson. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "PLC Norms"

(00:00-00:13) Intro

(00:14-00:50) Knowing What to Expect

(00:51-01:27) Components of PLC

(01:28-02:10) What are Norms

(02:11-02:37) Establishing Norms

(02:38-04:01) Example of Norms

(04:02-05:02) Best Practices

(05:03-05:49) Summary/Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Supportive and Shared Leadership

This article highlights the importance of establishing a shared and supportive leadership model to create transformative change within an organization.

Norms put the ‘Golden Rule’ into practice for groups

This handout is a useful resource that explains the purpose of norms and how to establish norms at the team level. There is a helpful graphic organizer and planning sheet as well as exemplar norms to pull from.