Remote Teaching and Learning: Facilitating Effective Professional Learning Communities

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick and Tracy Vasquez

Teachers in a classroom brainstorming virtual learning techniques

Teachers, students and families are navigating a new way of teaching and learning remotely. Now, more than ever, it seems that educators need to rely on each other as professional educators and trust in their collective knowledge about teaching and learning. Professional learning communities (PLCs) have long been a strong foundation for reflecting on the effectiveness of teachers’ planning and instruction. How can these communities still exist and flourish when teachers are teaching remotely?

Nurturing Relationships

The first element in ensuring the effectiveness of PLCs is to nurture the relationships among participating team members. For example, if a meeting occurs early in the morning, team members can share what they had for breakfast to learn a little more about each other. Additionally, if team members feel safe and comfortable, they can share some personal celebrations as well as any challenges that they may be facing. This camaraderie lays the foundation for listening to your team members’ successes and challenges regarding the students’ progress. In cases where there may be unique challenges, everyone can collectively brainstorm solutions and strategies.

Sharing Resources

Nurturing the relationships among team members will promote everyone’s willingness to share ideas and resources for planning effective units and lessons that are both aligned to academic standards and incorporate culturally inclusive practices. By doing this, you are also ensuring that you are meeting your students’ social and emotional needs. For instance, when studying voting rights and its connection to citizenship, you can design a project-based unit where students can research universal voting rights as they relate to their backgrounds and experiences. You can encourage the students to interview their family members and relatives to investigate voting rights and report on the similarities and differences that may be apparent when compared to those in the United States.

Dialogue and Reflection

A well-run PLC also affords the teachers space for dialogue and reflection. You may wish to share data and examples of students’ artifacts and discuss elements of the lesson in which they succeeded. Similarly, you can collectively reflect on elements that could be improved so that they can be more effective in the future. For instance, if students had difficulties in participating in meaningful and thought-provoking class discussions, you can consider adding a primary source to jump start the discussion.

Whether in person or in virtual settings, it is very helpful to conduct PLCs regularly as you traverse the teaching and learning process. Not only will you be fostering your own professional development as a teacher, but you will also be nurturing deeper relationships with both colleagues and students.

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