expanded collaboration

We are currently building a professional learning community to deploy next school year. It is unique at our school because it will be year-long (usually our PLCs are in the spring), it will guide participants through the goal-setting process (we already set yearly goals), and will involve mentorship by an instructional coach and membership in a small cohort of teachers.

At our school, once you've completed your onboarding, you are "released" into the wild, so to speak. Because we are virtual, you never get to see into another teacher's classroom, you can sometimes collaborate if you get to know the other teachers that are teaching the same course as you do, and you are asked to set a goal and provide artifacts at the end of the year to show you've made progress towards the goal, but no one actually helps you move towards your goal - it's all on you. For this reason, teachers usually set "perfunctory" goals - goals that they were either going to do anyway, goals to achieve things they already do, or goals that involve little/no growth. It's just too risky to move outside of your comfort zone with your goal because you know you're going to need to provide evidence at the end of the year, but you also know that no one is going to help you get there.

So, we've decided to change things up!

Our teachers will be split into thirds. One third of our Teachers will be paired with an instructional coach and will work with the coach to set a PEERS goal and decide HOW they are going to implement the goal and come up with a PLAN for achieving the goal. Teachers in this group will also be broken into small groups of 10 teachers, "led" by a single coach. These teachers and their coach will share a course in Canvas, where they will discuss their goals, conduct fishbowl walkthroughs of each other's courses, and present their findings to the group. They will also meet individually with their coach at least twice.

They are not expected to meet the goal at the end of the year. They simply present their data showing what student-focused strategy they used and how well it worked, if it worked. Then, they'll come up with a plan moving forward - do they want to continue working towards this goal? Pick a new goal? The next two years will be spent "on their own" again, but at least now they have a plan.

The next year the next third participates, the third year the third group participates, and in the fourth year, the first group is back again. We broke it up this way because we simply do not have the resources to coach every teacher every year. And we felt that they needed some time on their own to grow and learn about themselves.

There is so much to celebrate about this plan! First, teachers get to set stretch goals - REAL goals that they really care about! And they have a cohort of peers and a coach to help them through this process.

Second, teachers also get to peek into others' classrooms! This never happens at our school after their initial training. When we've trialed this concept, they've loved being able to see what others are doing and adapt it for their own classroom. Great teaching is great teaching, regardless of the subject, and they get to see it in action.

Finally teachers are put into a small group cohort with their coach. This cohort has several discussions so the instructors can get to know each other. They will also meet as a group at the beginning of the experience and will record themselves presenting their results and post for feedback from the cohort.

We plan to intersperse fun announcements (Share your favorite school-safe meme...etc.) with comments enabled to continue to build that sense of community within the group without making it feel forced because it is a "grade".

At every step of the way, we are promoting collaboration. In fact, we are calling this the Coaching Partnership because we want it to be that - a partnership between the teacher and the coach and a partnership between the teachers in the cohort.


Edwards, Emily. “Getting Started with Action Research.” IATEFL ReSIG, 1 Apr. 2022, online.

Fisher, Douglas B., and Frey Nancy. “The Good, the Bad, and the New Plcs.” Corwin Connect, 1 Mar. 2021, https://corwin-connect.com/2019/05/the-good-the-bad-and-the-new-plcs/.

“How to Mentor in a Remote Workplace.” Harvard Business Review, 22 Mar. 2022, https://hbr.org/2022/03/how-to-mentor-in-a-remote-workplace.

“Jim Knight & the Impact Cycle for Video Instructional Coaching.” Edthena, 16 Oct. 2018, https://blog.edthena.com/2018/10/16/jim-knight-impact-cycle-peers-goals/.

Knight, Jim. The Impact Cycle: What Instructional Coaches Should Do to Foster Powerful Improvements in Teaching. Corwin, A Sage Company, 2018.

McConnell, Tom J., et al. “Virtual Professional Learning Communities: Teachers’ Perceptions of Virtual versus Face-to-Face Professional Development.” Journal of Science Education and Technology, vol. 22, no. 3, 2012, pp. 267–277., https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-012-9391-y.