We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.
– Rania Al-Abdullah
The Three Big Ideas
Buffum, Mattos, and Weber (2009) stated in Pyramid Response to Intervention: RTI, Professional Learning Communities, and How to Respond When Kids Don’t Learn that the only way for an organization to successfully implement RTI practices is within the PLC at Work® process. You cannot effectively implement RTI without the PLC process. The three big ideas drive the work of a PLC: a focus on learning, a collaborative culture, and a results orientation. The progress a district or school experiences on the PLC journey will be largely dependent on the extent to which these ideas are considered, understood, and ultimately embraced by its members (DuFour et al., 2016).
The three big ideas further emphasize the connection between MTSS and how it pertains to PLCs and RTI.
A focus on learning
The fundamental purpose of the school is to ensure that all students learn at high levels (DuFour et al., 2016). Because proper student behavior is also a prerequisite to academic success, a professional learning community would commit its collaborative efforts to ensure all students master essential academic and social behaviors in addition to essential grade-level standards.
A collaborative culture
In order to ensure all students learn at high levels, educators must work collaboratively and take collective responsibility for the success of each student. The fundamental structure of a PLC is the collaborative teams of educators whose members work interdependently to achieve common goals for which members are mutually accountable. These common goals are directly linked to the purpose of learning for all (DuFour et al., 2016). While grade- or course-specific teacher teams drive the identification and teaching of essential academic standards, the entire staff must work collaboratively to identify and teach essential behaviors.
A results orientation
To assess their effectiveness in helping all students learn, educators in a PLC focus on results. The constant search for a better way to improve results by helping more students learn at higher levels leads to a cyclical process in which educators in a PLC.
- Gather evidence of current levels of student learning
- Develop strategies and ideas to build on strengths and address weaknesses in that learning
- Commit to collective inquiry to learn about best practices to address the school’s area(s) of weakness
- Implement these research-based strategies and ideas
- Analyze the impact of the changes to discover what was effective and what was not
- Apply new knowledge in the next cycle of continuous improvement (DuFour et al., 2016)