Prioritising and setting goals in PLCs

​​Teachers at Brandon Park Primary School show you how to prioritise student learning needs and develop learning goals with students and for yourself through your professional learning community.

In the Prioritising and Setting Goals phase of the FISO Improvement cycle, schools can take advantage of the time spent identifying their student and staff learning needs, in order to prioritise which issues are most pressing for their school.

At Brandon Park Primary School, teachers use their Professional Learning Community (PLC) time to set goals and actions to address these priorities.

By using PLC time, teachers are encouraged to think more critically about students' learning and work collaboratively to determine if they are having an impact on their progress. As a team they can take any insights they have learned from the Evaluate and Diagnose phase of the improvement cycle to then prioritise areas of teaching and learning where they can have the biggest impact and set ambitious goals for their students' learning and for themselves as teachers.

Assistant Principal Kate Buck, PLC Instructional Leader Marian Stavrinides and Teacher Natalie Kiriati explain the process their school took to prioritise and set goals for student learning in their Grade 1 PLC.

Problem in practice: Learning about place value in Year 1

In the Evaluate and Diagnose phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle, the Grade 1 PLC looked at student numeracy data and found that many of their students had gaps in their knowledge of place value.

Use curriculum standards to prioritise ac​​​tion areas

Guided by Victorian Curriculum standards, the Grade 1 PLC looked at the key skills they expected students to learn and prioritised the steps they needed to take to improve their teacher practice in this area.

Identifying place value as the focus area for their interventions – as this skill is foundational to numeracy in Grade 1 and future years – the PLC set goals as a team and as individual teachers to improve outcomes in this area of numeracy.

'We wanted the children to know exactly what numbers were next on a number line or what numbers were missing from a number chart [and] what numbers were between numbers' said Marian Stavrinides, the PLC Instructional Leader who leads the team.

'[Our goal was] to know that all the students have …achieved [this learning] by the end of Year 1, so that when they go into Year 2, they're ready for every other Maths topic that comes up.'

Create individual learning goals with st​​udents

To achieve their PLC goal of improving place value outcomes in Grade 1 and their individual practice goals, teachers then developed a personal learning goal with each student in the year and as a group.

Teachers used resources such as Amplify: the student voice practice guide and the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS) to make the most of student input when setting goals, so that targets are set with students and not for them, making learning more self-directed.

As a result, each lesson on place value had a goal and a clear learning outcome, which was understood by all students.

'We had a goal each session for the students as a whole,' said Natalie Kiriati, a teacher in the Grade 1 PLC.

'For example, it might be grouping 10s up to 50. So we would focus on that for that session alone and for the next session there might be another goal.'

Align individual classroom goals an​​d PLC goals

At the heart of a PLC is the desire to build a teachers' knowledge and practices and to ensure that they develop their individual professional learning goals with the help of their peers.

At Brandon Park Primary, the professional learning community itself set goals for all its teachers and their own practice as part of their focus on place value and the development of student learning goals.

For example, at the PLC level, one group goal was to 'form a better connection with the parents' said Marian.

'[We set] those goals and [sent] those home, so the parents knew exactly what was going on in the classroom and what they could work on at home as well'

At an individual level, Teacher Natalie Kiriati also had her own learning goals around maths teaching practice and how she was going to introduce manipulatives into her classes on place value. These goals went on to support the broader goals of the PLC.

'My goal was to go and observe other teachers and improve my teaching of the specific [number] bundling tasks because that was something I noticed that a few students in my class weren't quite grasping. So I went in and had a look at the other teachers in Grade 1 and how they were using [number bundling] so I could use it to inform my own practice,' said Natalie.

'It's an opportunity to grow as a teacher. So when we set priorities and [learning] goals for students, we set priorities and [learning] goals for ourselves.'

Align PLC goals with AIP ​goals

In order to be targeted and purposeful, the goals and work of PLCs need to align with the school's Annual Implementation Plan (AIP). PLC Instructional Leaders are instrumental in communicating the aims of the AIP to their teams, but also their PLC's goals back to school leadership.

'The AIP is set by the leadership team and this is communicated to the PLC Leaders. These filter down to the PLC teams and shape the goals the PLC teams com​e up with, [ensuring] they align with the AIP' said Kate.

Resources to support effective PLCs

The PLC Guide: Implementing FISO with precision, collaboration and inquiry helps school leaders, instructional leaders and teachers like those at Brandon Park Primary School to navigate the Prioritise and Set Goals phase of the FISO Improvement Cycle through key impact questions, indicators of success, key actions and tools and resources.

Prioritise and set goals in your PLC
Part of the Professional Learning Communities Practical Guide

To read the full practical guide, see: Implementing FISO through PLCs​​​​​​