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A Team within a Team: Relating Coaching Concepts to Professional Learning Communities in Schools

Zack Beddoes, Deb Sazama, Keven Prusak, Jenna Starck, and Brock Mullen

joperd cover february 2020

Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Who is more familiar with this truth than sport coaches? Regardless of the fi nal outcome of a contest, teaching athletes to know and execute their roles while unselfishly working toward a common and collective purpose may be the pinnacle of coaching success. Because of overlapping content, many physical educators also have experience coaching (Richards & Templin, 2012). Therefore, the purpose of this article is twofold: (1) to encourage physical educators to embrace professional learning communities (PLCs) in the same way they would embrace collaboration with a team of competent athletic coaches; and (2) to articulate the congruent nature of coaching and working in PLC teams.

In our previous work (Beddoes, Prusak, & Barney, 2019; Beddoes, Prusak, & Hall, 2014), we described that PLCs hold the potential for physical educators to shape their own destiny and overcome barriers. Given the likelihood that physical educators have experience coaching, this article builds and draws on the analogy of sport coaching and potential outcomes of working as a PLC. It is our hope to demystify the PLC process and present the notion that if anyone in the school can work within a PLC, who is more prepared to do so than a physical education teacher?

A PLC can be operationalized as educators working collaboratively and interdependently through ongoing collective inquiry and action research with an intense focus on student learning (Mattos, DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2016). These PLCs are built on: (1) three big ideas; (2) six specific characteristics; and (3) four essential questions and will be discussed later. Establishing PLCs in schools can be an evolving and sometimes uncomfortable learning process. Nevertheless, the growing body of extant literature over the past 30 years suggests the potential benefits of implementing school-wide PLCs include: (1) improved teaching practice; (2) increased faculty efficacy; and (3) enhanced student learning (Bryk, Camburn, & Louis, 1999; Lee, Dedrick, & Smith, 1991; Phillips, 2003).

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