Are you part of an AP Chemistry professional learning community?

photo of student lab work

I grow most when I dig into the content and pedagogy with experienced chemistry teachers. I believe most of you would agree. I've read the research. I need practical advice. Help.

My district-level supervisor asked me to facilitate a district-wide AP Chemistry professional learning community (PLC) with 16 teachers, which is a fancy way to say an online discussion board with two or three face-to-face staff development days. In my dream, we are engaging in conversations about teaching kinetics, equilibrium, and buffer systems while sharing lab experiments and inquiry-based activities. Everyone is comfortable sharing. Everyone is contributing. Everyone, even the most experienced teacher with the highest scores, is growing. In reality, we haven't started with much of a bang. 

The research says the best way to make your school better is to encourage teachers to participate in professional learning teams that unpack the standards to determine what each student should learn and how the learning will be measured, build a useful warehouse of evidence that learning is occurring, and critically review data collected to determine useful instructional strategies versus ineffective strategies. (Hattie) He developed this opinion after compiling over 800 studies on factors contributing to student performance. Robert Marzano called PLCs “one of the most powerful initiatives for school improvement I have seen in the last decade.” The research speaks clearly about the significance, and I crave more. I want to hear reports from the trenches. What really makes a group of teachers grow? What really impacts the classroom? 

  • Are you part of an AP chemistry collaborative team of teachers? If so, is it working? If not, what would be your dream of a functioning team? 
  • What questions would you want to ask your peers?
  • What would make you comfortable sharing your "stuff"?
  • What would make you comfortable using someone else's "stuff"?
  • If you were going to meet face-to-face, how would you hope to spend the day? What would you hope everyone would bring?

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to student achievement. New York: Routledge.

Marzano, R. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

DuFour, R. (2009). Professional Learning Communities: The Key to Improved Teaching and Learning, SOURCE. (accessed 9/14/17)



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Comments 2

Michele Richards's picture
Michele Richards | Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:37

I'm not part of a PLC for AP Chem per se, but I am a member of a high functioning PLC for Forensic Chemistry. We started meeting 13 years ago when the course was in its infancy in our district. There was no textbook for high school at that time, so we collaborated out of necessity. A general course outline had been approved by our district, but the nuts and bolts of the course we were pretty much making up one unit at a time. Since the 4 of us were at different schools, we met for early dinner at a local restaurant once a month or once every couple of months. We've attended conferences together and developed lasting friendships over the years. It helped that we were small....but I think the key to our success was we made an agreement that EVERYONE freeloaders allowed. It's up to the individual teacher to tweak the resource to suit their needs or maybe decide not to use it at all. We all teach gen chem and a couple of us teach AP, so we end up sharing ideas for those classes as well. I definitely feel my participation in the group has made me a better teacher.   

Pamela Auburn | Sat, 09/23/2017 - 11:43

I teach at a community college where we rely heavily on part time instructors. Because we are not all on campus at the same time, I used our learning mamagement system to create a community group. There is a section for each class taught on campus. Instructors can upload their materials to share with others or use the discussion feature for dialog.