The PLC is the most generally used of all our techniques. It enables the user who needs to learn something to develop a process by which they can clarify each step and produce a detailed plan of how they are going to learn whatever they have chosen to learn.
The essence of the PLC is that enables the learner to clarify what it is they need to learn and how they will go about it. We call this a PSOR which stands for: Purpose, Strategy and Outcomes but which is also followed by Review.
Firstly learners need to have a general idea of what it is they want to learn and they clarify their understanding of this by converting it into a written Purpose.
Now with the purpose in mind they are asked to think about how they will achieve this and to clarify and convert this ‘thinking’ into a Strategy consisting of a series of well-defined stages by which they will achieve their purpose.
Having clarified both their Purpose and Strategy they are now asked to define what the Outcome(s) of this Strategy should be. Their outcome is divided into two sections, the first being understanding by which we mean that they will be able to describe to themselves the personal meaning that they will have constructed in their head. Secondly they are asked to define whatever increase and development of ‘Skill‘ they will have achieved.
The final stage of the process is the Review which consists of the learner carefully going through the relationship between their Purpose, Strategy and Outcome(s). Firstly, given their definitions of the Strategy and the Outcome does their definition of the Purpose need refining? If it does, they then need to decide whether the Strategy needs refining, and whether or not it does, they are asked to think carefully through how they defined the Outcomes and repeat this whole process a sufficient number of times to have it all very clear in their head.
The PLC seems to be the technique which all levels of learners continue to use when they go about learning something new. What it does is persuade and enable the learner to really appreciate and anticipate what the learning process and its achievements should be.
The diagram above describes the three main stages of the PLC:
BEFORE shows the PSOR process in detail and uses the TOPIC to give the whole thing a name or description. In this stage the learner thoroughly prepares themselves for what, why & how they going to learn in the DURING stage.
Whilst using the PSOR representation, the DURING activity is best achieved if one has a colleague observing exactly what one does in putting the PSOR into action. The learner is asked to monitor:
- Whether their purpose changes in any way as they go about learning
- Whether they actually implement the strategy as planned or did it vary.
- Finally they are asked to monitor whether the Skills and Understanding outcomes, , they have previously defined are actually achieved.
Once the learning is complete they are asked:
- To compare their intended purpose with their actual purpose now that they have finished.
- Secondly to describe how their strategy compares with actually how they went about their learning.
- Finally, to compare what they now see as their actual outcome(s) with their initial intentions.
Over and over again, learners will go out of their way to say how much they rely on what has become their view of a completed PLC. Getting a group of learners together who have each been using the PLC individually always generates an energetic discussion from which, with the support of a coach1, they can all learn from each other much about the process of learning.
The Learning Conversation
The above diagram, suggests how the PLC fits into the longer Learning Conversation using the Planning, Doing and Reflecting stages of a PLC which we have called Before, During and After. Having appreciated the importance of careful reflection as captured by the PSOR cycle, the learner finally can be guided by the coach or their colleague(s) to participate in the full Learning Conversation.