Sep 08

Increasing Teacher Retention with Professional Learning Communities

Schools and administrators across the country continue to face staffing challenges, and students are the ones who suffer the most when districts can’t attract and retain qualified teachers. It isn’t a new problem, and it doesn’t appear to be one going away any time soon, as evidenced in a 2023 McKinsey & Company survey. According to results released earlier this year, approximately one-third of K–12 educators responded they planned to leave their role before the new school year. Today’s teacher retention strategies must be robust and multifaceted, but a critical element of every school’s efforts should be adopting empowering, supportive, and collaborative professional learning communities (PLCs). 

How do PLCs help with teacher retention?

Establishing professional learning communities can have a significant positive impact on teacher morale and retention. This, in turn, helps create a positive school culture focused on growth and self-improvement, which also positively impacts student success and achievement. 

PLCs typically consist of a small group of educators (We Are Teachers suggests approximately 6–10) who meet regularly, share expertise, and work collaboratively on relevant agreed-upon topics to improve teaching skills and students’ academic performance. 

One study suggests the implementation of professional learning communities may assist in teacher retention because PLCs build teacher efficacy, provide professional development, increase job satisfaction, increase morale and enthusiasm, decrease feelings of isolation, and provide shared responsibility for the education of all students. Other ways PLCs can foster innovation and lead to increased staff retention include:

Creating a collaborative environment:

Being a part of a PLC fosters an environment where teachers can exchange helpful ideas, strategies, and resources. This collaboration reduces feelings of isolation and creates a supportive peer network, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and a desire to remain in their role. When teachers feel they are part of a community with a shared purpose and vision working toward common goals, it enhances their sense of belonging and commitment to the school. Collaborative problem-solving also helps reduce feelings of stress and burnout.

Skill development and professional growth:

PLCs offer teachers continuous professional development and growth opportunities in a more personal setting than traditional “sit-and-get” PD seminars or presentations. Through PLCs, teachers can learn from their respected colleagues’ experiences and expertise and gain valuable exposure to different teaching techniques, styles, and strategies. When given regular opportunities to engage in ongoing learning and development, many teachers are more likely to feel valued and invested in their growth while also gaining confidence in their abilities with a reduced likelihood of feeling overwhelmed or ineffective.

Leadership opportunities in a constructive school culture:

PLCs often provide leadership opportunities for newer and more experienced teachers. Teachers taking on leadership responsibilities enhances their sense of ownership, influence, and pride in their work environment. This empowerment can lead to a longer tenure within a positive school culture that values professional growth and collaboration. A school with a strong sense of community and a focus on continually improving is likely to retain its talented and self-motivated teachers, who feel more connected and invested in the school’s success.

Strengthening your school’s culture of professional development and peer-to-peer engagement through professional learning communities can effectively support teacher retention efforts.

Establishing new PLCs requires careful planning and execution. Administrators should begin by clearly defining the purpose and goals of the small-group communities and assemble them by grouping teachers according to shared areas of interest or what they care about improving in their classrooms. 

Provide teachers with a structured framework to ensure PLCs operate effectively, including setting regular meeting times during the school day to enforce that the PLC work is important and necessary. Offer ongoing support through training resources or research materials, but step back and let teachers make the PLC their own. A balance of structured support and flexibility helps encourage long-term engagement and ownership among the PLC’s teachers, making the experience more meaningful and effective over time.

Avanti can be an effective tool for spearheading conversations and uncovering new strategies for PLC teachers to implement across their classrooms. With short bursts of PD available through hundreds of on-demand videos, it’s a convenient supplement to the learning teachers are already doing. 
Retaining quality educators begins by ensuring they’re supported and empowered to become the most excellent teachers they can be. Contact Avanti today, and retain your teachers by giving their PLCs the tools they need to succeed.

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