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Developing a student PLC for leadership growth


Just like teachers continue their growth with activities like professional development and professional learning communities, students will participate in a professional learning community to help advance their learning when it comes to media. The idea is to shift the thinking of a staff from a group that tries things they have seen other staffs do to a staff who that leads the way, trying things on its own and setting an example to follow.


  • Students will read professional works that could advance individual and staff leadership traits.
  • Students will determine which activities or ideas are applicable to them individually or to the staff as a whole.
  • Students will choose what new ideas to try and will evaluate their successes and failures with the common goal to improve the media and their leadership skills.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and task.


Depending on the resources you choose to study, this activity could take anywhere from one class period to multiple days throughout the course of an entire year. Ideally, the activity will continue even in the summer, fostering student learning and strengthening the media program.


Handout: List of leadership books

Presentation rubric 

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 30 minutes

Explain to students that today they will become part of a professional learning community that will benefit both the entire staff and each of them as individuals. Begin by allowing students to brainstorm their definition of a professional learning community.

A traditional definition is: “a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.”

Using students’ responses, shift that definition to look more like: “a group of student journalists that communicates regularly, shares expertise or knowledge gleaned and works collaboratively to improve the media produced and leadership skills of students involved.”

As a class, discuss what that definition means to your staff in particular. Why would you want to begin a professional learning community? How might it work? Suggestions might include:

Students can read leadership novels or articles and can report back to the class ideas that might help improve the media.

  • Students could begin a discussion board where students can interact on their own, reflecting on novels/articles they have read and suggesting new ideas
  • Students can plan during class or after school discussion times where they can discuss what they have learned and pose ideas to try as a staff.
  • Students could use social media to share articles that could be applied to their staff.

Some time has to be spent introducing the books/articles and hooking students so they are intrigued and want to read. Editors/leaders in the class could also introduce works. When the concept catches on, it is wonderful for any student to walk into the room and suggest an article or book, or you may want to develop an online area where students who might be shy could add their input.

2. Individualized worktime will vary

Determine the amount of time students need in order to read and process professional works and assign/announce accordingly.

As students read, they should take notes that address the following questions:

  1. What new ideas did I get from this reading that I could apply to my own life?
  2. What new ideas did I get from this reading that could easily apply to our staff?
  3. What would it take to implement these ideas?
  4. What are the potential benefits of implementing these ideas?
  5. What are the potential drawbacks of implementing these ideas?
  6. What will it take to implement these ideas?
  7. How will the implementation of these ideas advance our staff as a leader in the scholastic media field? How will it advance me as a leader?

3. Presentation to class/staff – 60 minutes

Using the notes they have taken as they’ve read, students should develop a proposal for the staff for some type of addition to the existing student media. The proposal also could be one that suggests some behavioral changes that would lead to stronger leadership among individuals on staff. Whatever avenue the proposal takes, it should be a reflection of the professional document the student has read and should reveal an application to the specific staff/school/program’s circumstances.

4. Assessment

The principle behind the concept is to encourage students to be reading and seeking materials to learn, grow and think critically as well as about how to apply what they’ve read to their own circumstances so they can plan for and make changes. This ongoing process includes evaluating the effectiveness of those changes.

Possible ways to evaluate student work:

  • Use a simple grading rubric for presentations.
  • Create a more complex presentation grading rubric.
  • Distribute an exit card after group discussion that asks students to list three things they heard from other presentations they could apply to themselves or think might really work for the staff.
  • After an idea has been implemented, students could write a reflection on the success of the idea or on what didn’t work so well. Much of this reflection should include what could be changed in the future to ensure success or a fair analysis of why it isn’t a good fit for the individual student or the staff.


Advanced students: Ask these students to lead the share groups (kind of like leading a book club). They can come up with questions that guide the conversation. This can be done in a face-to-face meeting or in an online venue. Advanced students could also be the ones to search for the articles/books to share with the rest of the class. The idea is that the teacher is on the same level with the students, learning with them.

For students who need more support or struggle as readers, consider selecting articles that are shorter and are more on target with their specific interests. Working individually with these students, determine areas of specific interest, search for articles and/or videos that meet the need and develop a less rigorous reporting methodology that allows the student to meet success and feel a part of the group.

Extended learning: Over the summer, develop a syllabus for an online course that allows students to read collected articles/texts on a variety of topics (allow students to choose the topics). Set up discussion threads and parameters that allow for continued participation during the summer months. Plan a few face-to-face meetings to allow for topical discussion.