plc_coverPersonal Learning Checklists (PLCs) are a simple and effective tool for identifying the extent to which your students feel confident they have grasped the key course content you have defined for them. Although the basic idea has been around in various forms for a number of years, if you’re not familiar with it, PLCs involve:

  1. Teachers identifying essential subject knowledge.
  2. Students keeping a record of their understanding of this knowledge.

In other words, PLCs are a way of recording work covered and whether or not it’s been understood and while there are different ways to construct PLCs, the basic format is broadly similar: a list of key subject knowledge against which students rate their understanding.

This is sometimes done using a traffic light / RAG (Red, Amber, Green) system where students check:

Red for no knowledge / understanding

Amber for some knowledge / understanding

Green for complete knowledge / understanding.

Alternatively some PLCs use a SIN system that involves checking:

Secure knowledge / understanding (i.e. confident that everything’s been understood)

Insecure knowledge / understanding (i.e. some aspects understood)

No knowledge / understanding.

Theplc_part PLC template I’ve put together uses a combination of both approaches to provide verbal (SIN) and visual (RAG) cues, although there’s no reason to suppose this system is any better or worse than using one or the other (or indeed some alternative formulation). Speaking of which, in a break with the norm I’ve combined course and revision PLCs into one document. This is more convenient than creating two separate documents.


Since the content you include as key knowledge is a function of both the Specification and whatever you decide students need to know, I’ve left this section blank, to be filled by either teacher or student under the guidance of the teacher. My preference is for the latter, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it means you don’t have to spend a lot of time and effort entering the key knowledge into the template at the start of a course. This can be done by each student as the course progresses. Each week, for example, you can provide your students with a list of this knowledge they are then responsible for adding to their PLC.

Secondly, even if you’ve planned a course completely there may still be instances where you want to add a new or different idea to the PLC; by releasing knowledge incrementally throughout the course this gives you the flexibility to add or remove specific ideas.

However you choose to identify course content for the PLC a couple of things are worth noting:

Firstly, don’t make the content too broad (“different conceptions of culture, including subculture, mass culture, folk culture, high and low culture, popular culture and global culture”, on one line, for example) because this makes it difficult for students to accurately gauge their level of understanding. In this example, if they understand everything but global culture they may decide their knowledge in “secure” when it’s actually deficient in a specific area.plc_part2

It would be better to break this example down into its component parts, using one line in the PLC for each area of knowledge (culture | subculture | mass culture | folk culture | high and low culture | popular culture | global culture, for example).

This enables students to clearly rate their grasp of each idea. Breaking things down in this way also helps to pinpoint:

  1. Information students may have missed (through absence, for example).
  2. Where individual students may require more help. If a student rates their knowledge of global culture as “insecure”, for example, this allows you to target extra help / resources on this student.
  3. Where a range of students are having difficulties. If you find a lot of students have little or no understanding of a particular idea it may mean you need to revisit this part of the course in some way (either in the classroom or through additional work outside the classroom, for example).

Secondly, although it’s important to break things down, it’s also important not to go too far in the opposite direction by including every little piece of course content in the PLC. The idea is to strike a meaningful balance between course coverage and the amount of time and effort students need to devote to keeping their PLC up-to-date – and since a major objective is to encourage students to reflect on their learning / understanding, it’s important they’re encouraged to see their PLC as a useful working document rather than a chore that must be completed.


For reasons that will become clear, I’ve created two types of template: paper-based and electronic.

In the former case to use the template you will need to print out pages for your students so they can enter course content by hand. They will indicate their self-rated level of competence in the same way. This is a relatively short document designed to cover a single Unit and its associated Modules). The latter case involves a lot more explanation and will be the subject of a second, separate, blog post.

Adding information to the 3 sections of the PLC is very simple and straightforward.

Content refers to the essential knowledge indicated by the teacher.

Knowledge requires the student to indicate (using a tick, for example) their level of understanding (secure / insecure / none). While most teachers will probably trust their students to rate themselves honestly it’s possible to devise work that tests student claims. This could, for example, take the form of short, regular, “mini tests”, such as multiple-choice tests, focused on a particular week’s content, the answers to which can be compared with individual student claims to competence / lack of competence.

Revision requires the student to indicate two things:

  1. Revised – whether they’ve revised this content
  2. Tested – whether they’ve tested their revision knowledge in some way (through things like timed essays, multiple choice questions,  etc.).


2 thoughts on “Personal Learning Checklist Template”

  • Gill Boocock says:

    ooooh I love this, I am going to use for my GCSE’s who are struggling to learn the whole syllabus in just one year of teaching (mad, I know). Many many grateful thanks for your fabulous resources.

    • Chris Livesey says:

      Hope it helps – such a simple, but potentially very powerful, tool (and there’s a new electronic version plus spreadsheet you might like to check-out…).

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