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Chapter 6 Ensuring a Focus on Student Learning

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

When young students return home from school, parents often greet them W by asking, “So, what did you learn today?” They don’t ask, “So, what were you taught today?” The fact is, most parents—and educators—know there is a tremendous difference between what students are taught and what they actually learn. A focus on learning is the organizing principle of districts, schools, and teams—and classrooms—that function as true professional learning communities. All of the previous work we have described to this point, both structurally and culturally, was for the purpose of laying the foundation for an intense, passionate, and relentless focus on the learning of every single student within the district.

This cultural shift is often greeted with what appears to be widespread agreement. No one raises a hand to comment, “Well, I just can’t agree with the notion that we should focus on the learning of our students!” The problem is that while many educators agree that student learning is obviously desirable, at a deeper level they either do not believe it strongly enough to do the things necessary to ensure that all students learn at high levels or they do not know how do so. But if a district publically declares ensuring high levels of student learning for all students as its core purpose, and really means it, educators within the district will act in fundamentally different ways. They will engage in a sharp and persistent focus on the critical questions associated with learning, and they will do this work in collaborative teams.

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Chapter 7 Case Studies

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

The following case studies illustrate how two school districts approached some of the cultural shifts necessary for becoming professional learning communities.

 

Supporting Schools as Professional Learning Communities: The District Context

By Patricia Taylor

The Frederick County Public Schools have made a long-term, district-wide effort to reculture their district into a professional learning community. This case study is a description of their initiatives and efforts.

Aligning Effort: What Do We Want Students to Learn?

By Mary Ann Ranells

A key element in becoming a professional learning community is focusing on what we want students to learn and then aligning the curriculum with the assessment program. This study is a description of the curriculum-alignment efforts of the Twin Falls, Idaho, School District.

 

By Patricia Taylor
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction
Frederick County Public Schools

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Collective Inquiry and Action Orientation

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

MEMBERS OF PLCS ENGAGE IN collective inquiry: They learn how to learn together. But it is only when they focus this collective inquiry on the right questions that they develop their capacity to improve student and adult learning.

Learning by Doing

THE ENGINE OF IMPROVEMENT, growth, and renewal in a professional learning community is collective inquiry. People in such a community are relentless in questioning the status quo, seeking new methods, testing those methods, and then reflecting on the results.

PLC at Work

THE VERY REASON THAT TEACHERS work together in teams and engage in collective inquiry is to serve as catalysts for action.

Learning by Doing

MEMBERS OF PLCS ARE ACTION ORIENTED: They move quickly to turn aspirations into action and visions into reality.

Learning by Doing

WISHFUL THINKING AND GOOD INTENTIONS do not improve schools. Even serious reflection and meaningful dialogue impact school improvement only to the extent that those within the school are persuaded to act differently.

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A Focus on Results

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

MEMBERS OF A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY continually assess their effectiveness on the basis of results: tangible evidence their students are acquiring the knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to their future success.

Learning by Doing

ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TOOLS available to a school that is attempting to build a PLC is this process of clarifying essential outcomes, building common assessments, reaching consensus on the criteria by which teachers will judge the quality of student work, and working together to analyze data and improve results.

On Common Ground

IN A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY, educators are hungry for evidence of student learning. Relevant, timely information is the essential fuel of their continuous improvement process.

Learning by Doing

UNLESS INITIATIVES ARE SUBJECTED to ongoing assessment on the basis of tangible results, they represent random groping in the dark rather than purposeful improvement.

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Chapter 2 Time, Perspective, and Priorities

Robert Eaker Solution Tree Press ePub

Richard DuFour

It has been said that humans are story-seeking animals. The cultures, religions, and big ideas of ages past have been transmitted from one generation to another through parables, fables, and legends. I will share several stories with you to illustrate how a professional learning community works in the real world.

The first story occurred at a workshop where I was presenting. During a break, a principal came up to me and asked, “How do you expect me to find the time to do all this professional learning community stuff with all the other demands I have on my job? By the time I finish all the ‘have to’s,’ the things I must do as part of my job, I don’t have time to build a professional learning community.”

I had some sympathy for what he said. The issue he presented is a common one. In essence, he was saying, “I don’t have the time to improve my school when I’m so busy managing it.” I believe that, although the list of “have to’s” may be daunting, a person can always find the time to do the “must do’s.” Moving the professional learning community effort to the “must do” list is the first step in transforming a school.

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