21 Chapters
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Chapter 5 Building the Collaborative Culture of a Professional Learning Community

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

Principal Joe McDonald was puzzled. He knew that building a collaborative culture was the key to improving student achievement. He could cite any number of research studies to support his position. He had worked tirelessly to promote collaboration and had taken a number of steps to support teachers working together. He organized each grade level in Nemo Middle School (nickname: the Fish) into an interdisciplinary team composed of individual math, science, social studies, and language arts teachers. He created a schedule that gave teams time to meet together each day. He trained staff in collaborative skills, consensus building, and conflict resolution. He emphasized the importance of collaboration at almost every faculty meeting. He felt he had done all the right things, and for three years he had waited patiently to reap the reward of higher levels of student learning. But to his dismay and bewilderment, every academic indicator of student achievement monitored by the school had remained essentially the same.

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Chapter 9 Consensus and Conflict in a Professional Learning Community

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

David C. Roth, the principal of Van Halen High School (nickname: the Rockers), was annoyed. He knew how hard he had worked to build consensus for moving forward with the professional learning community concept. He provided the entire staff with research and readings on the benefits of PLCs. He sent key teacher leaders to conferences on PLCs and used those staff members as a guiding coalition to promote the concept. He encouraged interested staff to visit schools that were working as PLCs. He met with the entire faculty in small groups to listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Finally, at the end of this painstaking process, he was convinced the faculty was ready to move forward. He assigned teachers into subject-area teams and asked each team to work collaboratively to clarify the essential outcomes of their courses and to develop common assessments to monitor student proficiency.

Within a month, the sophomore English team met with Principal Roth to ask if the team could exempt one of its members from meetings. They explained that Fred made it evident he was opposed to the entire idea of collaborative teams and common assessments. Fred made no effort to contribute, and his ridicule and sarcasm were undermining the team. Principal Roth assured them he would look into the situation and attempt to remedy it.

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Chapter 3 Creating a Focus on Learning

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

Principal Dan Matthews had worked successfully with a task force of committed teachers to build support for the professional learning community concept among the staff of Genghis Khan High School (nickname: the Fighting Horde). The task force drafted and the staff approved a new vision statement, endorsed their collective commitments, and established school improvement goals. The vision statement called for a school in which teachers would deliver a guaranteed and viable curriculum in each course that provided all students with access to the same knowledge, concepts, and skills regardless of the teacher to whom they were assigned. It also described a school in which the learning of each student would be monitored on a timely basis.

Principal Matthews and the task force hoped to use the vision statement as a catalyst for action. He asked department chairs to help teachers work together in their collaborative teams to clarify the most essential learning for students by asking, “What knowledge, skills, and dispositions should each student acquire as a result of this course and each unit of instruction within this course?” Matthews also asked the chairs to support the task force recommendation to help teams create a series of common formative assessments to monitor each student’s acquisition of the essential outcomes.

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Chapter 10 The Complex Challenge of Creating Professional Learning Communities

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

John Gardner (1988) once observed that “the impulse of most leaders is much the same today as it was a thousand years ago: accept the system as it is and lead it” (p. 24). Those who hope to serve in any leadership capacity in building PLCs must overcome that impulse. They must help people break free of the thicket of precedent, the tangle of unquestioned assumptions, and the trap of comfortable complacency. Their task is not only to help people throughout the organization acquire the knowledge and skills to solve the intractable challenges of today, but also to develop the collective capacity and confidence to tackle the unforeseen challenges that will emerge in the future. No program, no textbook, no curriculum, no technology will be sufficient to meet this challenge. Educators will remain the most important resource in the battle to provide every child with a quality education, and thus leaders must commit to creating the conditions in which those educators can continue to grow and learn as professionals.

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Chapter 2 A Clear and Compelling Purpose

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

Principal Cynthia Dion left the Professional Learning Communities Institute with the zeal and fervor of a recent convert. She was convinced that the PLC concept was the best strategy for improving student achievement in her school, and she was eager to introduce the concept to her faculty at the Siegfried and Roy Middle School (nickname: the Tigers).

On the opening day of school she assembled the entire staff to share both her enthusiasm for PLCs and her plans for bringing the concept to the school. She emphasized that she was committed to transforming the school into a PLC and that the first step in the process was to develop a new mission statement that captured the new focus of the school. She presented the following draft to the staff and invited their reaction:

It is our mission to ensure all our students acquire the knowledge and skills essential to achieving their full potential and becoming productive citizens.

The moment Principal Dion presented the statement a teacher challenged it, arguing that any mission statement should acknowledge that the extent of student learning was dependent upon students’ ability and effort. Another teacher disagreed with the reference to “ensuring” all students would learn because it placed too much accountability on teachers and not enough on students. A counselor felt the proposed mission statement placed too much emphasis on academics and not enough on the emotional well-being of students. Soon it became difficult to engage the entire staff in the dialogue as pockets of conversation began to break out throughout the room. Principal Dion decided to adjourn the meeting to give staff members more time to reflect on her mission statement and promised to return to the topic at the after-school faculty meeting scheduled for the next month.

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