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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 1 A Guide to Action for Professional Learning Communities at Work

DuFour, Richard Solution Tree Press ePub

We learn best by doing. We have known this to be true for quite some time. More than 2,500 years ago Confucius observed, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Most educators acknowledge that our deepest insights and understandings come from action, followed by reflection and the search for improvement. After all, most educators have spent four or five years preparing to enter the profession—taking courses on content and pedagogy, observing students and teachers in classrooms, completing student teaching under the tutelage of a veteran teacher, and so on. Yet almost without exception, they admit that they learned more in their first semester of teaching than they did in the four or five years they spent preparing to enter the profession. This is not an indictment of higher education; it is merely evidence of the power of learning that is embedded in the work.

Our profession also attests to the importance and power of learning by doing when it comes to educating our students. We want students to be actively engaged in hands-on authentic exercises that promote experiential learning. How odd, then, that a profession that pays such homage to the importance of learning by doing is so reluctant to apply that principle when it comes to developing its collective capacity to meet the needs of students. Why do institutions created for and devoted to learning not call upon the professionals within them to become more proficient in improving the effectiveness of schools by actually doing the work of school improvement? Why have we been so reluctant to learn by doing?

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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 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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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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