This is the third installment in the blog series about recent reports of interest to SCEE members that are found in the Recent Reports module on the SCEE Collaboration Site.
Building a Learning Community: A Tale of Two Schools is the fourth in a series of studies on the state of professional learning produced by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and Learning Forward. The latest report in this series, authored by Dan Mindich and Ann Lieberman, presents case studies of two New Jersey public schools that implemented a state-sponsored professional learning community (PLC) training program. The study considers the situations, policies, and practices of schools that have implemented PLCs, provides guidance to state and district leaders and school faculties, and explores the complexity of establishing and sustaining effective learning teams.
This study examines survey data of thirty three New Jersey (NJ) public schools involved in a state sponsored PLC training program and conducts in depth case studies of two of those schools. This study differs from other research focused on PLCS in that it focuses on factors associated with the implementation of PLCs. The description of how the case study schools used New Jersey state policy and resources to support the implementation of PLCs will be of particular interest to SCEE state leaders.
The publication describes the process used by the NJ Department of Education, beginning in 2010, to leverage policy for professional development to define effective practices, build consensus among teachers and other stakeholders, establish requirements and standards, create governance structures, and provide guidance and tools. Schools were encouraged to develop PLC s. The NJ Department of Education with support from the National Staff Development Council (now Learning Forward) provided extensive technical assistance and training. The report provides a full description of the supports provided and descriptions of how the participating schools found ways to solve challenges commonly experienced when implementing PLCs, including time issues, scheduling problems, and teacher buy-in.
The final section of the report summarizes the policies and supports needed to establish and sustain PLCs. The authors assert that NJ state-level policies requiring professional development action planning along with the training resources to support the policies were critical in fostering PLCs in the schools. Other key variables identified were the need for skilled principal leadership, effective data use, and finding common meeting time for increasing teacher participation.
As the practice of using learning communities becomes more widespread, Mindich and Lieberman stress the importance of understanding what makes some teams successful at improving instructional practice, developing a culture of continuous improvement, and increasing student achievement.
What is your state learning about professional development models and the use of PLCs to build capacity? Comment on this blog or go to the discussion thread.
Mindich, D., & Lieberman, A. (2012). Building a learning community: A tale of two schools. Stanford, CA. Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and Learning Forward. http://www.learningforward.org/publications/status-of-professional-learning#.UDJd46mPWAh