Why learning communities powerful catalyst for change
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Why Learning Communities? Powerful Catalyst for Change. Mary Ann Corley Sandy Keenan American Institutes for Research June 2009. Objectives. Identify characteristics of effective professional development (PD);

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Why Learning Communities? Powerful Catalyst for Change

Mary Ann Corley

Sandy Keenan

American Institutes for Research

June 2009


  • Identify characteristics of effective professional development (PD);

  • Identify characteristics of a professional learning community and ways that learning communities can contribute to successful change efforts;

  • Describe elements necessary to building and sustaining a professional learning community;

  • Discuss examples/the application of learning communities to our TA Centers.


Mary Ann Corley

Constant Findings in the Research Literature

  • Notable improvements in education almost never take place in the absence of professional development.

  • At the core of each successful improvement effort is a thoughtfully conceived, well-designed, and well-supported PD component.

  • -Thomas Guskey (2000)


Mary Ann Corley

Joyce and Showers (1987-1988)


M. Corley

Joyce and Showers (2002)


M. Corley

Principles of EffectiveProfessional Development

  • A clear focus on learning and learners;

  • An emphasis on both individual and organizational changes;

  • Small changes guided by a grand vision;

  • Ongoing PD that is procedurally embedded in everyday practice.

  • -Thomas Guskey (2000)


Mary Ann Corley

Shifts of Professional Development


Mary Ann Corley

The Professional Learning Community

What is it?

Why is it important?

How do we build and sustain a PLC?


Mary Ann Corley

The Concept of

Learning Communities

  • Arose from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline (1990)

  • Promoted the idea of a work environment in which employees

    • Engage as teams

    • Develop a shared vision to guide their work

    • Operate collaboratively to produce a better product

    • Evaluate their output.

  • The creation and implementation of a LC is crucial to the future success of organizations facing change

    • (Fullan, 1993; Senge, 2000)


Mary Ann Corley

At about the Same Time. . .

  • Susan Rosenholtz (1989) described a workplace for teachers

    • That encouraged collaboration

    • In which teachers shared ideas and solutions to problems

    • In which teachers shared learning about educational practice.


Mary Ann Corley

Rosenholtz (1989) findings

  • …Teachers who felt supported in their own learning were more committed and effective;

  • …As teachers learned from each other and improved their practice, benefits to students increased.


Mary Ann Corley

So—What is a Professional Learning Community?

  • A purposeful gathering of individuals who share common interests and goals for learning improvement, or professional development. Individuals within the learning community are committed to supporting one another’s and their group’s development. (NSDC, 2001)

  • A way to transform personal knowledge

  • into a collectively built, widely shared,

  • and cohesive professional knowledge base

  • (Wikipedia)




Mary Ann Corley

Characteristics of a PLC

Shared mission, vision, and values (Isaacson & Bamburg, 1992)

Collective inquiry and creativity (Boyd, 1992; Louis & Kruse, 1995)

Collaborative teams engaging in problem-solving

(Louis & Kruse, 1995)

Supportive and shared leadership (Prestine, 1993)

Supportive conditions for meeting and appropriate human capacities (Boyd, 1992; Louis & Kruse, 1995)

Action orientation and experimentation

A results orientation


Mary Ann Corley

Outcomes for Staff who Participate in PLCs

  • Reduction of isolation

  • Increased commitment and vigor

  • Shared responsibility

  • Creation of new knowledge about teaching and learners

  • Increased understanding of content

  • Increased understanding of roles played in helping all students learn


Mary Ann Corley

Outcomes for Staff who Participate in PLCs (Cont.)

  • Teachers well informed, renewed, and inspired

  • More satisfaction, higher morale, lower absenteeism

  • Teachers become better faster

  • Commitment to change

  • More likely to undergo fundamental change


Mary Ann Corley

Outcomes for Students Whose Teachers Participate in PLCs

  • Decreased drop-out rate and “skipping”

  • Lower rate ofabsenteeism

  • Increased learning

  • Smaller achievement gap


M. Corley

Requirements for

Effective PLCs

Shared decision-making among staff and administrators

A shared vision developed from a commitment to continuous improvement and students’ learning gains

Collective learning among participants and application of the learning to practice

Peer review and feedback

Physical conditions and human capabilities that support such an operation.

Hord, 1997


Mary Ann Corley

Quotable Quote

“The leaders’ new work for the future is building learning organizations where people continually expand their capacities.”

Michael Fullan, 2001


Mary Ann Corley

Quotable Quote

“The new problem of change…is what would it take to make the educational system a learning organization—expert at dealing with change as a normal part of its work, not just in relation to the latest policy, but as a way of life.”

Fullan (1993)

Mary Ann Corley

Examples of Learning Communities or Communities of Practice in

Our TA Centers

  • LC or COP that are working well

  • LC or COP that are struggling

Mary Ann Corley

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