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Schools as Professional Learning Communities


Sylvia M. Roberts & Eunice Z. Pruitt


Corwin Press (2003)


School-based administrators, teachers, board members, and those committed to collaborating to create professional learning experiences that impact classroom practices and student achievement.

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What are the strategies for providing learning opportunities for teachers that lead to the building of community in schools? The literature on school reform currently reflects a shift from the paradigm of schools as organizations to schools as learning communities. This change essentially represents a new way in which to view schools and the relationships among staff members. This text provides those who wear the mantle of leadership in the new paradigm with the knowledge and skills needed to work effectively with teachers, parents, administrators, students, and the community at large.

The authors suggest that the learning community paradigm is central to the development of improved pedagogy and that improved teaching, learning, and educational outcomes for students can be achieved when teachers collaboratively search for and resolve the problems of practice within their schools. With these beliefs as a framework, the pivotal ideas that inform the text of this book are:

  • Although principals may lead the transformation process, leadership can come from teachers especially if they are provided with opportunities and tools to assume meaningful leadership roles in the school improvement process.
  • Providing high-quality collaborative learning opportunities for teachers can result in improved learning opportunities for students.
  • Meaningful and continuous conversation among teachers about their beliefs, their teaching, their learning, and what they have learned about teaching is necessary for teachers to develop into a community of learners and leaders.
  • Restructuring cannot result simply from fixing, adding, or subtracting new parts to a school’s existing programs. Real change requires that teachers have opportunities to continually reexamine their educational beliefs and the assumptions that guide their behavior.

For school administrators and teachers focused on student achievement, equity, and teacher leadership, this is a must-have resource. Every school will certainly want to begin with an assessment of implementation to evaluate the extent to which the characteristics of learning communities are found within the existing school. The text includes an instrument that can be used to gather this data.


  1. How do we as a staff define learning community?
  2. What are the characteristics of a learning community? What does a learning community look like?
  3. How do we believe student achievement can be affected by learning community?
  4. What critical practices must be in place (e.g. reflection) for true learning community to exist and for true change to occur?
  5. Do we, as a staff, share a vision and mission?
  6. Who are the educational leaders in our school?

    • Do they know and implement strategies to communicate and sustain the vision?
    • Have they built the trust that contributes to improved student achievement?
    • Do they posses the communication skills needed to successfully lead learning communities?
    • What do these leaders know and model about the change process?

  7. How do we, as a school, begin the process of building learning community? What are the first steps? The next steps?
  8. What is our plan to create and sustain learning community? (including who needs to be involved, roles, responsibilities, identification of existing barriers, development of protocol, etc.)
  9. How will we evaluate our plan?
  10. How do we sustain a culture that supports a collaborative approach to improving instructional practice and student outcomes? What steps must be taken?

Note: See the first page of each chapter of this text for additional questions that may be asked.


NOTE: See the end of each chapter for additional reading related to each stage of the process from creating to sustaining and evaluating community.