Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 211 East Seventh Street, Austin, TX 787601.
Effective school restructuring requires teacher motivation and action to transform knowledge about change into reality. This paper defines and describes what is meant by "professional learning community"; describes what happens when a school staff studies, works, plans, and takes action collectively on behalf of increased learning for students; and discusses what is known about creating such communities of professionals in schools. The literature indicates that professional learning communities produce positive outcomes for both staff and students. For staff, being part of a professional learning community reduces teacher isolation, increases commitment to the mission and goals of the school, creates shared responsibility for the total development of students, creates powerful learning that defines good teaching and classroom practice, and enhances understanding of course content and teacher roles. Other benefits include higher satisfaction and morale and reduced absenteeism. To develop a community of learners, pull interested, willing people together; engage them in constructing a shared vision; develop trust and relationships; and nurture a program of continuous learning. A review of a synthesis of five case studies (Louis and Kruse 1995) identifies factors of good leadership and elements of effective external support. The final section describes additional approaches that may lead to the invention of professional learning communities. (Contains 84 references.) (LMI)
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Southwest Educational Development Lab., Austin, TX.
Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.