Building A Professional Learning Community At Work: A Guide To The First Year is a new book co-authored by Bill Ferriter. Bill’s name will be familiar to regular readers of this blog because I often highlight the insightful comments he makes in his blog, The Tempered Radical.
Before I read this book, I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what a “professional learning community” was. I must confess that, even though I loved Bill’s blog, I generally skipped over his posts about this topic.
Through his book, I’ve learned that it’s basically about strategically and intentionally developing a “community of learners” among school staff. Bill and his co-author Parry Graham have put together a very accessible step-by-step guide on how to go about creating this kind of culture, including ways to trouble-shoot potential challenges. The questions that it encourages readers to ask themselves and their colleagues might be the most important parts of the book.
In many ways, the process is similar to doing good community organizing (I spent nineteen years as an organizer prior to becoming a teacher) — identifying potential leaders, beginning with a vision and having others adapt it to make it their own, focusing on conversations and relationships. This book makes it all applicable and usable in a school situation. In fact, I think it would be a useful book for anyone who is trying to create a collegial learning culture in any type of organization or business.
I have taught in two schools. The school where I’ve been for the past six years has been lucky enough to have a principal who has worked with teachers to use these methods — almost to a “tee” — and develop a culture of collegiality and professionalism that has truly transformed our school.
The one where I taught for my first year had none of these elements, and I believe that it contributed to its being permanently closed-down.
As its epilogue says:
While the challenges of reculturing schools into professional learning communities are great, the rewards — successful, empowered practitioners and students who are learning regardless of circumstance — are worth the effort!