Recommended Book: Learning By Doing

learning by doing


This is the book on Professional Learning Communities. This book makes PLC members say, “Oh, gosh, did you read page ___?  We’re not quite a PLC, are we?” Rick DuFour et al. outline the four essential questions of a PLC. They discuss the foundations of a PLC. They use case studies to teach educators ways to implement the foundations and essential questions, and they even help the reader circumvent “dangerous detours and seductive shortcuts” in every chapter.

Insights/ Takeaways

I learned so much from this book. I couldn’t begin to list it all. But here are some of the big ideas.

Let’s start with the four essential questions of a PLC:

  • What knowledge and skills should every student acquire as a result of this unit of instruction?
  • How will we know when each student has acquired the essential knowledge and skills?
  • How will we respond when some students do not learn?
  • How will we extend and enrich the learning for students who are already proficient?

The foundations of a Professional Learning Community:

  • Mission: asks why we exist; clarifies priorities
  • Vision: asks what our school must become to accomplish our purpose
  • Values: asks how we must behave to achieve our vision
  • Goals: asks how we’ll mark our progress; establishes priorities

Other great ideas in the book: “loose/tight” leadership (allowing teachers the autonomy to solve problems within well established boundaries); the tyranny of “or” and the genius of “and” (ex. Should teachers work to establish positive relationships with students OR maintain high expectations for proper classroom behavior? Both. Teachers should establish positive relationships with students AND maintain high expectations for behavior.)

“Test scores should be an indicator of our effectiveness in helping all students learn rather than the primary focus of the institution. They should be viewed as a means rather than an end.” Great statement. I’ve heard so much negative talk regarding state assessments, but if used to measure student learning, they can be very useful. They go on to state, “Test scores will take care of themselves when schools and the people within them are passionately committed to helping each student develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to his or her success.” Awesome.

As I mentioned earlier, the lessons learned in this book are way too numerous to list, but my biggest takeaway was this: “teachers teaching teachers” in a Professional Learning Community is the best form of professional development. Why? Because- when done correctly- it is continual (weekly), authentic (all members in a PLC collaborative group know the kids they’re discussing), and it’s effective (positive peer pressure is a real motivator).

How It Builds Leadership Capacity

The authors let you know in advance that the process of becoming a true PLC isn’t easy, but it’s worth the time and effort. They also stress that reading about and discussing PLCs until everybody in your organization is ready won’t get you where you need to go; they call this “paralysis by analysis”.  It takes action- “learning by doing”- researching, using data, implementing, and then fixing those things that require fixing along the way.

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