Joan E. Talbert (2009) Professional Learning Communities at the Crossroads: How Systems Hinder or Engender Change, Springer International Handbooks of Education, 2009, Volume 23, Part 3
My observations stem from 10 years of research in the Center for Research on the Context of Teaching (CRC) at Stanford University. Scholars at CRC have been studying initiatives to create teacher PLCs in schools and to change school districts into learning organizations. All are struggling to get it right – to achieve the vision of teachers collaborating to continually improve student achievement. We find that system conditions that support the work of PLCs – such as a comprehensive education plan, integrated learning resources, local knowledge resources, robust data and accountability system, extended time for teacher collaboration, and leaders committed to PLCs – are not sufficient to engender change in professional culture and teachers’ work lives. This chapter addresses the question of why teachers respond negatively to PLC initiatives that aim to increase their professional judgment and accountability. First, I discuss core principles of a PLC and how they challenge typical school culture. Then I describe two paradigmatic approaches to PLC development and how participants typically respond to each approach. And finally, I draw lessons from school district experience with PLCs and identify the obstacles that must be overcome if this approach to improved student learning outcomes is to be successful.
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