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Professional Learning Communities: What Are They And Why Are They Important?: Introduction

Professional Learning Communities: What Are They And Why Are They Important?
Issues… about Change, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1997)

Introduction

In education circles, the term learning community has become commonplace. It is being used to mean any number of things, such as extending classroom practice into the community; bringing community personnel into the school to enhance the curriculum and learning tasks for students; or engaging students, teachers, and administrators simultaneously in learning – to suggest just a few.

This paper focuses on what Astuto and colleagues (1993) label the professional community of learners, in which the teachers in a school and its administrators continuously seek and share learning and then act on what they learn. The goal of their actions is to enhance their effectiveness as professionals so that students benefit. This arrangement has also been termed communities of continuous inquiry and improvement.

As an organizational arrangement, the professional learning community is seen as a powerful staff development approach and a potent strategy for school change and improvement. Thus, persons at all levels of the educational system concerned about school improvement – state department personnel, intermediate service agency staff, district and campus administrators, teacher leaders, key parents and local school community members – should find this paper of interest.

This paper represents an abbreviation of Hord’s review of the literature (1997), which explored the concept and operationalization of professional learning communities and their outcomes for staff and students.


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