Facebook Pixel

Choose multi-year PD proven to sustain school improvement — Learn more

Learning by Doing

A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work®, Fourth Edition

By: Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker, Thomas W. Many, Mike Mattos, Anthony Muhammad

The fourth edition of this comprehensive action guide provides new strategies for leveraging PLC for a highly effective multitiered system of supports, expert-led guidance on school culture, and a deeper discussion on connecting school improvement to the mission of helping all students succeed.

Availability: In stock
Publication date:
Format: Paperback, eBook
Only %1 left

Receive 20% off the eBook at checkout


A practical guide for implementing the PLC process and transforming schools

25 years on, the PLC at Work® process continues to produce results across the United States and worldwide. In this fourth edition of the bestseller Learning by Doing, the authors use updated research and time-tested knowledge to address current education challenges, from learning gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to the need to drive a highly effective multitiered system of supports.

This book will help K–12 administrators, school leaders, and teacher teams:

  • Build shared knowledge of both critical vocabulary and the concepts underlying the key PLC terms
  • Learn new, more in-depth strategies for coaching in a PLC at Work
  • Make honest assessments of student learning, examine their school culture, and implement conventional practices from a fresh, critical perspective
  • Take immediate and specific steps to close the knowing-doing gap and implement PLC concepts in their school and district
  • Recognize that the knowledge needed to support students in achieving higher levels is readily available, and the next step is to transform this awareness into an action plan for school improvement
  • Follow the step-by-step format outlined in each chapter to advance their school’s PLC journey and drive continuous improvement

Related Topics

Professional Learning Communities at Work®Professional Learning CommunitiesTeams

Additional Information

Product Code: BKG169, EKF713

ISBN: 9781960574145

Published By: Solution Tree

Learning by Doing is a gift to educators. The PLC at Work process and practices are critically important and applicable at all levels—state, district, school, and team. This fourth edition expands the learning and research so educators can ensure every student succeeds.”

Janel Keating, author and educational presenter

Learning by Doing has informed my decisions as a school leader since the first edition was released. It continues to inspire and instruct educators to engage in highly effective processes to support improved student learning within the ever-changing world of education.”

Steve McLaughlin, superintendent, Fullerton Joint Union High School District, California

Learning by Doing has been a game changer for so many schools, helping them go beyond theory to get to the actions needed to become PLCs. This fourth edition updated for the current climate in education is truly an example of ongoing learning impacting practice.”

Jasmine K. Kullar, chief school leadership officer, Cobb County School District, Georgia

“As an education leader, I always appreciate the philosophical why and pedagogical why; it’s easy, however, to get lost in both without application. Learning by Doing connects the why to implementation so educators can move the needle for all students.”

Elizabeth Sisson, principal, El Dorado High School, California

Like the previous editions of this book, this fourth edition is grounded in the under-standing that we learn best by doing. We have known this to be true for quite some time. More than 2,500 years ago, Confucius observed, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Most educators acknowledge that our deepest insights and understandings come from action, followed by reflection and the search for improvement. After all, most educators spent four or five years preparing to enter the profession—taking courses on content and pedagogy, observing students and teachers in classrooms, completing student teaching under the tutelage of a veteran teacher, and so on. Yet almost without exception, they admit that they learned more in their first semester of teaching than they did in the four or five years they spent preparing to enter the profession. This is not an indictment of higher education; it is merely evidence of the power of learning that is embedded in the work.

Our profession also attests to the importance and power of learning by doing in educating our students. We want students to be actively engaged in hands-on, authentic exercises that promote experiential learning. How odd, then, that a profession that pays such homage to learning by doing is so reluctant to apply that principle when it comes to developing its collective capacity to meet students’ needs. Why do institutions cre-ated for and devoted to learning not call on the professionals within them to become more proficient in improving the effectiveness of schools by actually doing the work of school improvement? Why have we been so reluctant to learn by doing?

What Are Professional Learning Communities?

Since 1998, we have published many books and videos with the same two goals in mind: (1) to persuade educators that the most promising strategy for meeting the challenge of helping all students learn at high levels is to develop their capacity to function as a professional learning community and (2) to offer specific strategies and structures to help them transform their own schools and districts into PLCs.

It has been interesting to observe the growing popularity of the term professional learning community. In fact, the term has become so commonplace and has been used so ambiguously to describe virtually any loose coupling of individuals who share a common interest in education that it is in danger of losing all meaning. This lack of precision is an obstacle to implementing PLC practices because, as Mike Schmoker (2004a) observes, “clarity precedes competence” (p. 85). Thus, we begin this handbook with an attempt to clarify our meaning of the term. To those familiar with our past work, this step may seem redundant, but we are convinced that redundancy can be a powerful tool in effective communication, and we prefer redundancy to ambiguity.

We have seen many instances in which educators assume that a PLC is a program. For example, one faculty told us that each year, they implemented a new program in their school. The previous year, it had been PLC; the year prior to that, it had been Understanding by Design; and the current year, it was differentiated instruction. They had converted the names of the various programs into verbs, and the joke among the faculty was that they had been “PLCed, UBDed, and DIed.”

The PLC process is not a program. It cannot be purchased, nor can it be implemented by anyone other than the staff themselves. Most importantly, it is ongoing—a continuous, never-ending process of conducting schooling that has a profound impact on the structure and culture of the school and the assumptions and practices of the professionals within it.

We have seen other instances in which educators assume that a PLC is a meeting—an occasional event when they meet with colleagues to complete a task. It is not uncom-mon for us to hear, “My PLC meets Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.” This perception of a PLC is wrong on two counts. First, the PLC is the larger organization and not the individual teams that comprise it. While collaborative teams are essential parts of the PLC process, the sum is greater than the individual parts. Much of the work of a PLC cannot be done by a team but instead requires a schoolwide or districtwide effort. So we believe it is helpful to think of the school or district as the PLC and the various collaborative teams as the building blocks of the PLC. Second, once again, the PLC process has a pervasive and ongoing impact on the structure and culture of the school. If educators meet with peers on a regular basis only to return to business as usual, they are not functioning as a PLC. So the PLC process is much more than a meeting.

Other educators have claimed they are members of a PLC because they engage in dialogue based on common readings. The entire staff reads the same book or article, and then members meet to share their individual impressions of what they have read. But a PLC is more than a book club. Although collective study and dialogue are crucial ele-ments of the PLC process, the process requires people to act on the new information.

So, what is a PLC? We argue that it is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educa-tors. Transforming a traditional school into a PLC changes the very culture and struc-ture of the school. We summarize some of these shifts in the reproducible “Cultural Shifts in a Professional Learning Community” on pages 15–17; the following section examines elements of the PLC process more closely.

Three Big Ideas That Drive the Work of a PLC

There are three big ideas that drive the work of the PLC process. The progress a district or school experiences on the PLC journey will largely depend on the extent to which these ideas are considered, understood, and ultimately embraced by its members.

A Focus on Learning

The first (and the biggest) of the big ideas is based on the premise that the fundamen-tal purpose of the school is to ensure that all students learn at high levels (grade level or higher). This focus on and commitment to the learning of each student is the very essence of a learning community.

When a school or district functions as a PLC, educators within the organization embrace high levels of learning for all students as both the reason the organization exists and the fundamental responsibility of those who work within it. To achieve this purpose, the members of a PLC create and are guided by a clear and compelling vision of what the organization must become in order to help all students learn. They make collective commitments, clarifying what each member will do to create such an orga-nization, and they use results-oriented goals to mark their progress. Members work together to clarify exactly what each student must learn, monitor each student’s learn-ing on a timely basis, provide systematic interventions that ensure students receive additional time and support for learning when they struggle, and extend learning when students have already mastered the intended outcomes.

A corollary assumption is that if the organization is to become more effective in helping all students learn, the adults in the organization must also be continually learning. Therefore, structures are created to ensure staff members engage in job-embedded learning as part of their routine work practices.

There is no ambiguity or hedging regarding this commitment to learning. Whereas many schools operate as if their primary purpose is to ensure students are taught or are merely provided with an opportunity to learn, PLCs are dedicated to the idea that their organizations exist to ensure all students actually acquire the essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions of each unit, course, and grade level. Every potential organiza-tional practice, policy, and procedure is assessed on the basis of this question: “Will this ensure higher levels of learning for our students?” All the other characteristics of a PLC flow directly from this epic shift in assumptions about the purpose of the school.

A Collaborative Culture and Collective Responsibility

The second big idea driving the PLC process is that in order to ensure all students learn at high levels, educators must work collaboratively and take collective responsibility for the success of each student. Working collaboratively is not optional, but instead is an expectation and requirement of employment. Consequently, the fundamental structure of a PLC is the collaborative teams of educators whose members work interdependently to achieve common goals for which members are mutually accountable. These common goals are directly linked to the purpose of learning for all. The team is the engine that drives the PLC effort and the primary building block of the organization.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of collaborative teams in the improvement process. It is even more important, however, to emphasize that collaboration does not lead to improved results unless people are focused on the right work. Collaboration is a means to an end, not the end itself. In many schools, staff members are willing to collaborate on a variety of topics—as long as the focus of the conversation stops at their classroom door. In a PLC, collaboration represents a systematic process in which teachers work together in order to impact their classroom practice in ways that will lead to better results for their students, for their team, and for their school.

Working together to build shared knowledge on the best way to achieve goals and meet the needs of those they serve is exactly what professionals in any field are expected to do, whether they are curing patients, winning lawsuits, or helping all students learn. Members of a professional learning community are expected to work and learn together.

A Results Orientation

The third big idea that drives the work of PLCs is the need for a results orientation. To assess their effectiveness in helping all students learn, educators in a PLC focus on results—evidence of student learning. They then use that evidence of learning to inform and improve their professional practice and respond to individual students who need intervention or extension. Members of a PLC recognize that all their efforts must ultimately be assessed on the basis of results rather than intentions. Unless their initiatives are subjected to ongoing assessment on the basis of tangible results, they represent random groping in the dark rather than purposeful improvement. As Peter Senge and colleagues (Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, & Smith, 1994) conclude, “The rationale for any strategy for building a learning organization revolves around the premise that such organizations will produce dramatically improved results” (p. 44).

This constant search for a better way to improve results by helping more students learn at higher levels leads to a cyclical process in which educators in a PLC:

  • Gather evidence of current levels of student learning
  • Develop strategies and ideas to build on strengths and address weaknesses in that learning
  • Implement those strategies and ideas
  • Analyze the impact of the changes to discover what was effective and what was not
  • Apply new knowledge in the next cycle of continuous improvement

The intent of this cyclical process (shown in the graphic on the following page) is not simply to learn a new strategy but instead to create conditions for perpetual learning— an environment in which people view innovation and experimentation not as tasks to be accomplished or projects to be completed but as ways of conducting day-to-day busi-ness, forever. Furthermore, participation in this process is not reserved for those desig-nated as leaders; rather, it is a responsibility of every member of the organization.

This focus on results leads each team to develop and pursue measurable improvement goals for learning that align with school and district goals. It also drives teams to create a series of common formative assessments that are administered to students multiple times throughout the year to gather ongoing evidence of student learning. Team members review the results of these assessments to identify and address program concerns (areas of learning where many students are experiencing difficulty). They also examine the results to discover strengths and weaknesses in their individual teaching in order to learn from one another. Very importantly, the assessments are used to identify students who need additional time and support for learning. We will make the case that frequent common formative assessments represent one of the most powerful tools in the PLC arsenal.

A Culture That Is Simultaneously Loose and Tight

The PLC process empowers educators to make important decisions and encourages their creativity and innovation in the pursuit of improving student and adult learning. As you read through this text, you will discover that when a school functions as a PLC, teachers collectively make many of the important decisions, including the following.

  • What to teach
  • The sequencing and pacing of content
  • The assessments used to monitor student learning
  • The criteria used to assess the quality of student work
  • The norms for their team
  • The goals for their team

Teachers working in teams have primary responsibility for analyzing evidence of student learning and developing strategies for improvement. They each are free to use the instructional strategies that they feel will be most effective in helping students learn. Teachers have the authority to make all these important decisions because these aspects of the PLC process are said to be “loose.” At the same time, however, there are elements of the PLC process that are “tight”; that is, they are nondiscretionary and everyone in the school is required to adhere to those elements. The tight elements of the PLC process are listed in the following fea-ture box.

The debate that has raged about whether school improvement should be top-down and driven by administrative mandates or bottom-up and left to the discre-tion of individuals or groups of teachers has been resolved. Neither top-down nor bottom-up works. Top-down fails to generate either the deep understanding of or the commitment to the improvement initiative that is necessary to sustain it. The laissez-faire bottom-up approach eliminates the press for change and is actually associated with a decrease in student achievement (Marzano & Waters, 2009). High-performing PLCs avoid the too-tight/too-loose trap by engaging educators in an improvement process that empowers them to make decisions at the same time that they demand adherence to core elements of the process (DuFour & Fullan, 2013). We will reference this simultaneously loose and tight culture throughout this book.

The Importance of Effective Communication

The keys to creating a PLC culture that is simultaneously loose and tight are first getting tight about the right things (as listed in the feature box) and then clearly, con-sistently, and unequivocally communicating what is tight. Marcus Buckingham (2005) contends that the “one thing” leaders of any organization must know to be effective is the importance of clarity. Powerful communication is simple and succinct, driven by a few key ideas, and repeated at every opportunity (Collins, 2001; Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000). Leaders must realize, however, that the most important element in communi-cating is congruency between their actions and their words. It is not essential that leaders be eloquent or clever, but they must demonstrate consistency between what they say and what they do (Collins & Porras, 1994; Covey, 2006; Erkens & Twadell, 2012; Fullan, 2011; Kanold, 2011; Kouzes & Posner, 1987). When leaders’ actions are inconsistent with what they contend are their priorities, those actions overwhelm all other forms of communication (Kotter, 1996).

One way leaders communicate their priorities is by what they pay attention to (Kouzes & Posner, 2003; Peters & Austin, 1985). Subsequent chapters provide spe-cific examples of leaders communicating what is valued by creating systems and struc-tures to promote priorities, monitoring what is essential, reallocating time, asking the right questions, responding to conflict in strategic ways, and celebrating evidence of collective commitments moving their school closer to its vision.

It is important to help your staff build shared knowledge regarding your school’s cur-rent status for effective communication. Addressing this critical component of a PLC helps in establishing a solid foundation. The need for clear communication is so vital to the PLC process that we present a continuum of effective communication for your consideration. “The Professional Learning Communities at Work® Continuum: Com-municating Effectively” is on pages 23–24 and online at go.SolutionTree.com/ PLCbooks as a free reproducible. Once your staff have established greater clarity regard-ing the current status of your communication practices, we urge you to turn your atten-tion to the “Where Do We Go From Here?” worksheet that accompanies the continuum (on page 25 and also available for free download at go.SolutionTree.com/PLCbooks). It will prompt you to take the action necessary to close the knowing-doing gap.

Attention to Both Structure and Emotions

Creating and aligning the structures necessary for the implementation of the PLC at Work process is essential, but this attention to organizational structure is never enough. Ultimately, if PLCs are to be effective, leaders must focus on human emotions—how people feel—both with students and adults. Effective leaders are effective motivators, and while changing school structures might be necessary, those structures alone are rarely motivators.

Why Don’t We Apply What We Know?

As we have shared our work in support of PLCs with educators from around the world, we have become accustomed to hearing the same response: “This just makes sense.” It just makes sense that a school committed to helping all students learn at high levels would focus on learning rather than teaching, would have educators work col-laboratively, would ensure students have access to the same curriculum, would assess each student’s learning on a timely basis using consistent standards for proficiency, and would create systematic interventions and extensions that provide students with addi-tional time and support for learning. It just makes sense that we would accomplish more working collaboratively than we do working in isolation. It just makes sense that we would assess our effectiveness in helping all students learn on the basis of results— tangible evidence that they have actually learned. It just makes sense! In fact, we have found little overt opposition to the characteristics of a PLC.

So why don’t schools do what they already know makes sense? In The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton (2000) explore what they regard as one of the great mysteries of organizational management: the disconnect between knowledge and action. They ask, “Why does knowledge of what needs to be done so frequently fail to result in action or behavior that is consistent with that knowledge?” (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000, p. 4).

Learning by Doing is intended to help educators close the knowing-doing gap by transforming their schools into PLCs. It reveals purposeful, realistic, actionable steps educators can take to develop their capacity to function as a PLC. It is designed to accomplish the following five objectives.

  1. Help educators develop a common vocabulary and a consistent under-standing of key practices in the PLC process.
  2. Present a compelling argument that American educators have a moral imperative to improve their individual and collective practice.
  3. Help educators assess the current reality in their own schools and districts.
  4. Offer tools, templates, protocols, and sample products to help educators on their journey.
  5. Eliminate excuses for inaction and convince educators that the best way to become more effective in the PLC process is to begin doing what PLCs do.

Help Educators Develop a Common Vocabulary and a Consistent Understanding of Key Practices in the PLC Process

Michael Fullan (2005) observes that “terms travel easily . . . but the meaning of the underlying concepts does not” (p. 67). Terms such as professional learning community, collaborative teams, goals, formative assessments, and scores of others have indeed trav-eled widely in educational circles. They are prevalent in the lexicon of contemporary “educationese.” If pressed for a specific definition, however, many educators would be stumped. It is difficult enough to bring these concepts to life in a school or district when there is a shared understanding of their meaning. It is impossible when there is no common understanding and the terms mean very different things to different people within the same organization.

Developmental psychologists Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (2001) contend that the transformation of both individuals and organizations requires new language. They write, “The places where we work and live are, among other things, places where certain forms of speech are promoted or encouraged, and places where other ways of talking are discouraged or made impossible” (Kegan & Lahey, 2001, p. 7). As educa-tors make the cultural shift from traditional schools and districts to PLCs, a new lan-guage emerges. Therefore, we have highlighted and defined key terms used in implementing the PLC process to assist in building shared knowledge of both critical vocabulary and the concepts underlying the terms. We have also included an online glossary at go.SolutionTree.com/PLCbooks that readers can freely download and distribute. We hope it will add to the precision and clarity of the emerging language that accompanies the transformation of traditional schools and districts into high-performing PLCs.

Present a Compelling Argument That American Educators Have a Moral Imperative to Improve Their Individual and Collective Practice

Americans have always been critical of their public schools. But since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001, the media and politicians have seemed to be waging an increasingly aggressive war not just on the public school system but also on the educators within it. This legacy has continued into the second decade of the 21st cen-tury. A 2023 Gallup poll found that just 36 percent of American citizens have a favor-able view of the American public school system.

We reject the notion that American schools are failing and that educators are the cause of that failure. In the first two decades of the 2000s, educators achieved some of the best results in U.S. history. Consider the following.

  • Schools experienced the highest high school graduation rates in American history, and the rates improved for every subgroup of students.
  • More high school students succeeded in rigorous college-level work than ever before in American history.
  • Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) improved steadily since that test was first administered in the 1970s (Ravitch, 2014).
  • American students scored in the top ten in the world and considerably above the international mean on Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) exams (Martin, Mullis, Foy, & Stanco, 2012; Mullis, Martin, Foy, & Arora, 2012).
  • From 2009, parents’ satisfaction with their local schools was among the highest ever recorded in the more than four decades since Phi Delta Kappan and the Gallup Poll began conducting this survey (Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll Archive, 2014).
  • American students in schools with low poverty outperformed their interna-tional peers in the highest-performing countries in the world with similar poverty rates (Shyamalan, 2013).
  • American students consistently gave their teachers among the highest ratings in the world on such qualities as fairness and willingness to provide them extra support (DuFour, 2015).
  • Cotemporary American educators have accomplished more, with a more diverse student population, than any previous generation. They warrant respect rather than condemnation. We must acknowledge, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic nega-tively impacted much of the progress in education we have witnessed since 2000. The need to help every student succeed in school has never been greater because the con-sequences of failure in the K–12 system have never been more dire.
  • Evidence gathered in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic includes devastat-ing impacts on teacher well-being, teacher retention, new teacher preparation, student well-being, and student learning.
  • The World Economic Forum found that 2.6 percent of the American workforce voluntarily left their jobs during the “Great Resignation” of 2020 and 2021, causing a national labor shortage (Ellerbeck, 2023).
  • KFF (formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation) found that American adults reporting signs of anxiety or depression increased from 11 percent to 41.1 percent between 2019 and 2021 (Panchal, Saunders, Rudowitz, & Cox, 2023).
  • A 2022 Merrimack College survey found only 12 percent of American teachers reported job satisfaction—a record low (Will, 2022).
  • In the first seven months of the 2021–2022 school year, Chicago Public Schools, one of the United States’ largest urban school districts, experienced an 85 percent increase in employee retirements and resignations compared to the previous school year (Koumpilova, 2022).
  • The number of new teachers being prepared in traditional four-year univer-sity credentialing programs decreased nearly 30 percent from 2010 to 2020 (Goldhaber & Holden, 2020).
  • In 2021–2022, 50 percent of middle school students and 56 percent of high school students reported consistent feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression (YouthTruth, 2022).
  • A Harvard University study found that on average for the 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 school years, American students made about 80 percent of the academic progress they would typically make during a school year pre-pandemic (Goldhaber et al., 2022).
  • The 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported a record number of students scoring in the lowest test performance category, below basic, in both mathematics and reading. Collectively, this was the poorest aggregated performance on this assessment in the history of the NAEP exam (Jimenez, 2022).

Throughout most of the 20th century, a student could withdraw from high school and still have access to the middle class. In 1970, 74 percent of the middle class was composed of high school graduates and dropouts. By 2007, the middle class was com-posed of 31 percent high school graduates and only 8 percent dropouts (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010). Furthermore, many high school graduates seem unprepared for the rigors of higher education. One of America’s most trusted college admissions exams, the ACT, reported that the average composite score of American high school students in 2023 reached a record low

for the century at 19.5 out of a possible 36, with 43 percent of all test takers not meeting any college readiness benchmarks in mathematics, reading, writ-ing, or science (Jones & Kallingal, 2023).

These statistics are alarming because people who are not prepared to continue learn-ing beyond high school will be increasingly left behind in the American economy (Carnevale et al., 2010). Consider the implications for students who are unsuccessful in the K–12 system.

  • As of 2019, only 44.6 percent of American high school dropouts were employed compared to 72.3 percent of college graduates (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019).
  • In 2022, the poverty rate for high school dropouts was 25.2 percent, while bachelor’s degree holders had a poverty rate of 4.3 percent (Statista, 2023).
  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that a high school graduate between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-seven earns $22,000 less per year than a bachelor’s degree holder in the same age group (Hardy, 2022).
  • High school graduates live, on average, more than ten years longer than high school dropouts (Lee-St. John et al., 2018).
  • High school dropouts are six times more likely to be incarcerated than high school graduates, and the likelihood is even higher for African American and Latino boys (Camera, 2021).
  • On average, each high school dropout costs taxpayers $292,000 over their lifetime (Lynch, 2016).

So while we reject the idea that American schools are terrible and getting worse, we also acknowledge the moral imperative for improving schools so that all students are prepared for postsecondary learning. American educators must view every student as if they were their own child and provide the same education they would want for their own (DuFour, 2015). We also acknowledge the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have placed educators in an unprecedented dilemma that requires unprec-edented urgency. PLC at Work is more important now than in any other period in American history.

Help Educators Assess the Current Reality in Their Own Schools and Districts

For many educators, however, school-improvement initiatives have been plagued by uncertainty and confusion regarding both the current status of their school and what they hope it will become. As a result, efforts to reform their schools have too often been char-acterized by random stops and starts, rather than by purposeful progression on a path of improvement. A key step in any effective improvement process is an honest assessment of the current reality—a diligent effort to determine the truth. Educators will find it easier to move forward to where they want to go if they first agree on where they are.

Even when teachers and administrators make a good-faith effort to assess their schools, they face significant obstacles. All schools have cultures: the assumptions, beliefs, expectations, and habits that constitute the norm for a school and guide the work of the educators within it. Perhaps it is more accurate, however, to say that educa-tors do not have school cultures but rather that the school cultures have them. Teachers and administrators are typically so immersed in their traditional ways of doing things that they find it difficult to step outside those traditions to examine conventional prac-tices from a fresh, critical perspective. Therefore, this handbook, and particularly the continua presented throughout, is designed not only to offer specific examples of PLC practices but also to help educators frankly assess the current conditions in their schools.

Offer Tools, Templates, Protocols, and Sample Products to Help Educators on Their Journey

As we have worked in our own schools and assisted many hundreds of others, we have found that providing the right tools, templates, protocols, and sample products can help make the complex simpler and increase the self-efficacy of educators. We have attempted to gather these useful instruments in one place so that readers can access what they need at different points in the process. We hope that they are helpful, but they are not carved in stone. Feel free to adapt and modify them to make them fit your unique situations.

Eliminate Excuses for Inaction and Convince Educators That the Best Way to Become More Effective in the PLC Process Is to Begin Doing What PLCs Do

Our greatest hope in developing this handbook is that it will help educators take immediate and specific steps to close the knowing-doing gap in education by imple-menting the PLC process in their own schools and districts. There has never been greater consensus regarding what educators can do to improve their schools. As a profession, we know with certainty that more students learn at higher levels when:

  • Their school is committed to high levels of learning for each student
  • Educators have collaboratively clarified the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students are to acquire as a result of each unit, course, and grade level
  • Student learning is monitored on an ongoing basis
  • The school has a systematic process for providing students with extra time and support when they struggle and extended learning when they are proficient
  • Educators work together to inform and improve their individual and collective practice with transparent evidence of student learning

Conversely, there is simply no credible evidence that schools are more effective when educators work in isolation and the questions of what students learn, how they are assessed, and what happens when they struggle are left to the randomness of the indi-vidual teacher to whom they have been assigned.

When professionals know better, they have an obligation to do better. Our profes-sion now clearly knows better. The weight of the evidence from research, professional organizations, high-performing districts and schools, and common sense has made it clear that schools are more effective when they operate as PLCs. It is time for educa-tors to act on what they know. The question confronting most schools and districts is not, “What do we need to know in order to improve?” but rather, “Will we turn what we already know into action?”

Perhaps the greatest insight we have gained in our work with school districts in the United States and throughout the world is organizations that take the plunge and actually begin doing the work of a PLC develop their capacity to help all students learn at high levels far more effectively than schools that spend years preparing to become a PLC through reading or even training. Michael Fullan, who has studied school-improvement efforts from around the world, has come to a similar conclusion. He argues that educators must move quickly from conversations about mission and vision to action because “it is learning by purposeful doing that counts most” (Fullan & Quinn, 2016, p. 21).

This book is not meant to be a study guide; it is emphatically an action guide. Developing the collective capacity of educators to create high-performing PLCs demands more than book studies and workshops. It demands “the daily habit of work-ing together, and you can’t learn this from a workshop or course. You need to learn it by doing it and having mechanisms for getting better at it on purpose” (Fullan, 2005, p. 69). So let’s examine some of the challenges of working together and consider mechanisms for getting better at it.

When can I access my eBook? Your eBook will be accessible through VitalSource once your payment has been processed.*

*When using a check or purchase order, the order submitted online will not be processed until Solution Tree receives the check or a copy of the signed official purchase order. Your purchase order must note payment terms of net 30 days. We cannot process purchase orders that do not note these payment terms. Please submit all payments to [email protected].

How do I access my eBook?

To access your eBook:

  • Create a free VitalSource account by visiting VitalSource.com. If you already have a VitalSource account, please log in to your account.
  • Paste the redemption code that Solution Tree will email you in the “Redemption Code” field on VitalSource.com/Redeem. (Note: You can also access your redemption code within your Solution Tree account under the “eBook” section.)
  • Click “Redeem.”
  • Enjoy! Once your code is redeemed, your book will be added to your VitalSource Bookshelf and can be read anytime, anywhere.

What are the technical requirements for accessing the eBook? A VitalSource account is required. To sign up for your free account, please visit VitalSource.com.

What if I have trouble accessing my eBook? Please contact VitalSource by emailing [email protected] or by utilizing their Live Chat feature.

What are the shipping and handling costs? There are no shipping or handling costs associated with eBooks. For paperback and hardcover book purchases, standard shipping costs apply. Please visit the Product Orders page for more information on shipping and handling costs.

Can I purchase multiple copies of the same eBook? Bulk orders are not currently available through the website. Website purchases are limited to one eBook per title, per account. If you want to order multiple copies of an eBook, please contact customer support at [email protected].

What if I need to request a refund on my eBook order? RETURN POLICY: We are unable to accept returns or cancel previously placed eBook orders.