This book takes a look at organizational change through the use of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). The author shares her thoughts about the need for a permanent role of PLCs in school improvement efforts and equates them to the research and development divisions used in businesses. She defines PLCs as, “forums in which participants embrace the privilege and responsibility of learning individually and collectively”. The basic premise within the book is that schools are learning organizations; they need to be strengthened from the core in order to build capacity and resilience. Schools will improve if and when teachers work together, bringing their expertise and thoughtful insight outside of individual classrooms to help all students within the entire school learn. According to the information in this book, the best way to make this happen is through the use of PLCs.
Martin-Kniep takes time to break down exactly what PLCs are and why they should be promoted (benefits to students, teachers and schools). She moves on to further discuss the key characteristics of PLCs. Discussion occurs around the different types of communities that might exist (learning, leading, lasting) as well as a developmental continuum of behaviors, beliefs and practices (beginning, developing, established, systemic) that exist as PLCs evolve. One section is devoted to the discussion of six dispositions of practice that her research has shown to be present in organizations that are attracted to and committed to PLCs (commitment to understanding, intellectual perseverance, courage and initiative, commitment to reflection, commitment to expertise, collegiality). She suggests that these dispositions can be measured utilizing self-assessment and developed through the use of targeted intervention. A few chapters are dedicated to considering how to develop individual and organizational capacity for PLCs. She includes a series of usable rubrics for individuals and organizations regarding the dispositions and readiness for PLCs. Next the book provides the steps necessary in the creation of the PLC including: defining its purpose, criteria for membership and establishing the values/ norms it upholds. It provides a guide for start-up, operation processes, and assessment when a community is up and running. There are a series of questions for consideration within each step.
Martin-Kniep provides a thorough, in-depth approach on the whys of PLCs as well as a comprehensive approach to how a school can assess its readiness and build capacity for the use of PLCs. Further, she provides information on how to sustain PLCs within the school community. This book will serve as an excellent resource for any leaders wanting to start or further develop the capacity of PLCs within their schools.