Annotated Bibliography: School Change and PLCs

Here’s a draft of the annotated bibliography I need to include with the depth essay in my final KAM at Walden University. These are all articles out of books about professional learning communities. Most of these topics were not directly addressed in the depth essay, so this is something of a supplement to the essay.

Annotated Bibliography

Austen, D. (2006). Enriching and extending teaching through professional conferences. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 102-106). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Many of the authors discussed in the depth essay above recommended that educators supplement their professional development by attending professional conferences (Hord, 2004, p. 39, Huffman & Hipp, 2003, p. 47). In this article, Austen also recommended this strategy as “an excellent way to accomplish the goal of staying connected to other adults while continuing to grow as educators” (p. 102). She offered ten tips for helping educators maximize their learning during conferences. These tips included identifying goals, seeking support, sharing with the community upon returning, and reflecting upon the conference experience. Though this article does not represent a formal study, it does directly address a strategy for capacity building that is largely ignored in the depth essay discussion above.

Beaty, D., & Pankake, A. M.(2003). Nurturing the human side: a crucial component for PLCs. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 97-108). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

In this article, Beaty and Pankake presented a case study of a small rural high school with poor facilities in an area poor enough to qualify for Title 1 funding district wide. Ten years prior the school had been ranked low performing and had a high teacher turnover rate. However, due to the professional learning community at the school and especially due to the practice of celebrating faculty and student success, the school had then ranked highly on state accountability tests for seven years – and ranked the highest possible the previous two years. Beaty and Pankake offered readers key areas for reflection, a challenge, and key questions to further their own learning from the case study. Articles such as this will be particularly valuable to readers of the DuFour’s more general descriptions of professional learning communities.

Bradshaw, M. C. (2006). Perception, focus, and attitude: teachers leading the way. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 137-140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Bradshaw argued that though schools can certainly improve, they are not failing. He noted how the perception that schools are failing is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and he asks what might be done to change this public perception. His answer was that “educators are going to have to be more vocal about [their] own successes, not just about inadequate pay and how overworked [they] are” (p. 139). Bradshaw then presented a slew of staggeringly positive statistics demonstrating improvement in American public schools from the 1970s to the new millennium. This is an important lesson that can be applied to supporting professional learning communities. While the practices of focusing on failures can instigate a negative reinforcement loop, sharing success can on the other hand support a positive reinforcement loop.

Easin-Watkins, B. (2005). Implementing PLCs in the Chicago public schools. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 193-207). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Easin-Watkins described “the challenges of developing the capacity of staff to build professional learning communities across an urban district that includes over 620 schools, 45,000 employees, and 434,000 students” (p. 192). She outlined three steps in this process: creating a shared mission and vision, making structural changes necessary to support the vision, and committing to allowing time for real change to occur (p. 194-195). She shared many experiences that will be valuable to others developing professional learning communities, including “steps toward a shared vision” (p. 195), a process for “laying a strong foundaction for PLCs” (p. 197), and model for STARS (School Teams Achieving Results for Students, p. 202-206). Though the article is light on academic references (with only two), it draws heavily on the authors’ considerable experience as chief education officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

Evans, R. (1998). Changing families changing schools. Independent School Magazine. Winter 1998. Washington, DC: National Association of Independent Schools.

Evans addressed “the irony at the heart of the growing division between home and school… that all the participants are caught in a similar crucible, the classic stress postion in which demands are too high, supports are too low, and, despote the best intentions and efforts,a chronic sense of inadequacy prevails” (p. 2). He went on to explore recent changes in American families (pp. 2-3), child development (pp.3-5), and schooling (pp.5-6) – and then the ways in which faculty resist these changes (pp. 6-7). He then explored the standard remedies and why they don’t work (pp. 7-8), before offering new strategies and approaches (pp. 8-13). He argued that the answer “begins with perspective, not action, and with strategy, not tactics” (p. 8), and he concluded that this approach “restores perspective and renews hope” (p. 13). Evans himself noted that his “summary is far too brief and oversimplifies social transitions that are enormously complex” (p. 3 of 13). This article can be seen as either a valuable appendix to Evan’s (1996) The Hunan Side of School Change or as a succinct prequel to his 2001 volume, Family Matters.

Evans, R. (2000). Why a school doesn’t run – or change – like a business. Independent School Magazine. Spring 2000. Washington, DC: National Association of Independent Schools.

Here Evans acknowledged that “innovation is vital to preparing students for an
ever more challenging future” (p. 1), and noted that many school boards and administrators attempt to “employ corporate-style approaches to recalcitrant staff” in order to encourage change. However, Evans argued that “schools are much more like families and religious institutions than like corporations and other professional organizations… especially with respect to four key facets of school life and culture: mission, operations, outcomes, and personnel” (pp. 1-2), which he then proceeded to discuss in some detail. He then went on to discuss ways to foster constructive change through motivation, innovation, clarity, focus, and continuity (pp. 4-6). He concludes that it is best to help schools “fulfill their mission in new ways by meeting them on their own terms, tempering our expectations, concentrating our efforts, and celebrating their successes” (p. 6). Though the article does not represent a formal study, it is a valuable perspective for all those involved in professional learning communities or school change in general.

Evans, R. (2005). Reframing the achievement gap. Phi Delta Kappan. May 2005. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappan International.

Evans addresses the achievement gap between African American and Hispanic students, and their white and Asian American peers. While “the conventional wisdom has it that the achievement gap is a school problem” (p.1). However, Evans argues that “its origins lie neither in students not in schools” (p. 1), but rather in “economic and political realities that are mostly beyond the power of… schools to remedy” (p. 2). He feels that the suggestion that schools can overcome this gap (on their own) is “deeply flawed [because] it exaggerates the influence of schooling and underestimates the impact of the major contributors to the achievement gap, which occur outside the school” (p. 3). Evans included an overview of research that supports the limitations of school to impact the lives of students (pp. 3-7) and then offered suggestions for resetting educators’ perspective, priorities, and expectations such that they focus on modesty (p. 9) and perseverance (p. 10). Ultimately he felt that “schools must be – but can only be – a part of the solution” (p. 11). This article is a succinct re-articulation of the core argument in Evans’ (2001) Family Matters, and can serve as a valuable reference for educators involved in growing and sustaining professional learning communities.

Fleming, G. L., & Thompson, T. L. (2004). The role of trust building and its relation to collective responsibility. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 31-44). New York: Teachers College Press.

Fleming and Thompson examined “the role of trust and its relationship to building teacher collective responsibility” (p. 31). They focused on the “principal as the starting point” (p. 31) of trust-building and then offered a variety of lessons from principals and their teachers regarding trust. These lessons focused on elements of a professional learning community such as shared values and vision, supportive conditions, and collective learning and application (pp. 34-36). They then included lessons from teachers building trust with each other, again focusing on similar elements. Five case studies were considered in their discussion focused on evidence of trust and collective responsibility. Finally, they concluded that “professional learning communities rely on trust in order to function effectively” (p. 43) and that in order to be successful in building this trust, “principal and teachers alike must relinquish traditional views of their roles and define new roles that are better suited to meeting the needs of their students” (p. 43). Trust building is an important part of a professional learning community, and not only for its relationship to collective responsibility, as Fleming and Thomas discussed, but also because trust is a necessary condition for the sort of risk-taking necessary for PLCs to discover innovative new ways to help students learn (see Hipp, 2003, below).

Fullan, M. (2005). Professional learning communities writ large. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 209-224). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Fullan opened this article by citing research demonstrating the effectiveness of professional learning communities at the school level. He then argued that “if we do not examine and improve the overall system at three levels, we will never have more than temporary havens of excellence that come and go” (p. 210). His tri-level solution included the school community level (p. 211), the district or regional level (p. 212), and the state or province policy level (p. 214). He explored the challenges and changes at each of these levels before then suggesting four implications of this solution: 1. the need to address the problem of bias toward individualistic solutions (p. 217), 2. the radical need for systems thinkers in action (p. 218), 3. the importance of learning from each other as we go (p. 221), and the danger of waiting for others to act (p. 221). He concludes that “when all three levels… are engaged… it will be possible to make substantial progress” (p. 222). This article does not represent a formal study, but draws on Fullan’s considerable experience working with school change. As such it makes a valuable addition to the professional learning community literature, especially for those who may have the opportunity to work with various levels of the public school system.

Hipp, K. K. (2003). Trust as a foundation in building a learning community. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 109-120). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

Hipp provided a case study that “focuses on a middle school in the Midwest that has been involved… over the [previous] three years in trying to create a professional learning community” (p. 110). She explored the “detrimental effects of allowing unattended feelings to fester and grow, ignoring voice, betrayal, and perceptions of favoritism” and “the effects of mistrust on risk, relationships, organizational health, and openness to change” (p. 110). Like, Beaty and Pankake, Hipp provides key areas of reflection, a challenge, and key questions for the reader, making the article something of an interactive learning experience that can be readily used as a professional development activity in a professional learning community.

Hipp, K. K., & Huffman, J. B. (2004). Two professional learning communities: tales from the field. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 71-83). New York: Teachers College Press.

Using Hord’s five dimensions of a professional learning community as a guide, Hipp and Huffman presented two case studies of schools working to become professional learning communities. Through these two cases, they “showed how the dimensions of professional learning communities can assist schools already engaged in school improvement efforts by focusing those efforts, and by providing a means of assessing progress” (p. 82). They also demonstrated that “the PLC dimensions provide an organizational scheme that can facilitate thinking about change and interpreting changes” (p. 83). For anyone involved in school change, and particularly a professional learning community, this article will be a valuable illustration of Hord’s theories in practice.

Lezotte, L. W. (2005). More effective schools: professional learning communities in action. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 177-192). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Equal Educational Opportunity (EEO) study and the Effective Schools movement that followed in its wake, Lezotte explored why and how some schools make a difference in the lives of students (p. 178) and whether or not more schools can make a difference (p. 179). In the article he reviewed the seven correlates of effective schools (p. 179) and offers an overview of creating the effective schools process (pp. 180-183). He also discussed elements of the core leadership group, including their mission and their core beliefs (pp. 183-189). He concluded with a discussion of professional learning communities in action, suggesting that if the professional learning community had been part of “the school improvement lexicon when the Effective Schools journey began[, then] it would have been easier and more efficient to engage schools in the conversations around the research” (p. 190). This article may serve as a valuable reference for those interested in the change models that served as predecessors to the professional learning community.

Olivier, D. F. (2003). Reculturing a school in crisis. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 129-140). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

Olivier offered a case study that “examines the challenges of reculturing undertaken by one principal at a school deemed in crisis” (p. 130). The article earns a place in Huffman and Hipp’s collection because “after struggling and achieving only minimal success, the principal’s intent [was] to reculture the school applying the dimensions of a professional learning community” (p. 130). The article describes progress and challenges of the first year of a new professional learning community, and then leaves the readers with key areas for reflection, a challenge, and key questions to extend their learning. Those new to the professional learning community process may find reading the article and answering the questions a valuable experience to supplement their own.

Olivier, D. F. (2004). Against all odds: reculturing a troubled school. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 114-126). New York: Teachers College Press.

Olivier prepared a similar case study for Hord’s collection. In it she reports on the first three years of a new principal’s efforts to build a professional learning community. The first year focuses on fighting the status quo, challenging expectations, and building trust. The second year focused on what she called “speed bumps on the path of transition,” transition through research, and PLC initiation. Finally, the third year focused on the change from transition to transformation, comprehensive school assessment, and a focus on results. Olivier concluded that “a key factor in the change process at any school is the need to address significant areas or issues in a manner that will result in sustainability” (p. 126) and cautioned that although her case study school had “made significant strides, the changes that [were] bneing implemented [were] not yet internalized” (p. 126). As an ‘big picture’ overview of the first three years of a professional learning community, this article might be particularly valuable to those just beginning the process of initiating a professional learning community at their site.

Schiller, E. (2006). Each one, teach one. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 145-146). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Schiller focuses on the common professional learning community philosophy of “each one, teach one” in his article on empowering students as leaders. This philosophy calls for teachers to “designate student peer leaders in the classroom” p. 146). Schiller explains that teachers often don’t use their surrounding resources wisely – especially their students. He emphasizes that “it is okay for the students to know more than the instructor” (p. 146) and advocates a philosophy of teaching that raises the level of expectation of students. This article does not represent a formal study, but does address an important element of professional learning communities that is often overlooked; in the same way that principals must allow teachers to serve as resources and leaders for the school, so must teachers allow students to serve as resources and leaders in the classroom.