Reviving Professional Learning Communities


“From three experts in PLCs comes some sage advice about the meaning of Professional Learning Communities and the strategies for attaining them. It is in the latter endeavor, strategies, that these three authors make their most important contribution to the literature on school leadership. It is easy to tell you that you must establish teamwork, for instance, but much more difficult to give you real, practical suggestions for doing so. They have accomplished this in spades. A must read for all principals and aspiring school leaders.”

—Thomas Harvey, author of Checklist for Change; The Practical Decision Maker; Building Teams, Building People; The Politically Intelligent Leader; Resistance to Change

A Professional Learning Community is undeniably one of the most effective processes out there for improving student achievement, as well a school’s overarching culture and climate. With such widespread notoriety, though, there has been a dilution of the true essence of the term. Understanding of what a Professional Learning Community is varies from one district to another, from one school to another, even from one educator to another. It’s about time for a resurrection. Reviving Professional Learning Communities does exactly that through the lens of a simple framework called, the 4S Approach. This new development helps practitioners build thriving learning communities through: (1) recognition and validation of each staff member’s unique points of view, (2) natural conflict that accompanies the assorted viewpoints, (3) healthy teamwork, and (4) effective systems. Sprinkled throughout the book are also 32 practical, high-leverage strategies that are easy to understand and simple to put into practice right away. This book will most certainly help answer the perennial question: How do we achieve a genuine Professional Learning Community?

Wiseman, P., Arroyo, H., & Richter, N. (2009). Reviving professional learning communities: Strength through diversity, conflict, teamwork, and structure. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Strong Schools, Strong Leaders

Strong Schools Strong Leaders Cover

“What Perry Wiseman manages to achieve is a useful synthesis of multiple ideas and strategies, presented in a compact, readable form. He imparts his ideas clearly and backs them up with ample examples, which ably move the reader from theory into practice. This book contains information that would be of interest to any school administrator, regardless of length of tenure in that capacity. It would be especially valuable to a novice school leader or anyone needing an easily comprehensible roadmap for guiding and molding a fragmented school into a functional, unified community.”

—Journal of Educational Administration

There are four glaring reasons to get your hands on a copy of Strong Schools, Strong Leaders:

  1. For one, you will learn about inventive tools that will help you build a more committed (rather than compliant) staff.
  2. Secondly, you will learn more effective ways to overcome dysfunctional staff behaviors that unfortunately damage interpersonal relationships.
  3. Next, you will learn how to better create a collective vision and purpose by tapping into everyone’s individual ideals and aspirations.
  4. Lastly, you will learn a systematic approach that will assist you in teaching team leaders how to build highly effective teams.

It is important to note that many of the concepts parallel business leadership models because raising student achievement is not that far removed from improving profit margins; in both contexts, people have to work together to meet common goals. Leaders in the educational and business fields have no more and no less than the organized efforts of people with which to work, and the behavioral dynamics they face are remarkably similar.

Wiseman, P. (2009). Strong schools, strong leaders: What matters most in times of change. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 


Growth Index:

A powerful tool for school improvement

The article titled, Growth Index, was featured in the January/February 2011 Issue of Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Leadership Magazine. Click here to view the article in it’s entirety.

Bob Noyes, ACSA President, writes:

This issue of Leadership magazine takes a look at how schools can track individual student growth over time, a process that has educators ‘eagerly crunching the numbers to adjust instructional practices…taking dialogue about data analysis and best practices to the next level,’ write authors Perry Wiseman and Kimberly Thomas.

This value-added analysis of individual student learning gains has several advantages over reliance on API and AYP scores, which often mislabel schools that serve at-risk populations as underperforming. Examining individual student growth over time–rather than comparing a student to other students nationwide–gives schools more data with which to evaluate instructional programs. As you will read in the following pages, it can lead to accelerated learning efforts that re-engage students.”

Wiseman, P. & Thomas, K. (2011). Growth index: A powerful tool for school improvement. Association of California School Administrators Leadership Magazine, January/February Issue, 18-21.


The Foundational School Leader

ACSA Leadership Magazine Cover

The article titled, The Foundational School Leader, was featured in the September/October 2009 Issue of Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Leadership Magazine. Click here to view the article in it’s entirety.

Charles Weis, ACSA President, writes:

In this issue, author Perry Wiseman writes that our revolutionary times call for “a type of leadership whose goals should be not only to grow resilient schools, but to make them thrive in the face of distinctly new challenges.” The skills Wiseman describes help leaders build “an organizational, not just individual, capacity for change.” The result is schools that are almost like self-cleaning ovens. “Their people have the capacity to respond effectively to messes because they have created a culture that wants to sparkle in the midst of chaos.”

This article serves as a springboard for the aforementioned book, Strong Schools, Strong Leaders. The ideas outlined in the article summarize each of the four foundational practices specific to the book.

Wiseman, P. (2009). The foundational school leader. Association of California School Administrators Leadership Magazine, September/October Issue, 8-11.


Professional learning communities and the effectiveness of the teams within those communities

Click here to view a pdf copy of the dissertation.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a difference in the degree of teamness in middle school teams whose schools have strong evidence of the five dimensions of a Professional Learning Community, compared to middle school teams that do not have strong evidence of the five dimensions of a Professional Learning Community.

Methodology: The researcher employed a descriptive and ex post facto study, which included middle school principals and their respective teachers in the County of San Bernardino, California. The two survey instruments utilized for data collection consisted of Huffman and Hipp’s (2003) “Professional Learning Community Questionnaire” and Harvey and Drolet’s (2003) “Characteristics of Effective Teams Survey.”

Findings: This study found that the aggregate of teacher responses rendered a significant difference in each of Harvey and Drolet’s 17 Characteristics of Effective Teams. Additionally, this study found that the means of the school means displayed a significant difference in 15 of the 17 Characteristics of Effective Teams. The data also revealed that both the schools with strong evidence of a Professional Learning Community and those schools without strong evidence of a Professional Learning Community had a substantial degree of teamness.

Conclusions: Although each group had a considerable degree of teamness, the significant differences in means put forth the conclusion that schools attempting to build a Professional Learning Community should attend to each of the 17 Characteristics of Effective Teams. It was also concluded that schools without strong evidence of a Professional Learning Community ought to spend additional time on teambuilding activities that nurture collegial relationships.

Implications for Action: Recommendations were made to assist practitioners in the charge of building a Professional Learning Community. Specific teambuilding processes were suggested. Furthermore, the researcher proposed that school principals should designate time to properly train, develop, and empower individuals who will be leading teams.

Wiseman, P. (2008). Professional learning communities and the effectiveness of the teams within those communities. (Doctoral dissertation, University of La Verne, 2008). (UMI No. 3322850).


Professional learning communities and their impact on student achievement

The research paper titled, Professional Learning Communities and Their Impact on Student Achievement, is highlighted by the Educational Policy Institute of California at the University of La Verne (EPIC). EPIC serves to identify, study and report on issues of import to California K-12 agencies; to interpret state laws/policies; and to suggest best practices.

Purpose: The purpose of this meta-evaluation study was to determine whether there is a difference in student achievement between schools that implement the Professional Learning Community (PLC) framework and schools that do not implement the PLC framework.

Methodology: The researchers employed a meta-evaluation research design that included gathering, synthesizing, and reporting the combined results of 13 dissertations on PLCs and student achievement. In searching for the studies in ProQuest, the key terms “student achievement” and “Professional Learning Communities” were used. All the research studies examined were conducted between the years 2008 and 2010.

Findings: Nine out of the 13 (69%) studies rendered a statistical significance in the relationship between the implementation of PLCs and student achievement. Although the other four did not find a relationship between the overall implementation of PLCs and student achievement, two of those four did find a positive relationship with certain sub-domains of a PLC. By and large, there was a considerable discrepancy in the instruments used to assess the implementation of PLCs.

Conclusions: While there did exist a positive relationship in more studies than not, and the levels of achievement varied from one study to another, it was obvious that implementation of PLCs was highly inconsistent. When the 13 researchers’ recommended strategies for successful PLC implementation were combined and categorized, three overarching themes emerged. They were: (a) understanding and implementation of PLCs, (b) resources and structures for PLCs, and (c) leadership within PLCs.

Implications for Action: The researchers of this study suggested that schools and districts should continue to build (or begin) their implementation of PLCs. Recommendations were also made, based on the three overarching themes, to assist practitioners in the planning, implementation, and institutionalization of PLCs which lead to gains in achievement.

Wiseman, P. & Arroyo, H. (2011). Professional Learning Communities and Their Impact on Student Achievement. Educational Policy Institute of California at the University of La Verne (EPIC).


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  1. Pingback: Re-inventing organizational values, beliefs, and goals « WiseFoundations

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