The PLC Book


Nancy Fichtman Dana & Diane Yendol-Hoppey

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright

    Praise for The PLC Book

    The PLC Book is a must-read for anyone wishing to establish a PLC in their school, from the leader looking for a whole-school approach, to the classroom practitioner seeking to connect with a group of educators.

    —Liane Pitcher-Leigh
    Evidence-Based Teaching Lead, Dene Magna School
    Gloucestershire, United Kingdom

    The PLC Book is as essential as The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Professional Learning Communities! Their careful guidance and realistic examples support the work of teachers to genuinely learn together based on inquiry, shared common goals and reflective practices.

    —Donnan Stoicovy
    Elementary Principal/Lead Learner, Park Forest Elementary School
    State College, PA

    The PLC Book creates a powerful and memorable connection between the idea of professional learning communities and the actuality of creating and sustaining them.

    —Teri Schrader
    The School Reform Initiative, Watkinson School

    Hartford, CT

    The PLC Book will be a go-to resource for teachers, from those looking to begin PLCs for the first time to experienced PLCs looking to refine their collaborative work and get more focused on what makes a difference for student learning.

    —Jennie Beltramini
    K–8 Math Instructional Coach, Anacortes School District
    Anacortes, WA

    Dana and Yendol-Hoppey have blazed a path of professional development that few have been brave enough to tackle. They understand schools and how they operate on a core level.

    —Jodi Bergland Holen
    Professor, University of North Dakota
    Grand Forks, ND

    As no one else, Nancy Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey master the art of bringing innovative theories into the practice.

    —Rik Vanderhauwaert
    Director, DNI


    For Gene


    Recently I received a phone call to remind me to renew my theater subscription for the upcoming year. Subscription prices increase each year and recently have escalated substantially, causing me to weigh more thoughtfully my decision to renew. When my hesitation was evident to the salesperson, she asked why I had continued my subscription membership for so long. I found myself thinking aloud about the reasons I subscribed. I not only enjoyed the intellectual stimulation that theater provided but I also enjoyed the experience of being a part of live performance. It transported me into different lives and places instantly. Watching plays unfold enveloped me in magic of the story and acting and the mystery of the technical aspects. A night at the theater usually meant dinner and a night away from the routine of daily life. It provided both entertainment and education simultaneously.

    On the top of my list for continuing to subscribe was the theater’s commitment not only to provide extraordinary theater experiences but also to investing in the future of theater by commissioning playwrights, presenting readings of new plays, and producing original plays—all with remarkable success. Nurturing the theatrical arts requires ongoing creation of new works and developing playwrights, actors, and the vast array of technical staff.

    The PLC Book is an investment in the continuous improvement of collaborative learning in schools. Just as the theater I described previously invests in the continuous development of theatrical products and people working in the field on and behind the stage, so too does a purchase of this book become an investment in a powerful form of collaborative professional learning that research confirms improves both teaching practice and student learning. A recent study by Matthew Ronfeldt, Susanna Owens Farmer, Kiel McQueen, and Jason Grissom (2015) is one of many that confirms that the quality of teacher collaboration matters in increasing student achievement in math and reading. The study suggests that teachers improve more rapidly in schools with better quality collaboration as well.

    Dana and Yendol-Hoppey describe the kind of instructionally focused collaboration that improves teaching and student learning. In this book, they weave together scholarly and practitioner voices to cultivate readers’ understanding about professional learning communities (PLCs), explain why they are powerful forms of professional learning, depict what they look like in action, and delineate how to initiate or refine existing ones. What makes this PLC book different from others are its clarity, simplicity, specificity, and conversational tone. The authors believe that the PLC structure and process must be easy to navigate if it is to be used by teachers to address the complex problems they face in their daily work. If implementation of the PLC is overly complicated, teachers’ effort and focus will be distracted from the real purpose of PLCs and their natural inclination to inquire, learn, apply, analyze, and reflect.

    The book builds on the best of Dana and Yendol-Hoppey’s past work to present new information that includes the essential elements of healthy PLCs and the core cycle of learning teams use to answer their research questions. Building on the criteria of effective PLCs advanced by Learning Forward’s (2011) standards and the definition of professional learning (Killion & Roy, 2009), they recommend different approaches to structuring PLCs for different types of teams. They map out the process for orchestrating learning among team members, designing action learning plans, using protocols appropriate for each phase, and designing action learning plans that engage educators in professional learning that leads to changes in instruction and student learning. They emphasize the importance of using data to inform learning and sharing learning within and across teams.

    Dana and Yendol-Hoppey offer detailed examples in the forms of reader’s theater, narrative, and metaphor to illuminate the PLC process. They introduce the value of protocols that serve as guides and share descriptions of many of them. They invite readers to interact with the text by offering several learning tasks PLCs can use to promote their own learning about PLCs and their PLC success.

    Reading The PLC Book is both entertaining and educative. It is easy to enjoy the book and to use it again and again as a reference for initiating or fine-tuning PLCs so that they focus on the kind of collaboration about teaching and student learning that intellectually challenge teachers, tap into their professional expertise, stretch their learning, and strengthen their practice. This kind of collaboration undoubtedly will lead to greater success for all students.

    —Joellen Killion


    We are grateful to the many outstanding educators we have had the honor and privilege to engage with throughout our careers in learning community work and other forms of job-embedded learning. We have learned a tremendous amount with and from so many dedicated teachers and administrators. While they are too numerous to name individually in this text, we thank you all for opening up your professional and personal lives to us in the intimate work of job-embedded professional learning and in the quest to make schools better places for all.

    Our families continue to wrap our writing projects in their love and support. Thanks to Tom, David, Greg, Kirsten, Caran, Billy, and Kevin. We also thank our editor at Corwin, Dan Alpert, for his vision to reinvent material from many of our previous works to create The PLC Book and his help and support throughout the writing process. Thanks also to Kimberly Greenberg and Cesar Reyes at Corwin!

    Our conceptualization of learning community work has been greatly influenced by Gene Thompson-Grove, who, in both her current efforts leading the School Reform Initiative (SRI) and past work with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and other organizations and school districts around the country, has supported thousands of educators in their quest to create better schools for the children and adults who inhabit them. As a part of her work, Gene has masterfully designed multiple protocols that have changed the ways professionals communicate with one another in schools. We have used and adapted many of these protocols in our work with powerful results. We thank Gene, to whom this book is dedicated, for the dedication she has given to making life and learning conditions better for teachers and the children they teach. She continues to influence, inspire, and enrich our growing understandings of learning community work.

    In addition to Gene, many outstanding and inspirational educators have developed protocols and generously shared them for use by others to make PLCs stronger across the nation. We describe many of these, available on the SRI website ( in this book. While not all protocols note their creators (many simply state they were developed by a group of educators), we would like to acknowledge all who have developed these critical resources for teacher professional learning, both the ones we specifically describe in this book as well as the many others that exist. In this book specifically, we reference the following protocols:

    • “Forming Ground Rules,” developed by Marylyn Wentworth
    • “Creating Metaphors,” adapted from The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer, pp. 144–150, by Gene Thompson-Grove
    • “Group Juggle,” developed in the field by educators
    • “North, South, East, and West: Compass Points,” developed in the field by educators
    • “Three Levels of Text Protocol,” adapted by the Southern Maine Partnership from Camilla Greene’s Rule of 3 Protocol
    • “Four ‘A’s Text Protocol,” adapted from Judith Gray, Seattle, Washington (2005)
    • “Individual Monthly Action Plan (I-MAP),” developed by Debbie Bambino
    • “ATLAS: Looking at Data,” developed by Eric Buchovecky based in part on the work of the Leadership for Urban Mathematics Project and Assessment Communities of Teachers Project. It also draws on the work of Steve Seidel and Evangeline Harris-Stefanakis of Project Zero at Harvard University. This protocol was revised by Gene Thompson-Grove (November 2000) and Dianne Leahy (August 2004).
    • “Data Driven Dialogue,” developed by the Teacher Development Group based on work presented by Nancy Love, author of Using Data/Getting Results (2002)
    • “Data Mining Protocol,” developed in the field by educators in City Schools of Decatur, Georgia
    • “Chalk Talk Protocol,” developed by Hilton Smith, Foxfire Fund; adapted by Marylyn Wentworth

    About the Authors

    Nancy Fichtman Dana is currently professor of education in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She began her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Hannibal Central Schools, New York. Since earning her PhD from Florida State University in 1991, she has been a passionate advocate for engaging teachers in powerful job-embedded professional learning and has worked with numerous schools and districts across the nation and abroad to develop inquiry-oriented learning communities as well as conducted much research on inquiry, learning communities, and other forms of job-embedded learning. She has published nine books and over sixty articles in professional journals and edited books focused on teacher and principal professional development. Dana has received many honors, including the Association of Teacher Educator’s Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award and the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) Book of the Year Award, both honoring Dana and Yendol-Hoppey’s work related to professional development.

    Diane Yendol-Hoppey is the David C. Anchin Endowed Professor, director of the Anchin Center, and the associate dean of Education Preparation and Partnerships at the University of South Florida. Prior to her work in higher education, Diane taught public school for thirteen years in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Diane’s work specifically focuses on preservice and in-service teacher learning and leadership through job-embedded professional development. Prior to her current position at the University of South Florida, she held positions at the University of Florida and West Virginia University. In these appointments, she collaborated with practitioners and other university faculty to strengthen and research preservice and in-service teacher learning targeted at school improvement. Her leadership related to working with schools has facilitated and sustained nationally recognized school/university partnerships. She has coauthored four books as well as published over fifty studies that have appeared in such journals as Educational Researcher, Teachers College Record, and Journal of Teacher Education.

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    Other Books by Nancy Fichtman Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey

    Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2014). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book complements professional learning community (PLC) work by providing an in-depth introduction to another form of job-embedded professional development—teacher inquiry or action research. The book takes both prospective and practicing teachers step by step through the inquiry process including developing a wondering, collaborating with others, collecting data, considering the ethical dimensions of one’s research, analyzing data, writing up one’s work, assessing the quality of inquiry, and sharing one’s work with others.

    Dana, N. F. (2013). Digging deeper into action research: A teacher inquirer’s field guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book takes off where The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research leaves the reader, providing teacher–inquirers tips for each part of the inquiry process as they are in the midst of doing it (i.e., developing a wondering, developing an inquiry plan, analyzing data, and presenting one’s work). A perfect complement to The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research, this book can also be used as a short, succinct, stand-alone text to guide teachers through the inquiry process in a very targeted and specific way.

    Dana, N. F., Burns, J. B., & Wolkenhauer, R. (2013). Inquiring into the common core. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book tells the story of Woodson Elementary School and the ways the teachers and administrators in this building used job-embedded professional development (the process of inquiry) to better understand their implementation of the Common Core State Standards. In addition, teachers engaged their students in inquiry to actualize the Common Core State Standards in classroom practice.

    Dana, N. F., Thomas, C., & Boynton, S. (2011). Inquiry: A districtwide approach to staff and student learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book describes the ways engagement in PLC work and inquiry fit together for all constituencies within a district—principals, teachers, students, and coaches. This systems’ overview of PLCs and inquiry and the ways the processes can connect improved practice to student achievement enables the reader to enhance learning for adults and students across an entire district.

    Yendol-Hoppey, D., & Dana, N. F. (2010). Powerful professional development: Building expertise within the four walls of your school. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book provides a bird’s-eye view of numerous job-embedded professional development strategies. In addition to a chapter on PLCs, chapters focus on book studies, webinars and podcasts, co-teaching, conversation tools, lesson study, culturally responsive and content-focused coaching, and inquiry.

    Dana, N. F. (2009). Leading with passion and knowledge: The principal as action researcher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book applies the notion of job-embedded professional development to administrators as it takes principals and assistant principals through the process of action research step by step.

    Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2008). The reflective educator’s guide to professional development: Coaching inquiry-oriented learning communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book focuses on coaching the inquiry process within PLCs. Much of the material in The PLC Book is derived from this text. If you are interested in more details about coaching a PLC however, you will find additional material and coaching tips in this book.

    Yendol-Hoppey, D., & Dana, N. F. (2007). The reflective educator’s guide to mentoring: Strengthening practice through knowledge, story, and metaphor. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

    This book explores the mentoring of new teachers from many different angles. The reader is introduced to seven different mentors and their work with mentees, with each mentor demonstrating different components of effective mentoring through the use of metaphor: Mentor as Story Weaver, Mentor as Jigsaw Puzzle Enthusiast, Mentor as Tailor, Mentor as Coach, Mentor as Mirror, Mentor as Interior Designer, and Mentor as Real Estate Agent.

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