The Principal as Professional Learning Community Leader


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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Introduction to the Leading Student Achievement Series

    The Leading Student Achievement series is a joint publication of the Ontario Principals' Council (OPC) and Corwin Press as part of an active commitment to support and develop excellent school leadership. One of the roles of the OPC is to identify, design, develop, and deliver workshops that meet the learning needs of school leaders. Most of the handbooks in this series were originally developed as one-day workshops by their authors to share their expertise in key areas of school leadership. Following are the five handbooks in this series:

    • The Principal as Professional Learning Community Leader
    • The Principal as Data-Driven Leader
    • The Principal as Early Literacy Leader
    • The Principal as Instructional Leader in Literacy
    • The Principal as Mathematics Leader

    Each handbook in the Leading Student Achievement series is grounded in action and is designed as a hands-on, practical guide to support school leaders in their roles as instructional leaders. From novice principals who are just assuming the principalship to experienced principals who are committed to continuous learning, readers from all levels of experience will benefit from the accessible blend of theory and practice presented in these handbooks. The practical strategies that principals can use immediately in their schools make this series a valuable resource to all who are committed to improving student achievement.


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    The Ontario Principals' Council gratefully acknowledges Linda Massey, the author of The Principal as Professional Learning Community Leader.

    Linda Massey is a consultant for Education Leadership Canada, the professional development division of the Ontario Principals' Council. Before her retirement from the Peel District School Board, Ontario, Canada, in 2003, Linda's lifelong interest in professional development led her to develop and present many professional learning opportunities to her colleagues within her school district and throughout the province of Ontario, including local and international workshops and conferences. Linda's involvement with OPC began as a practicing administrator and, since 1999, has included workshops for principals and vice principals throughout Ontario titled Elementary and Secondary School Evaluation Policies in the New Curriculum, Implementing Secondary School Curriculum Reform, and Principal Action Research and Professional Learning Communities: The Principal as Instructional Leader. As an education consultant since 2003, Linda continues to develop workshops, organize professional learning opportunities for school leaders, write resource materials, and coordinate projects for the Ontario Principals' Council.

    The Ontario Principals' Council also wishes to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the designers and deliverers of the original Professional Learning Communities: The Principal as Instructional Leader workshop: Joanne Grozelle, Cindy Harris, Linda Massey, Steve McCombe, and Brian Serafini. As well, the efforts of Ethne Cullen and Linda Massey of the Ontario Principals' Council in coordinating this joint OPC/Corwin project are gratefully acknowledged.

    Corwin Press gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Jeffrey M. Cornejo, EdD
    • Principal
    • Robert A. Millikan Senior High School
    • Long Beach, CA
    • Lois Brown Easton
    • Coach and Consultant
    • LBE Learning
    • Boulder, CO
    • Dr. Daniel C. Elliott
    • Professor, Curriculum Specialist
    • Azusa Pacific University
    • Azusa, CA
    • Arthur Foresta
    • Leadership Development Facilitator
    • New Visions for Public Schools
    • New York, NY
    • Dr. Erika L. Hunt
    • Project Director, Illinois State Action for Education Leadership Project
    • Illinois State University
    • Normal, IL
    • Barry W. Knight
    • Principal
    • Palmetto Middle School
    • Williamston, SC
    • Primus M. Moore
    • Assistant Principal/School Site Support Coordinator
    • McAlester Public Schools
    • McAlester, OK
  • Glossary

    • Celebration: The positive recognition given to the accomplishments that result from collaborative action, especially those actions that contribute to improvement of student achievement. When principals and teachers learn together in a culture of respect, trust, and collective commitment to learning, their shared purpose is supported by many kinds of celebration.
    • Collaboration: The process by which all school staff work together within a framework of collective inquiry with the shared purpose of improving student achievement.
    • Collaborative teamwork: Teachers working together collaboratively in learning teams with their principals and other school staff to create a school culture where collective inquiry, reflective practice, and continuous professional development are used to design and implement effective instructional practices.
    • Continuous improvement: The ongoing cycle where learning teams focus on results constantly as they set goals, take action, review their results, and respond with new goals and further actions to support their own and their students' learning. This involves revising the school improvement plan, learning team plans, and individual teacher plans to improve student achievement results.
    • Continuous learning: A commitment to professional growth as a result of reflection on practice and the expectation that all teachers and leaders in the school should continue to build instructional capacity.
    • Fishbone: A graphic organizer in the shape of the spine of a fish, used in this book as a strategy for collaboratively developing mission, vision, values, and goals statements.
    • Goals: Planned actions that can be monitored and measured to assess progress toward the desired student achievement outcomes. In a PLC, goal setting is a very detailed and comprehensive activity requiring the school continually to reflect and assess how the goal statements support and promote the mission, vision, and values of the school.
    • Leadership capacity: The recognition that PLC principals continue to develop the core leadership practices of setting directions, building relationships, developing people, redesigning the organization, and managing the instructional program (Leithwood et al., 2006).
    • Learning team: A small group of professionals who agree to experiment with new ideas and meet regularly for a specific period of time to share specific professional growth experiences guided by specific goals and purposes. Learning team meetings are times for sharing lessons learned in the classroom and reflecting on the application of new knowledge and skills as it impacts student learning. Learning team meetings are structured to share successes and discuss strategies that worked in the classroom, as well as to share difficulties, todetermine why they arose, and to find solutions.
    • Mission: Within the context of a PLC, a statement that clarifies what students will learn, how this learning will be assessed, and how educators will respond when students do not learn.
    • Place mat: A graphic organizer used by small groups to facilitate a think, pair, share experience by accessing prior knowledge and stimulating discussion.
    • PLC edifice: A graphic organizer that compares a PLC to a grand building, with the structural elements of a building corresponding to the attributes of a PLC.
    • PLC learning grid: A template that allows the reader to record significant ideas and strategies for the study and implementation of the attributes of a PLC, as well as consider ways in which this learning can be used in the school.
    • PLC portfolio: A tracking tool that provides a record of the school's accomplishments as it grows as a PLC. The PLC Portfolio presents the school as it is as it begins its journey into collaborative action for student learning and records the milestones as the PLC flourishes.
    • PLC snapshot assessment: A rubric that allows principals and their staffs to review their schools against a set of criteria that describes a PLC. This tool serves as both a diagnostic assessment and an ongoing check of progress in meeting the goal of establishing a PLC in the school.
    • PLC steering team: A collaborative leadership team of the principal and teacher representatives who share in decision making, planning, and implementation of the PLC in the school.
    • Professional development: Capacity building that includes both professional learning opportunities external to the school and the internal learning that occurs in collaborative teacher teams. PLCs make active use of job-embedded learning, where teachers develop their instructional practice through learning by doing in the classroom and having a process in place to assess collaboratively the results of their practice and respond to the data.
    • Professional development module: A detailed outline of a workshop presentation that school leaders can use to facilitate the introduction of the concept of a PLC to staff.
    • Professional learning community (PLC): A school environment where teachers work collaboratively in purposefully designed groups to improve student achievement within a structure of support provided by the school administrator. In such schools, principals create a culture where teachers work actively in teams with the shared purpose of producing successful learning outcomes for all students.
    • Reflection and action: A cycle of continuous improvement where results are reviewed reflectively, plans revised, and efforts refocused and renewed. This produces the synergy that supports action for improvement at all levels of the school.
    • School improvement: The school's continuing commitment to improve student achievement by supporting capacity building of teachers and leaders.
    • Shared purpose: A school culture where mission, vision, values, and goals are supportive of student learning through the application of the principles of a PLC.
    • SMART goals: An acronym that describes a goal-setting process where the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, and Time bound (Conzemius & O'Neill, 2002).
    • Student learning: The commitment to improved student achievement, which is the most essential attribute of a PLC. It's not enough to ensure that students are taught. The issue is whether they learn. Teachers must ensure that students become ongoing learners with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that make success possible (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005).
    • Teacher capacity: A commitment to a strong professional culture where instructional practice is continually improving as teachers collaborate to initiate and assess effective instructional practice.
    • Values: A statement that presents the specific attitudes, behaviors, and commitments that principals and staff define as underlying their commitment to the mission and vision statements they have created.
    • Vision: The articulation of the image of the future that the school wants to build. In PLCs, vision is developed collaboratively and has the strength of reflecting the shared purpose of all educators in the school.


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