Former SEDL Employees Release New Book About Leading Professional Learning Communities

Published in SEDL Letter Volume XX, Number 1, April 2008, Making the Most of Middle School
Leading Professional Learning Communities
Leading Professional Learning Communities was published by Corwin Press in conjunction with the National Staff Development Council and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Click here to order the book online from
The past few years have brought a proliferation of books about professional learning communities (PLCs). PLCs are often seen as a way to increase student achievement, heighten teacher reflection and collaboration, and even enforce compliance with prescribed programs. Shirley Hord and Bill Sommers, former SEDL employees, believed many of these books provide only part of the picture of what a PLC is and how to establish one.

“Some of the recent books focus almost entirely on collaboration, which is certainly part of a PLC, but there is so much more to a professional learning community, especially for the principal or other leaders,” said Hord. “Bill and I saw that many of these books weren’t thorough in their discussion of what a PLC really is, the learning that must take place within the community, and what it takes to lead a staff to become a PLC.”

Thus, Hord and Sommers wrote Leading Professional Learning Communities: Voices From Research and Practice, recently published by Corwin Press. The book explores the critical role of the principal and other leaders in the development of a PLC by discussing what research literature says as well as what really happens in schools. It also discusses the constant focus needed on student and teacher learning and the commitment and courage necessary to lead a PLC.

In the forward of Leading Professional Learning Communities, Andy Hargreaves, the Thomas More Brennan Chair at Boston College, explained that the book addresses the paradoxical nature of PLCs. “In essence, leadership entails working with and indeed thriving on paradox, not merely trying to eliminate or endure it,” he wrote.

The book illustrates how PLCs can help increase leadership capacity, embed professional development in daily work, create a positive school culture, and develop accountability. It also addresses how to manage the conflict that arises, the creativity needed for problem solving, and the courage to challenge existing systems and ways of thinking when necessary.

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