Book Review

Learning by Doing

A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work

by Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, Robert Eaker and Thomas Many, 2nd edition, Solution Tree Press, Bloomington, Ind., 2010, 281 pp. with index, $34.95 softcover



We learn best by doing. That’s the premise on which Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work (2nd edition) is based. The author team, headed by Richard DuFour, provides an action guide (not a study guide) based on years of implementation work nationwide. Each chapter guides the implementation team through a case study, rationale, self-assessment protocols and tips for moving ahead and avoiding pitfalls. The book helps build deep understanding that comes through hands-on application.

Effective professional learning communities, the authors say, work on continuous improvement by gathering evidence, developing and implementing strategies, analyzing the impact of the strategies and applying what they have learned to the next cycle of improvement. Learning by Doing provides concrete and specific dos and don’ts.

Eight of the 10 chapters provide step-by-step guidance for implementing specific phases of the work. Chapter Four, titled “How Will We Respond When Some Students Don’t Learn?” explicitly addresses what we can do for students we haven’t reached. Other chapters address collaborative culture, results orientation and consensus and conflict.

One caution: This handbook does not support adopting PLCs as a flavor of the month. The authors emphasize the importance of ongoing cycles of continuous improvement. These cycles of improvement are just as important at the district and school levels, they say, as are teacher teams in grade levels or departments. These dramatic second-order cultural changes are challenging, ongoing and never-ending.

Reviewed by Larry L. Nyland, superintendent, Marysville Schools, Marysville, Wash.