Book Reviews

Leading Professional Learning Communities: Voices From Research and Practice

by Shirley M. Hord and William A. Sommers, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2007, 184 pp., $68.95 hardcover, $31.95 softcover

Professional learning communities have come of age. This book, Leading Professional Learning Communities: Voices From Research and Practice, provides school leaders with accessible information on how to initiate and implement one with their staff.

Although the focus is on the principal’s role in the process, this can be replicated by a superintendent who wants to form a learning community among central-office staff or principals. Authors Shirley Hord, a scholar emerita at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, and William Sommers, program associate at the same lab and a former principal, share their vast experience on the subject.

The five components of a professional learning community are shared beliefs, values and vision; supportive leadership; collective learning; supportive conditions; and shared personal practice.

For leaders, the challenge of implementing the PLC is to keep routine work to a minimum, focusing on learning and the cultural norms that promote learning. As Hord and Sommers put it: “Your time and where you choose to spend it will signal importance to everyone in your school.”

If I am going to implement PLC, I must ask myself: What is the goal? Is it just to implement something that everyone else seems to be doing, or do I want to make a difference for kids?

The authors of Leading Professional Learning Communities emphasize the process is a lot of work, but the dividends are great. This book could be used in study groups with all levels of staff in a school district.

Reviewed by Janiece T. Buck, project director, Transition to Teaching, Perkins College of Education, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacog-doches, Texas