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Reading List: PLCs

**Little, J. W. (2006). Professional community and professional development in the learning centered school. Washington, DC: National Education Association. Available at


This paper suggests that when schools systematically focus on professional learning and development, they are more likely to be effective in supporting student learning. The author argues that school-based PLCs should be centered on key problems of instructional practices and student learning, with an emphasis on disclosing challenges and discussing solutions collaboratively. With the goal of providing school leaders with information to enhance professional and student learning, this paper also outlines ways that schools can prioritize their participation in professional development programs.


Talbert, J. E. (2010). Professional learning communities at the crossroads: How systems hinder or engender change. In Lieberman, A. (Ed.). International handbook of educational change. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. Available at

This chapter outlines key principles of PLCs, describes their formation process, and describes the obstacles facing the “PLC movement.” The author stresses that school administrators often fail to realize the core principles behind PLCs, which can result in policies that hinder sustainable change and, in turn, alienate teachers. The chapter also stresses the role for leadership in mobilizing district resources and sustainable strategies for developing PLCs. Finally, the author identifies the challenges that must be overcome in order for the PLC system to be successful in improving student achievement outcomes.


Vescio, V., Ross, D., & Adams, A. (2006). A review of research on professional learning communities: What do we know? Paper presented at the NSRF Forum. Available at:


This paper provides a review of research conducted on the impact of PLCs on instructional practices and student learning. The authors first provide an overview of the essential characteristics of PLCs, such as a collaborative focus on student learning and reflective professional discourse. Drawing on research from ten sources, the authors find that PLCs result in student-centered teaching practices, collaborative school and teaching cultures, and improved student achievement scores.


Coburn, C., & Russell, J. (2008). Getting the most out of professional learning communities and coaching: Promoting interactions that support instructional improvement. Learning Policy Brief, 1(3), 1-5.  Available at


This brief explores professional learning communities (PLCs) and instructional coaches through comparative case studies of two urban school districts. The study finds that design and implementation of such initiatives can differ, with varying results for their efficacy. The authors suggest that district policy plays an important role in teachers’ professional interaction and offer recommendations for districts, including allowing for consistent time for professional conversations between teachers, engaging teachers and coaches in routines that model these professional conversations, and including school and district leaders in these content-focused conversations.


Resnick, L. B., Besterfield-Sacre, M., Mehalik, M. M., Sherer, J. Z., & Halverson, E. R. (2007). A framework for effective management of school system performance. In P. A. Moss (Ed.). Evidence and decision making: The 106th yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) (pp. 155–185). Malden, MA: Blackwell. Available for purchase at

This chapter outlines how applying “systems engineering”—a process of identifying links in an organization to achieve a desired objective or purpose —to school districts can provide greater opportunities for improving the learning process and student outcomes. The authors consider an example of districts hiring instructional coaches. Because coaching affects student outcomes indirectly, district leaders must understand where coaching fits within the learning system and have a clear plan for how a coach will improve that process. The authors create a process map of coaching policy and argue that districts must measure the intermediate areas that coaches change, such as teacher knowledge and beliefs, in order to determine the policy’s effectiveness.


**This document is considered a priority reading.