Solution Tree lists no fewer than 16 books on transforming schools into collaborative communities. Building a Professional Learning Community at Work stands out as the most teacher-friendly explanation of PLCs that I’ve read.
It’s written by teachers with teachers in mind. This is not a standard PLC theory and research dump. Parry Graham and William Ferriter follow a fictional principal and his core team of teacher-leaders as they work to reform their building as a professional learning community. The scenes in their PLC story serve as the launch point for each chapter. Each scene is followed by clear, concise analysis, an explanation of the underlying research, and practical recommendations for school leaders moving forward.
If the scenes feel staged at times, it’s an easy flaw to forgive. Each line of dialog serves to illustrate a critical element of working in collaboration with others. While the story is fictional, it’s clear that the authors have lived through many of the meetings and conversations portrayed in the book.
Graham and Ferriter don’t shy away from the messy parts of teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. Sometimes teachers disagree. Sometimes they let each other down. Sometimes teachers hurt each other. More than once, I found myself cringing at the too-honest comments of teachers trying to figure out how to make collaboration work. If you’ve ever worked collaboratively with other teachers, you know that the results can be tremendous, but the process can get barbed and personal at times. In Building a PLC at Work, Graham and Ferriter point out common trouble spots in collaboration and share insights for overcoming the instances of friction in a collaborative team.
This book includes no shortage of research. These guys read a lot of really good books, and they apply fundamental principles from these books to education. If you’ve read and enjoyed books like Good to Great, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Here Comes Everybody, and Professional Learning Communities at Work, then Graham’s and Ferriter’s ideas will really resonate with you.
Reproducibles in every chapter help you to get started now. No need to wait for committees to form and surveys to be turned in. Building a PLC at Work includes sample meeting agendas and worksheets for every step of the process, from initiating informal conversations to reflecting on data conversations.
If you’ve been put off by the one-dimensional idealism of many PLC seminars or district workshops, Building a Professional Learning Community at Work will be a breath of fresh air. Graham and Ferriter unpack the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of reshaping a school as a professional learning community, and they cast a real-world vision for how schools can leverage collaboration to realize high achievement for every student.