Rosemary Miller

How Professional Learning Communities Benefit Students and Teachers

By Shirley Hord of Learning Forward
•October 27, 2015•

The primary purpose and function of the professional learning community is the continuous professional learning of its members. Why is this? The most influential factor in whether students learn well is quality teaching. Research and common sense tell us that continuous and sustained adult learning enhances quality teaching. What are educators in a professional learning community learning?

Through consistent and focused examination of multiple sources of student and systems data, the professional learning community tracks the performance of its students. When data indicate that students are not learning to expectations, the members examine all factors that could contribute to these results and identify the challenges. Their next step is to create new outcome statements for their students that address their low performance.

They also examine and select new teaching practices they believe are the best options to improve student learning. Simultaneously, they establish new goal(s) for their own learning that will target their acquisition of new knowledge and skills required of the new practices. These decisions prepare them for higher-quality teaching of their students.

The learning community members have determined what they need to learn in order to ensure their teaching produces successful learning for their students. In this way, students are the prime benefactors of the professional learning community’s robust data study and targeted professional learning.

In addition to becoming more effective educators and delivering higher-quality teaching for their students, these educators benefit from the principal’s and other district administrators’ sharing and supporting leadership with professional learning community members. Note the number and significance of the decisions that the professional learning community members make. They have been given shared power, authority, and decision making to conduct the work of their professional learning community.

These educators attained this leadership — and the decision-making functions it entails — after learning how to integrate the leadership role into their professional learning community. While their principal initially led the group, the members developed leadership skills through discussion, modeling, practicing, and receiving feedback. The principal remains as a regular but infrequent member of the group, primarily asking questions or bringing research and other information to them for their consideration. The professional learning community members conduct their meetings and discussions. Competence and confidence, developed through support of their principal and other facilitators, enables them to make important and reasoned decisions about their work for their students.In this way, teachers gain increased respect and status as true professionals — a gain for the school, the teachers, and the students. This shared leadership role allows teachers to make valid and significant decisions regarding teaching and learning — within, of course, the parameters of national, state, and district policies and regulations. Attention and support from school and district policymakers can help professional learning communities fulfill their potential.

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This post originally appeared in Learning Forward’s PD Watch. 


Shirley Hord

Shirley Hord, Learning Forward’s Scholar Laureate, provides content expertise through consulting, writing, and presentations. Her achievements as an educator, researcher, international consultant, and author have made her a true pioneer of professional learning. Her 57-year career includes notable research efforts on the change process such as Concerns-Based Adoption Model, NSDC Standards, Innovation Configuration Maps, and Professional Learning Communities. 

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KLFA News Release for October 13, 2015 Meeting with Rebecca Lewis

•October 13, 2015•

Kansas Learning First Alliance (KLFA) met October 13 at the Kansas Association of School Board (KASB) building.  

Members approved Kansas Research and Education Network (KanREN) as a KLFA member.  KanREN works to connect technology needs of its members to better serve the needs of Kansas educational institutions.  Welcome KanREN!


Rebecca Lewis of Circles presented Generational Poverty: Building Kids, Strengthening Families, Changing Communities to KLFA.  Rebecca shared her personal story and her calling to work with schools and communities to empower our poorest kids and parents.  Some key points from her presentation included:


  • Allies – People who won’t let you quit
  • Community – What does this word mean to the poor?  Poverty has a community but missing sense of purpose, resources, less-supportive, and no link to opportunity
  • Working – I work but I’m still in poverty. “I don’t want a handout; I want to know how to get out.”
  • Toxic Stress – #1 villain of poverty.
  • Development of Adults – Focus on the development of adults of the young children to make lasting changes
  • 2 by 10 – Give 2 minutes for 10 days and you will build lasting relationships with students.

More information on Circles is found at and through Rebecca’s Facebook page (Rebecca Lewis Poverty Edge) or Twitter (@povertyedge).

Marcus Baltzell, KNEA Communications Director, presented “Storytelling: The Value of Telling Our Story to Move Our Message”.  We tell stories to inform, inspire, validate, demonstrate, and connect.  Ask the community to join us to support Kansas Public Education (

Members worked in their focus areas to weave stories into their message.  Members also set a timeline of specific next steps.  The three KLFA Focus Areas are:

  • Student Success
  • Professional Learning
  • Community Engagement

The next KLFA meeting is Wednesday, January 6, 2016, at the KASB building.  Please visit our website for more information about KLFA and our work.





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Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis

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