“Staff development that has as its goal high levels of learning for all students, teachers, and administrators requires a form of professional learning that is quite different from the workshop-driven approach. The most powerful forms of staff development occur in ongoing teams that meet on a regular basis, preferably several times a week, for the purposes of learning, joint lesson planning, and problem solving. These teams, often called learning communities or communities of practice, operate with a commitment to the norms of continuous improvement and experimentation and engage their members in improving their daily work to advance the achievement of school District and school goals for student learning.” NSDC

Professional Learning Communities are a powerful vehicle for collaborative, job-embedded professional development. A learning community consists of a group of teachers and/or administrators who meet on a regular basis to share instructional practices, student work, and observations of classrooms within a supportive environment in order to improve teaching practice and student learning.

More specifically, Professional Learning Communities typically consist of 10 - 18 educators who:
  1. Place improving student learning and success as the center of the work;
  2. Meet regularly for a sustained and focused period of time to work and learn together;
  3. Observe each other's practice and give feedback to each other on a regular basis;
  4. Build trust by engaging in significant work while providing a safe environment for taking risks;
  5. Make their work public - collaboratively examine and give usable feedback on work done by their students and on their own work (e.g. teaching practices, curriculum, school culture issues);
  6. Value diversity of thought, experience and perspective;
  7. Draw on their own expertise, as well as on the expertise of "outside" resources;
  8. Engage in reciprocal learning (everyone learning from everyone);
  9. Share leadership within the group;
  10. Hold themselves accountable for continuous improvement toward helping everyone learn;
  11. Are facilitated by a "coach" who has received high quality training and on-going support;
  12. Continuously challenge one another to adapt practice toward fostering educational and social equity; and
  13. Employ an action research cycle of inquiry as a framework for its activities and learning.