Book Review of Professional Learning Communities: The Ultimate Blueprint for Academic Success

Megan Marie Jones

University of Wyoming, United States

Education Thinking, ISSN 2778-777X – Volume 2, Issue 1 – 2022, pp. 59-61. Date of publication: 22 September 2022.

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Declaration of interests: The author declares to have no conflicts of interest.

Author’s note: I am currently a graduate student in the Learning, Design, and Technology Ph.D. program and an Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning Graduate Teaching Assistant. My scholarly interests include remote learning and inclusivity. Areas of expertise encompass instructional design, web development, and learning management systems. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7898-0884. Email: mconnor2@uwyo.edu

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However, sharing this article – although not in adapted form and not for commercial purposes – is permitted under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialNoDerivatives BY-NC-ND 4.0 International license, provided that the article’s reference (including author name(s) and Education Thinking) is cited.

Journal’s area(s) of research addressed by the article: 23-Educational Leadership; 55-Schools & Communities; 62-Student Success Analysis

Barbara D. Culp’s Professional Learning Communities: The Ultimate Blueprint for Academic Success (Culp, 2019) is a valuable resource for school administrators, school leaders, teachers, paraprofessionals, academic professionals, and others who are interested in the incorporation of new Professional Learning Communities (PLC) or the improvement of existing PLCs in their institution. This is a well-written book providing step-by-step guidance for readers toward the goal of academic achievement of the students they serve: A go-to guide painting a picture of building real solutions. The author makes the PLC process easy to navigate, execute, and maintain. It is written specifically for k-12 school district professionals but is useful for anyone in academia looking for information on well-constructed PLCs. Thoughtful steps seamlessly weave through the fabric of this book, showing effective PLCs can positively impact schools, districts, and their communities. This is a true blueprint for successfully conquering the planning, development, and execution of meaningful PLCs. Beyond a blueprint though, it focuses on exploration and experimentation being a keystone for a winning PLC.

Culp covers six core areas emphasizing learning over teaching:

1.Lay the Foundation
2.Gather the Goals
3.Going Live
4.Assess and Adapt
5.Digital Expansion
6.Sail on Course

These chapters reveal critical elements in the development of a new-found PLC or the restructuring of a former PLC. The author explores this subject in a concise, organized, and easy-to-follow manner. Using the ideas and techniques in the book, PLCs are built and restored to develop solutions that place academic excellence at the forefront of every classroom and within reach of every learner. Ideas, feasible components, and how-to plans are brought together empowering readers to go forth and facilitate PLCs of their own.

A particular strength of the book is exploring the value of online presence. Devoting a section to the digital realm is a necessary component and particularly relevant to academia. Having an online presence increases the chances of networking locally and worldwide. On a smaller scale, conversations among PLC members can happen asynchronously whenever individuals have the time in their schedule, or synchronously over a video conference. Communicating remotely allows for the possibility of saving time and requires less in-person interaction. These are influential points to mention especially due to the current needs of the world. Staying up to date on how to collaboratively communicate in modern times keeps school districts and institutions competitive. Discussing social networking and blogging for the interaction, expansion, and functionality of a PLC is another helpful suggestion. Culp says: “pictures and videos allow individuals who might never meet you in person to connect with the PLC” (p. 64). With current circumstances, incorporating all members, at a distance or in person, makes the PLC concept feel more like an inclusive reality rather than just an idea.

At the end of each chapter, Culp incorporates tools relevant to the preceding section; for example, “Questionnaire for Every PLC Member” (pp. 13–14), “Slings and Arrows” goal sheet (p. 29), “Return to the Beginning” prompt (pp. 37–38), “PLC Assessment for Schools” (pp.56–58), “Team Trust Survey” (p. 80), and “Course Adjustments” questions (p. 81). As a PLC facilitator or member, having these examples of resources is impactful. The author not only provides suggestions and activities but also provides real samples for readers. Visually representing these is the difference between individuals thinking about applying something new and realistically implementing these tools into their PLC. The tools and examples further support the user-friendly nature of this resource in supporting the educational professionals it serves.

In every PLC, “reflective practices are the living, beating heart,” (p. 2), and “shared responsibility is the blood that oxygenates its limbs.” (p. 3). Within a PLC, “everyone feeds the learning community’s efforts” (p. 8). There is no one person in charge; rather, many people are responsible for and reliant on its success. Using the expertise of professionals within schools as well as in the community brings useful ideas and inspiration together into a single space. PLCs encompass a team of people coming together with an intended goal, which in this case is academic success, and “the real winners in this are the students” (p. 85). Culp continuously circles back to the community component of a PLC, which is a notable aspect.

Within this book, Culp’s positivity and motivating words fill the pages and engage readers to truly believe in what she is saying. Culp has dedicated over 40 years of service working at all levels of academia. She taught elementary and middle school, and served as a principal and as a university clinical supervisor. Culp earned an Education Doctorate majoring in Administration and Supervision. Throughout her years of education and experience, she secures the necessary knowledge to develop and maintain educational communities making this a relevant source for beginners and for expert educators looking to rejuvenate their PLC style.

This book eloquently delivers direction and guidance for those who chose to add or improve PLCs that work well for all educationally driven entities. Addressing the diverse needs of members and their interests maximizes learning opportunities for all parties touched by a PLC. Administrators and educators hoping to incorporate a new concept into their institution(s) benefit from this guide, steering them in the direction of academic excellence. Culp does an admirable job transforming theory into practice, leading readers to create a PLC that fits their professional needs. From novice to expert, in six chapters while emphasizing community, gives readers a realistic view of how this book will guide them in their unique circumstances. Barbara D. Culp’s Professional Learning Communities: The Ultimate Blueprint for Academic Success is a brilliant resource for educators and other stakeholders in search of innovative approaches to implement their budding PLC plans into actionable steps.

Reference

Culp, B. D. (2019). Professional learning communities: The ultimate blueprint for academic success. Rowman & Littlefield.

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