Bimonthly action brief that examines an essential professional learning topic; showcases system, school, and teacher leader perspectives; and features valuable tools to advance practitioner knowledge and skills.

July 2014

Available to the public: Download a one-page summary of this issue to share with others.

3 keys to keep learning communities focused on the learning

Professional learning communities have proliferated dramatically over the past several years, becoming almost commonplace as a strategy for addressing student learning problems. Much to the disappointment of many educators, though, the presence of learning communities does not always bring significant changes in student learning. 

In order to keep the focus on effective professional learning, there are three critical elements that effective learning communities have: Continuous improvement, collective responsibility, and alignment and accountability.

Members only: Read more.


Practitioner perspectives 

Teacher leader 

Picture of Heather Vasquez

Learning communities don’t have to be roses and butterflies

Heather Vasquez, program coach for Richard E. Miller Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, knows that positive cultures come not from wishful thinking but from a fundamental belief that everyone can learn and contribute.

Members only: Read more. 


picture of Dexter Fullo

Principal shares learning and leadership to improve learning communities

Dexter Fullo, principal for Benavente Middle School in Dededo, Guam, established a shared vision that the adults must learn if the students are to learn, and then he empowered his teachers to do their own learning and facilitation.

Members only: Read more.

System leader


picture of Dave Swierpel

Keeping the learning in your learning communities is a journey, not a destination

Dave Swierpel, director of professional learning for Carman-Ainsworth Schools in Flint, Michigan, shares how he keeps the focus on learning through careful planning and ongoing support.

Members only: Read more.

Featured Tool: 

A cycle of continuous improvement 

Use this tool, adapted from Learning Forward’s newest publication, Becoming a Learning System, to help define and plan a cycle of continuous improvement so that effective learning remains the primary focus of your learning communities.


Related Tools

Tool: Cycle of continuous improvement




Consider these cautions to help identify and address distractions that may take the focus off of educator learning.

Members only: Read more. 


Learning Forward recommends these standards-based actions to improve the quality of your learning communities.

Members only: Read more. 

Featured Resource: 

Reach the Highest Standard in Professional Learning: Learning Communities

This book is the first in a series exploring each of Learning Forward’s seven Standards for Professional Learning, which outline the characteristics of effective professional learning.

In this book, the authors help readers understand what it takes to establish and maintain professional learning communities (PLCs) that align with the Learning Forward standards and increase educator effectiveness in order to provide the best outcomes for students.


Related resources



Anthony Armstrong (, Learning Forward's associate director of publications, is the editor of Transform Professional Learning


Learning Forward's new digital publications are supported in part by MetLife Foundation.