Measuring the Strength of a Professional Community

Recent highly regarded studies from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research have pointed to how strongly the presence of “professional community” affects authentic student achievement. In a professional community, researchers posited, teachers pursue a clear shared purpose for all students’ learning, engage in collaborative work to achieve that purpose, and take collective responsibility for student learning. Coalition researcher Peggy MacMullen has drawn on that perspective, using these questions as a basis for school people to use in documenting their progress:

Common Purpose and Activities
– Can teachers describe our mission?
– Have we a common core of courses?

Collaborative Activity
– How many collaborative work structures (e.g., teacher teams, study groups, interdisciplinary courses) have we?
– What percentage of teachers are on teams with students in common? In study groups? What percentage teach interdisciplinary courses?
– How frequently do teams, study groups, faculty, and so forth meet?
– How much time during the school day is allocated to collaboration?
– What is the teacher-student load?

Collective Responsibility
– What percentage of teachers believe all students are capable of high levels of learning?
– What percentage of teachers believe that they have significant control over how much students learn?
– How close are teachers’ personal beliefs to the vision we have established for the school?
– To what extent does everyone continually hold their practice up to a guiding vision? To what extent is that vision deepened by examining practice?