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PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES

ATTRIBUTE 1: SUPPORTIVE AND SHARED LEADERSHIP

School change and educational leadership literature clearly recognizes the role and influence of the building-based administrator (principal, and sometimes assistant principal) on whether change will occur within the school. Transforming a school organization into a learning community can be done only with the sanction of the leaders and the active nurturing of the entire staff's development as a community. Thus, a look at the principal of a school whose staff is a professional learning community seems a good starting point for describing what these learning communities look like and how the principal builds, sustains, and embraces a collegial relationship with teachers to share leadership, power, and decision making.

Principals have internalized what Carmichael terms "omnicompetence." Others in the school reinforce it, making it difficult for principals to admit that they themselves can benefit from professional development opportunities, or to recognize the dynamic potential of staff contributions to decision making.4

Kleine-Kracht (1993) suggests that administrators, along with teachers, must be learners too, questioning, investigating, and seeking solutions for school improvement. The traditional pattern that teachers teach, students learn, and administrators manage is completely altered and there is no longer a hierarchy where someone knows more than someone else, but rather there is a need for everyone to contribute.5

No longer can leaders function as top-down agents of change nor can they be seen as the visionaries of the corporation; instead leaders must be teachers.