At the beginning of the project, thirty individuals gathered to learn about PLCs, and committed themselves to attempting to create these structures in schools. Each of these individuals was an accomplished professional, with a commitment to school renewal measured in their willingness to engage in such a challenge. And yet each Co-Developer had much to learn—about PLCs, and about participating in action research.
The structure of the CCCII project and the schedule of conferences provided critical preparation for Co-Developers as they selected and engaged schools in the project. Conferences were designed to foster supportive professional relationships among Co-Developers so that they could experience on a firsthand basis the benefits of professional learning communities for their own professional development. Co-Developer conferences provided the necessary training to identify and prompt the "next steps" as the project moved forward.
Specifically, assigning SEDL staff to work closely with individual Co-Developers provided Co-Developers with accessible experts in negotiating the challenging role of change agents in schools. As education professionals committed to the project and yet one step removed from the struggles of any particular school, SEDL staff provided resources, perspective, sympathy and expertise as necessary. They also served as clearinghouses of strategies and stories, and were available during the long months between Co-Developer meetings to direct communication and collaboration among Co-Developers and to coordinate data collection activities.
In May 2000, SEDL hosted the "final" conference of the "trios" in the Creating Communities of Continuous Inquiry and Improvement project. This conference provided an opportunity for SEDL to collect more data about the progress of schools in the project, to gain feedback about the effectiveness of SEDL's support, and to challenge the principal and teacher from each school to continue the work they started.
The project SEDL envisioned in the mid-nineties is completed—yet, at all schools, the impact of the project undertaken with Co-Developers has barely begun. We have not been surprised by the scale of effort necessary to make change real and lasting; by the formidable challenges facing schools, from budget difficulties to student needs to continuous staff turnover; and by the wisdom, creativity and dedication of people involved in this educational endeavor.
The staff at SEDL have sought to provide Co-Developers as educational professionals with a conceptual framework which will serve them—and others—in creating significant positive change in the nation's schools. From Co-Developers and schools, we have learned much that will be compiled, analyzed, and reported in future publications and conferences.5 In many cases, we have raised as many new questions as we have answered. In short, change of this nature does not occur overnight nor with minimum commitment. We all have much still to learn from one another.
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