The proposition that public school teachers should experience continuous improvement through active, broad-based participation in professional learning communities is now widely accepted. Unfortunately, in too many schools, participation is neither active nor broad based. This article concerns one category of explanations. It reports new findings on ways that racial tensions can affect patterns of participation in professional learning communities and discusses associated challenges for school leaders. Data come from more than eighteen-hundred teachers surveyed in 59 secondary schools from across the United States. For these teachers, several factors predict patterns in learning community participation. These factors include the teacher’s own race, his or her comfort level with students from different backgrounds, the racial composition of the school staff, and racial tensions among the adults in the building. The specific forms of participation considered are how frequently colleagues observe one another’s classrooms and how often they engage together in discussing student work


Ferguson, Ronald. "Racial Tensions and Teacher Engagement in Professional Learning." Perspectives (Winter 2010): 12-16.