01 SES 07 C, Exploring Professional Learning Communities
Different scholars have different opinions about the constructs of PLCs. DuFour et al. (2008 and 2010) advocated that the notion of PLCs is "an ongoing process, in which teachers work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective enquiries and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve" (DuFour et al., 2010:11). Stoll and Seashore (2007:2) pointed out that PLCs involve a group of teachers learning and sharing as well as critically evaluating their practice in an on-going, reflective, collaborative and growth promoting way. However, Naylar (2007:1-2) argued that different notions of PLCs can be adapted to suit different educational contexts, providing that the collaborations among the PLC members are built on mutual trust during the enquiry processes.
In other words, the PLCs concept might better be fitted around the contexts of educational system rather than following a rigid model; which implies that it is worthy to explore the construct of PLCs in the educational system in Hong Kong.
Education reform in Hong Kong
In 1997, the Education Commission (EC) in Education Commission Report No. 7 (ECR7) introduced two major mechanisms for school improvement: the School Self-Evaluation (SSE) and External School Review (ESR). According to EDB (2013), the ESR is improvement-oriented and is conducted in a school-specific and focused mode. Its procedures focus on how schools make use of the process of “Planning-Implementation-Evaluation” (P-I-E) for sustained development and self-improvement in the SSE cycle (Education Bureau, 2013). The on-going cyclical process of SSE and ESR assists schools in initiating and sustaining PLCs in the school level in certain extent and enables them to formulate their direction of future development and strategic planning (Education Commission, 2006).
The Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) is considered to be one of the major changes in the assessment mechanism proposed in the education reform. It facilitates Assessment for Learning (AfL) by providing schools with objective data on students' performances in the three core subjects (i.e. Chinese, English and Mathematics) at the end of Primary 3, Primary 6 and Secondary 3 (Education Commission, 2000). The TSA school reports provide useful information about students' strengths and weaknesses of individual schools (Hong Kong Examinations and Assessments Authority, 2013) and can be served as a starting point for PLCs to initiate discussions among the panel members of these core subjects.
The need of PLCs in Hong Kong and aims of study
With respect to the issue of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers, the setting up of PLCs in schools addresses the concern from the Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Qualifications (ACTEQ) (2009:25) that schools should adopt “a collaborative approach to teachers’ professional learning to enhance school quality”. Through engaging in interactions, enquiries, feedback and reflections, each teacher member views his/her colleagues as learning partners and are willing to contribute to each other’s professional learning. According to ACTEQ (2009:29), “… the notion of “teachers as co-learners” should be actively promoted to exert a good influence on other teachers, cultivate a collective learning culture and atmosphere, and help activate the process of change”.
In order to assist schools in establishing PLCs for sustained improvement for student learning; it is therefore crucial to explore the essential components of PLCs in the local context so that relevant support can be given to principals and frontline teachers in Hong Kong. Hence, the aims of the present study are:
- to explore the essential components of professional learning communities in the Hong Kong primary school settings; and
- to recommend possible ways in promoting the establishment of PLCs in the local education system.
Advisory Committee on School-based Management. (2000). Transforming schools into dynamic and accountable Professional Learning Communities. Hong Kong: Advisory Committee on School-based Management. Advisory Committee of Teacher Education and Qualifications. (2009). Third report on teachers’ continuing professional development (2009). Hong Kong: ACTEQ. DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work™ New insights for improving schools. 2nd ed. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for Professional Learning Communities at work (Book & CD-ROM). 2nd ed. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. DuFour, R., & Eaker, R. (1998). Professional learning communities at work: Best practices for enhancing student achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree. Education Bureau (2013). External school reviews: information for schools. Hong Kong: the Government Printer. Education Commission. (2000). Learning for life and learning through life. Hong Kong: the Government Printer. Education Commission. (2006). Education Commission Report No. 7: Quality School Education. Hong Kong: the Government Printer. Hong Kong Examinations and Assessments Authority. (2013). Basic competency assessments. Retrieved November 19, 2013, from http://www.bca.hkeaa.edu.hk/web/en/Introduction.html. Hord, S. M. and Sommers, W. A. (2008). Leading professional learning communities. California: Corwin Press. Naylar, C. (2007). Recent literature on Professional Learning Communities: Informing options for Canadian teacher unions? BCTF Research Report. British Columbia: BCTF. Servage, L. (2009). Who is the “Professional” in a Professional Learning Community? An exploration of teacher professionalism in collaborative professional development settings. Canadian Journal of Education, 32(1), pp. 149-171. Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), 221-258. Stoll, L. and Seashore, L. (2007). Professional Learning Communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. Berkshire: McGraw Hill. Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
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