01 SES 06 B, Building Profesional Learning Communities
Many teachers in secondary education often work individually, in the privacy of their classroom, protected by norms of autonomy and noninterference. They teach multiple classes behind closed doors and learn about teaching by teaching, often described as trial and error (Hodkinson & Hodkinson, 2003, 2004). Moreover, until recently, teacher professional development initiatives mostly have taken place outside school, thus removing teacher learning from the workplace (Opfer & Pedder, 2011; Van Veen, Zwart, Meirink, & Verloop, 2010). From the perspective of the development of collective capacity of schools, this is not a desirable situation. Professional learning communities are considered to be effective ways to foster this collective capacity.
The concept of Professional Learning Community (PLC) is used for groups of teachers sharing and critically examining their practice and collaborating on how to support student learning (Stoll, Bolam, MvMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006). There is a growing knowledge base on PLCs and their elements and conditions needed. Recent work reached consensus on at least some of the essential ingredients of PLCs (cf., Admiraal, Lockhorst, & Van der Pol, 2012; Lomos, Hofman, & Bosker, 2011; Stoll et al., 2006). Key features of PLCs relate to shared values, collective responsibility, collaborative work, reflective dialogue, collective focus on student learning, and deprivatized practice.
In schools as professional learning communities (PLCs), teachers are encouraged to develop collective knowledge and practices through sharing knowledge and practices, supporting each other during their teaching practices, and collaboratively designing new teaching materials (Little, 2003). A PLC can be understood as a means to enhance both teachers’ professional development and a professional school culture (Achinstein, 2002; Grossman, Winesburg, & Woolworth, 2001). In addition, positive effects of PLCs were also found on student learning outcomes (Lomos et al., 2011). Collaboration within teacher communities is a way to counter isolation, improve teacher practice, and create a shared vision towards schooling (Achinstein, 2002; Hodkinson & Hodkinson, 2003). Teachers’ and school leaders’ collaborative work and learning can also develop as a PLC, similar to the concept of school as learning organization (Senge, 1990).
Despite the growing knowledge base in this area, insights into how schools can develop as PLCs as well as into the long-term effects that emerge from this school development, is lacking. The current study examines the strategies schools applied to support their development towards PLCs and the effects of these strategies at student, teacher, or school level.
Therefore, the main research questions of this paper are:
1) What type of strategies do secondary schools apply to develop as a PLC and
2) What are the effects of these strategies at the level of students, teachers and school?
Achinstein, B. (2002). Conflict amid community: The micropolitics of teacher collaboration. Teacher College Record, 104, 421–455. Admiraal, W., Kruiter, J., Lockhorst, D., Schenke, W., Sligte, H., Smit, W., Tigelaar, D., & Wit, W. de. (2016). Affordances of teacher professional learning in secondary schools. Studies in Continuing Education, 38, 281-298. Admiraal, W., Lockhorst, D., & Pol, J. van der. (2012). An expert study on a descriptive model of teacher communities. Learning Environments Research, 15, 345-361. Denyer, D., Tranfield, D., Van Aken, J. E. (2008). Developing design propositions through research synthesis. Organization Studies, 29, 393-413. Hodkinson, P., & Hodkinson, H. (2003). Individuals, communities of practice and the policy context: School teachers’ learning in their workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 25, 3–21. Hodkinson, H., & Hodkinson, P. (2004). Rethinking the concept of communities of practice in relation to school teachers’ workplace learning. International Journal of Training and Development, 8, 21–31. Grossman, P., Wineburg, S., & Woolworth, S. (2001). Toward a theory of teacher community. Teacher College Record, 103, 942–1012. Little, J. W. (2003). Inside teacher community: Representations of classroom practice. Teachers College Record, 105, 913–945. Lomos, C., Hofman, R. H., & Bosker, R. J. (2011). Professional communities and student achievement – a meta-analysis. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 22, 121-148. Opfer, V. D.,, & Pedder, D. (2011). Conceptualizing teacher professional learning. Review of Educational Research, 81, 376–407. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: the art and practice of the learning organizations. New York: Doubleday-Currency. Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7, 221–258. Veen, K. van., Zwart, R., Meirink, J., & Verloop, N. (2010). Professionele ontwikkeling van leraren[Professional development of teachers]. Leiden: ICLON Universiteit Leiden.
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