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Exploration of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)


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Keynote presentation for the National Colloquium on Professional Learning Communities organized by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) - South Africa

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Exploration of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)

  1. 1. Introduction & Exploration Professional Learning Communities DBE-VVOB partnership National Colloquium on Professional Learning Communities Pretoria, September 18-19, 2014
  2. 2. Outline 1. Drivers for educational reform 2. Gap between policy and practice 3. Effectiveness professional development 4. Professional Learning Communities – Salient features – Potential – Impact – Ambiguities
  3. 3. Driver: Changing Demand for Skills Trends in routine and non-routine tasks in occupations, United States, 1960 to 2009 OECD World Skills Outlook, 2013
  4. 4. Driver: New Conceptions of Knowledge Solution Fluency Digital Citizen Creativity Fluency Collabora tion Fluency Information Fluency Media Fluency
  5. 5. Driver: International Education Assessments • Global competition • Expose weaknesses SA education system (outcomes, inequality…) • Trend towards ‘evidence-based’ approaches
  6. 6. Historical Warning “And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under new”. The Prince, N. Machiavelli, 1515
  7. 7. Hurricane Metaphor for Education Reform “ In classrooms both change and continuity unfold in regular, undisturbed patterns. The trend, regardless of what new structures policymakers design, is small alterations over time in stable teaching practices.” Prof. L.Cuban, 2010
  8. 8. What Makes Professional Development Effective? Type of instruction % of effective learning Lectures 4,5 Reading 11 Audiovisual media 22 Demonstration 32 Group discussion 56 Practical 75 Instruction to teach the subject to others 82 Douchy, 2000
  9. 9. Implementation Gap “Most teachers are still teaching largely in isolation, as over half of teachers report very rarely or never team-teaching with colleagues, and two-thirds report the same rates for observing their colleagues teach. Some 46% of teachers report never receiving feedback on their teaching from their school leader, and 51% have never received feedback from other members of the school management.” TALIS 2013
  10. 10. What Makes Professional Development Effective? Planning of professional development “The effectiveness of any professional development activity, regardless of its content, structure or format, depends mainly on how well it is planned” Guskey, 2014
  11. 11. Planning and Evaluating CPD Participants’ Reactions/ Optimal CPD activities Participants’ Learning/ Required knowledge and skills Organisational support and change Application of new knowledge and skills Impact on learning outcomes Planning of CPD Evaluation of CPD Based on Guskey, 2014
  12. 12. Learning Community Corporate business origin of PLCs “Learning organisations are those organisations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is explored, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.” Senge, 1990
  13. 13. Anthropological origin of PLCs "Communities of practice are an integral part of our daily lives. While the term may be new, the experience is not. Most communities of practice do not have a name or issue membership cards.“ Lave and Wenger, 1991 Learning as Social Participation
  14. 14. Salient Features of PLCs Collective responsibility for student Bolam et al., 2005 learning Open and inclusive membership Shared vision and focus on learning Mutual trust, respect and support Leadership Collaborative & Reflective Inquiry
  15. 15. High potential of PLCs Potential Focus on real classroom problems Cost effective Sharing materials Mentoring of newcomers Infusion of new ideas Cultivating leadership
  16. 16. Activities & Benefits Activities Lesson Study Lesson Observations Action Research Error Analysis Outcomes Bridging gap between theory and practice Creating spaces for addressing practical issues Lifelong learning Data-informed practice Impact Learning outcomes Equity Teacher Identity School Culture
  17. 17. Ambiguities • Teacher preparedness – Opportunity cost – Time consuming – Perceived as ‘add-on’ – Proper training and coaching – Past experiences with CPD of weak translation to practice • School preparedness – Funding – Time – Leadership for effective CPD and change: supportive environment
  18. 18. Ambiguities • PLC Implementation – No local evidence-informed knowledge base – Cultural factors (cfr. Hairon and Dimmock, 2012) – Command & Control, Over or covert resistance, contrived compliance • Dilemmas – Top down vs bottom up – Compulsory vs Voluntary – Formal vs informal
  19. 19. Impact of PLCs • Ingvarson, Meiers and Beavis (2005): – positive correlations between participation in PLCs and… • Application of knowledge and innovations in teaching practice • Student outcomes • Teachers’ confidence • Vescio, Ross and Adams (2008): – Participation of teachers in PLCs resulted in changes in teaching practice – Evidence of improvement of student learning as a result of participation of teachers in PLCs
  20. 20. Impact of PLCs OECD, TALIS 2013 Database
  21. 21. Communities and Networks
  22. 22. Growing PLCs “…you cannot force a plant to grow by pulling its leaves… what you can do is create the infrastructure in which it can prosper.” - Etienne Wenger, 1999
  23. 23. References References • H. Timperley, A. Wilson, H. Barrar & I. Fung (2007), Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration, Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education, • Vescio, V., Ross, D. and Adams, A. (2008) ‘A review of research on the impact of professional learning communities on teaching practice and student learning’, Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(1), pp. 80–91. • Ingvarson, L., Meiers, M. and Beavis, A. (2005) ‘Factors affecting the impact of professional development programs on teachers’ knowledge, practice, student outcomes & efficacy’, Professional Development for Teachers and School Leaders, [online] Available from: • Hairon, S. and Dimmock, C. (2012) ‘Singapore schools and professional learning communities: teacher professional development and school leadership in an Asian hierarchical system’, Educational Review, 64(4), pp. 405–424. • Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge university press. • Brodie, K. (2014) ‘Learning about learner errors in professional learning communities’, Educational Studies in Mathematics, 85(2), pp. 221–239.
  24. 24. Contact – – Twitter @stefaanvw –