PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES IN AN ERA OF WORLDWIDE EDUCATIONAL REFORMS
University of Nicosia (CYPRUS)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The ongoing educational reform initiatives, the diversity of the student population and calls upon quality knowledge, require teachers to continue enhancing their skills and stay up to date with current developments. Research studies revealed that teachers do not learn by attending decontextualized, off site and one-shot conferences run by outside experts. Central principles of adult education (problem solving, building on experience, interaction with colleagues) are ignored in these conventional, traditional professional development programmes. Therefore, there is a growing need to shift from the instructional workshops to a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme that is based on “learning” and “community” models highlighting the necessity for a joint learning environment, research, and participation in practical tasks, reflection and constant feedback. A model of professional development that has evolved as a way of embracing the aforementioned principles is that of professional learning communities (PLCs).
This project is part of an ongoing research project that is currently in progress. The aim of this research study is twofold in the sense that its main focus is on examining the impact of PLCs in an era of educational reform whilst also examining teachers’ attitudes and perspectives regarding the building of PLC in their schools within a changing context. Furthermore, this study is of great importance because despite PLC’s having gained a considerable amount of recognition, little research has been conducted that examines teachers’ attitudes towards the development of professional learning communities and their importance during an era of major educational reform.
The purpose of this paper is to present the first stage of the research and make a case for PLCs as a means for the improvement of student learning and engagement in a continuous inquiry and development. It has been acknowledged that for educational change to be implemented in schools, teachers must come to an intimated understanding of the meaning and process of change in order for implementation to be successful. Indeed, PLC is considered as a catalyst to attaining meaningful educational reforms. Consequently, in order to be able to correspond to these new challenges which emerge from the implementation of change in schools, teachers consider it important to engage in developmental activities, which offer them the opportunity to gain a greater understanding regarding an educational reform, assist them to construct and apply a specific practice skill, interact with colleagues, share ideas and engage in a continuous collective problem-solving procedures. PLC is a flexible way of learning which reduces isolation in schools and an effective strategy for fostering school change and improvement. This model of professional development goes beyond the acquisition of new knowledge and skills for teachers as it requires them to reflect and reconsider their own practices and construct new roles aiming towards the improvement of student outcomes.