MAPPING BARRIERS TO PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES: SCHOOL PRINCIPALS’ EXPERIENCES IN LEADING AND MANAGING PLCS IN KWAZULU-NATAL SCHOOLS IN SOUTH AFRICA
In order to improve the output of the public education system in South Africa, continuous professional development of teachers and particularly the leadership capacity of school principals, is being foregrounded as a priority by the Department of Basic Education (DoBE). To this end, the Department of Education published ‘The National Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa’ in 2007. Further, in 2010 the DoBE published the ‘Action Plan to 2014: Towards the realisation of Schooling 2025’ and in 2011 the ‘Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development in South Africa, 2011-2025’ was also published. Read together, these documents speak to continuous teacher development and have four specific outcomes and outputs. Output 3 of the 2011 document states that support to teachers at a local level will be enhanced through the establishment of Provincial Teacher Development Institutes; District Teacher Development Centres and the Professional Learning Communities.
Conceptualised within continuous professional teacher development framework for teachers and school leaders, this paper reports on the experiences of school principals who were registered for the ACE: School Leadership programme at a university in KwaZulu-Natal on how they lead and enhance professional learning communities in their schools. What barriers hinder them in enacting their roles in leading PLCs; how they create/influence the school culture to promote PLCs among teachers; what leadership/management styles do they adopt which seem to support PLCs among teachers; how they create conditions in which PLCs can thrive.
Working within a qualitative approach and utilising interpretivism, this study is work-in-progress and data that was generated using semi-structured interviews with twelve purposively selected school principals in two districts and is being analysed through content analysis. All ethical issues were met. Preliminary findings suggest that school principals have become more democratic and consultative in the manner in which they lead and manage their schools; their knowledge also seems to have been enhanced. Barriers to PLCs included: teacher unionism; incompetency and lack of dedication to work among some teachers and learners as well as lack of support from various stakeholders.