THE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES IMPERATIVE: HOW SCHOOLS NAVIGATE THE DYNAMICS OF SYSTEMIC AND SCHOOL-BASED DEMANDS IN PLC IMPLEMENTATION
University of Canberra (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:International literature is increasingly advocating for system-wide and system-led school improvement and recognises professional learning approaches, such as professional learning communities (PLCs), as a pivotal factor in the quest to improve teaching practices and student learning outcomes. Education systems in Australia and internationally have advocated system-wide PLC implementation to varying degrees - some systems have mandated and closely monitored PLC implementation in all schools within their jurisdiction, others strongly recommend a PLC approach, whilst some systems have enshrined the implementation of PLCs in legislation and enterprise bargaining agreements.
A system-led imperative based around how schools approach professional learning, creates complex dynamics that must be navigated within the existing demands of the school. Since 2018, the Australian Capital Territory’s Education Directorate has required all public schools implement PLCs as part of their school improvement agenda. Capturing perceptions from system leaders, principals, PLC leaders and PLC participants, this study explores the factors that enable and impede schools to navigate the dynamics of implementing system-imposed Professional Learning Communities. Six schools within the jurisdiction of the ACT Education Directorate form the research sites for this study.
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have been identified as a powerful approach to school improvement with a growing evidence base of the link between PLCs and collective teacher efficacy – an agreed indicator of a school’s ability to improve student outcomes. Whilst a range of terms, including Professional Learning Teams, Teacher Action Research Teams, and Classroom-based Inquiry are in use, for the purposes of this study, any school-based, collaborative teacher inquiry is classified as a within-school Professional Learning Community (PLC). Empirical studies have demonstrated the impact that PLC implementation using school-based collaborative teacher inquiry can have on teacher quality, professional engagement, collective teacher efficacy and, subsequently, student outcomes.
This study utilised a qualitative, multiple case study approach, and explored educator experiences of implementing and developing PLCs through more than sixty individual interviews. Preliminary findings will be reported in this presentation. Trends in the qualitative data, through inductive analysis, will support the development of theories and insights around how systems might lead, support and empower schools to implement PLC approaches in ways that optimise their school-improvement potential.
Keywords: School Improvement, Teacher Professional Learning, Professional Learning Communities, Education Systems.