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Professional Learning Communities

Page history last edited by Rosalyn Johnson 12 years, 3 months ago


What is a Professional Learning Community (PLC)?

It is often said that teaching is a lonely profession, with teachers feeling isolated in their classrooms. Still, in a school, there are many teachers who are able to discuss  and share ideas. Consider then, how lonely the profession of Teacher  Librarian can be, when there is usually only one Teacher Librarian per school. The Teacher Librarian is unique, betwixt and between teachers and leaders. Who will you be able to connect with in terms of your work and profession? A Professional Learning Community can be an essential element to increasing your knowledge and understanding of the challenges of Teacher Librarianship, and a valuable source of new ideas. Deanna Burney (2004) states,  "People learn by watching one another, seeing various ways of solving a single problem, sharing their different "takes" on a concept or struggle, and developing a common language with which to talk about their goals, their work, and their ways of monitoring their progress or diagnosing their difficulties. When teachers publicly display what they are thinking, they learn from one another, but they also learn through articulating their ideas, justifying their views, and making valid arguments." A PLC is a safe place for you to share your struggles, your thinking, your learning, and your ideas with others, getting and giving support. A Professional Learning Community can be formal or informal, ranging from a network set up by administrators, to a book study group, ar a group that gets together for coffee. The commonality is the drive to improve and extend your practice.


An effective PLC has the following components:

1 shared values and vision


2 collective responsibility for pupils’ learning


3 reflective professional enquiry


4 collaboration focused on learning


5 group as well as individual professional learning


6 openness, networks and partnerships


7 inclusive membership


8 mutual trust, respect and support

(Stoll et. al., 2006) 


How can you find a PLC?

One method of discovering a formal PLC is to check with your local professional association, administration or specialist council. To discover an informal PLC, you could email fellow TLs in your district or search online.

Suzie Boss, a journalist who focuses on educational issues, and co- author of  Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, suggests that online blogging has become a major player in the world of informal Professional Learning Communities. " Edubloggers are having robust discussions about how and why they teach, and what strategies and new tools will help their students learn. Online, teachers are able to swap ideas and improve instruction by getting critical feedback from peers".


Creating a PLC

If you are having difficulty with finding a PLC, consider creating your own. As a leader in your school, you could approach administrators about setting up a PLC for you and your teachers. For an overview of this process, see http://www.innovation-unit.co.uk/images/stories/files/pdf/nlcbooklet02.pdf 


To create an informal PLC, you can simply email other TLs in your area to suggest a meeting. Providing the space and time (and coffee!) for others to meet and discuss their needs can lead to the creation of a PLC tailored to you and your colleague's needs. For a digital option, Sue Waters, the editor of Edublogs, suggests using social networking , such as Facebook, Nings, and Twitter to create and build informal PLCs. To watch a video of her session at the Australian Flexible Learning Frameworks, click here: https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2009-06-15.2134.M.9DDF24DCF07B25EC1FA9EC27D1FBDB.vcr



Common Barriers to overcome for formal PLCs:

  1. Time is difficult to find for most Teacher-Librarians. The Teacher-Librarian part of our jobs is often half-time, and we are teaching other subjects that require preparation as well. The formation of a PLC will only be effective if the PLC is given the time to meet, to discuss, to collaborate and to review progress.
  2. Money is required to support the time needed for an effective PLC. Substitute teachers or librarians are needed to cover classes while the group meets. Books or other resources may be needed to help the group with its goals
  3. Structure and collaboration are necessary if the group is going to be effective in increasing student learning.

(Ullman, 2010)







Boss, S. (2007). " Education, connecting the lonely profession" (Online). http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006927.html (accessed Feb 6, 2010)


Burney, D. (2004). "Craft knowledge: The road to transforming schools," Phi Delta Kappan 85.7 (2004): 526, Questia, Web, 6 Feb. 2010. http://www.questiaschool.com/read/5002090878?title=Craft%20Knowledge%3a%20The%20Road%20to%20Transforming%20Schools  (accessed February 6, 2010) 


DuFour, R. (2004, May). What is a “professional learning community”? Educational Leadership, 61(8), p. 6-11.  Retrieved from http://pdonline.ascd.org/pd_online/secondary_reading/el200405_dufour.html Boxing Gloves Removable Wall Decals


Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Thomas, S., Wallace, M., Greenwood, A. & Hawkey, K. (2006). (Online) Creating and sustaining an effective professional learning community  http://www.innovation-unit.co.uk/images/stories/files/pdf/nlcbooklet02.pdf (accessed Feb 6, 2010)


Waters, S. (2009). Baiting the digital hook to build a professional learning community! (Online) http://suewaters.com/2009/06/21/baiting-the-digital-hook-to-build-a-professional-learning-community/ (accessed Feb 5, 2010)


Ullman, E. (2010). How to break down barriers to starting PLCs. Edutopia. (Online) http://www.edutopia.org/professional-learning-communities-collaboration-challenges (accessed Feb 6, 2010)

















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