A professional learning community (PLC) is a form of teacher professional development that involves teachers working together in a collaborative, interactive and ongoing way in order to improve teacher practice and outcomes for students.
PLCs can be an effective form of teacher professional development because they leverage the expertise and diversity of the group for the learning of all in the group as teachers share and inquire into their teaching practice. In order to be effective, PLCs require robust, evidence-based discussion and a willingness on the part of all members to challenge rather than reinforce the status quo.
Research from the past few decades has identified professional learning communities as a key factor in effective schools that achieve improved outcome for students. There is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates the links between PLC participation and positive outcomes for teachers such as increased efficacy and professional growth and development. However, research into PLCs has been criticised for its over-reliance on teacher self-report data. It is also challenging to establish causality in the relationship between the work of a PLC and improved student outcomes.
The work of a PLC is an ongoing process of improvement. PLCs take time to develop and often progress through several stages, from beginning to mature communities, as teachers work towards collective responsibility and collaborative practices. The success of a PLC relies on key factors such as shared vision, a strong school culture, high levels of trust, and strong processes and practices.
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