Development of Cross-School Professional Learning Communities
- David MiddlewoodDavid MiddlewoodIndependent Scholar
- and Ian AbbottIan AbbottUniversity of Warwick
Effective schools are widely recognized as those in which the adults who work there are committed to their own learning and where learning is at the heart of everything undertaken, in effect learning organizations. In such learning cultures, there is a perpetual process of change and development and such schools have become known as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Such PLCs are discovering that one of the most successful ways of supporting continuous development is through the use of in-house structured research which identifies relevant learning needs at all levels and strives to meet these needs through the school’s provision.
In the 21st century, very few schools operate in isolation and collaboration between schools or groups of schools has become essential for their improvement and for the development of the education system as a whole. The use of in-house research both within and across schools increases the validity of both the learning and the collaboration, which, at its most effective is based on willing participation, trust, and notions of professional partnerships, where all parties are willing to learn from each other, whatever their official or apparent status.
Although barriers to this development of cross-school PLCs through in-house research do exist, notably pressures from a competitive environment with a focus on measurable outcomes, a lack of resources including time, the growth of such communities is proving powerful through the use of student voice, staff involvement and leaders’ firm beliefs. Furthermore, a new kind of educational leadership is emerging which depends much less on hierarchical structures and more on openness to new ideas, acceptance that progress is often uneven and rarely simplistic, and a recognition of the importance of personal qualities of all those involved, including the leaders.