School operations

Professional Learning Communities

What makes a professional learning community work?

Leadership commitment

Evidence from best practice research suggests that for a culture of collaborative professionalism to take root in a school, its leader must commit to all 10 principles of effective professional learning communities (PLCs).

Principals of PLC schools show this commitment by:

  • making PLC implementation a school improvement priority
  • establishing effective professional learning team structures across the school
  • allocating time for teachers to collaborate and work in professional learning teams
  • appointing PLC instructional leaders to lead professional learning teams
  • releasing PLC instructional leaders to build their capacity to lead teams effectively, including using a consistent and structured cycle of evidence-based curriculum planning.

Instructional leadership

Instructional leaders are classroom-based learning specialists who work directly with teachers to improve classroom practice. They are released from classroom duties to:

  • lead teams of teachers and build their capacity to use collaborative practices that will have a positive impact on learning outcomes
  • develop and embed a shared team vision and commitment to ambitious goals and targets for student and teacher learning
  • focus their teams on using an inquiry cycle to measure the impact of their teaching and identify areas for professional learning
  • support their teams to collect and analyse multiple sources of data to assess learning impact and build capacity in curriculum and assessment, and instructional and pedagogical content practices
  • drive a culture of trust, quality relationships and individual and collective accountability
  • build a shared understanding of outstanding teaching and a collective commitment to achieving it, using an inquiry approach embedded in the day-to-day work of every teacher
  • develop and embed rigorous systems and processes to support a range of collaborative strategies that focus the work of PLCs
  • evaluate impact and differentiate support to ensure all teachers are continuously improving their classroom practices
  • build self-awareness and leadership skills that build collective efficacy through a culture of high expectations for all
  • deepen understanding of how to implement effective classroom observation and feedback
  • increase understanding of how student perception surveys can contribute to improving the quality of teaching.

Innovative evaluation

Effective PLCs use data about the impact of PLC implementation on teacher practice and student learning and wellbeing to track progress and identify areas for improvement. Data sources could include student work samples, notes from peer observations or learning walks, student feedback, pre- and post-testing.

Best practice networks

PLC leaders work with other PLC schools in their geographic area to share effective practice and solve common problems. Contact your SEIL for further information.

Includes information on leadership commitment, instructional leadership, innovative evaluation and best practice networks

Reviewed 12 September 2023

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