PLCs are seen as a vehicle for in-service professional development of teachers, and ways of making these both effective and sustainable is on the national policy agenda.

Key Lessons on PLCs focus on the role of school-based facilitators, and ways of enhancing the sustainability of PLCs:

  • The role of the school-based facilitator (SBF) is key to a successful PLC. Facilitators require leadership, negotiation and facilitation skills as well as the subject matter expertise to guide the content learnings.
  • Carefully constructed training (including role-playing and video analysis) is vital. De-briefing sessions with facilitators after PLC meetings are usually found to be helpful.
  • Where possible more than one SBF should be trained per school, so that personal circumstances or teacher turnover do not interrupt the ongoing sustainability of a particular PLC.  Where there are two SBFs in a school, it also enables role sharing and role swapping (e.g. administration or leading facilitation).
  • In the interests of sustainability, criteria or profiling that would help identify a potential PLC convenor or facilitator could be developed. Such teachers should be encouraged to liaise with other facilitators and take future planning initiatives while the project is still running, in the context of a ‘handover’ strategy.
  • Some degree of ongoing external support is needed for sustaining PLCs. External involvement gives credibility and status to PLCs, and allows for external ‘academic’ expertise to be brought in, which gives teachers more confidence in what they are learning.
  • Sustainability is influenced by the environment and culture of a school, in that professional development needs to be seen as a priority and PLCs need to be seen as an effective mechanism for teacher development. Involving School Management Teams and District Departments could strengthen the functioning of PLCs. This may motivate teachers who are already participating and assist district officials in promoting the PLCs in line with policy.
  • The following are noted as possible barriers to sustainability of PLCs:
    • the content and activities of PLC meetings becoming repetitive or boring
    • lack of articulation between PLC content and the classroom work plan
    • lack of flexibility around scheduling
    • lack of support from school management, in terms of teachers being released from other school activities such as extra-murals.
    • lack of funding for logistics (e.g. transport and refreshments); and
    • lack of skills/ resources to continue activities such as video analysis if external support is withdrawn.
  • A PLC needs a minimum of three committed teachers to enable it to convene useful meetings with robust discussion
  • SBFs have generally shown great progress in facilitation skills, but there is room to upscale abilities to identify and address mathematical content knowledge issues when these arise.
  • Networking across different schools and regions through broad-based NLC meetings makes teachers aware that certain challenges are not unique to their own schools and contexts. Sharing insights on common challenges helps improve teacher morale and gives them a wider range of strategies for addressing challenges.
  • PLCs need to be linked to a range of knowledge resources. This project has been very resource intensive with regard to facilitator time and input, and in relation to the number of beneficiaries in facilitated sessions. 
  • While the ultimate aim is for PLCs to become self-sustaining, they should also be linked to district support and subject advisers, and to other communities of practice in the broader educational community in order to expand the pool of knowledge resources to which PLCs can refer. 
  • The Social Network Analysis (SNA) Survey suggests that PLCs foster an enabling sense of community and stronger relationships within schools. All teachers reported a feeling of togetherness (sharing common goal) and respect for each other within the PLCs as well as across PLCs at Network meetings.
  • Information technology and social media can be used to maintain PLCs as dynamic and functioning entities. DIPIP established a WHATSAPP group, and this could become a platform for virtual PLCs or to provide ongoing support for SBFs.

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