Effective professional learning communities? The possibilities for teachers as agents of change in schools
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The concept of the professional learning community (PLC) has been embraced widely in schools as a means for teachers to engage in professional development leading to enhanced pupil learning. However, the term has become so ubiquitous it is in danger of losing all meaning, or worse, of reifying ‘teacher learning’ within a narrowly defined ambit which loses sight of the essentially contestable concepts which underpin it. The primary aim of this paper is therefore to (re-)examine the assumptions underpinning the PLC as a vehicle for teacher led change in schools in order to confront and unsettle a complacent and potentially damaging empirical consensus around teacher learning. This paper examines the characteristics and attributes of the ‘effective’ professional learning community as identified in the literature, drawing out the tensions and contradictions embodied in the terms professional, learning and community. The paper considers the implications of this analysis for practice, and concludes by offering some insights into the nature of ‘school improvement’, and the role of PLCs in realizing this.