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When I taught middle and high school mathematics in the 1990s I was never part of a professional learning community within my school, although during my first two years I did have a mentor teacher and a formal learning community established among teachers at other schools within the region. In 1998, DuFour and Eaker introduce and make a strong case for implementing professional learning communities (PLCs) in Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement when they describe a Professional Learning Community as:

an environment fostering mutual cooperation, emotional support, personal growth, and a synergy of efforts.

I was at a conference in January and attended a panel of graduate students who shared their experience of a creating their “personal” professional learning community via social media. They discussed the benefits of connecting with seasoned educators, reading posts about “what is working” in one’s classroom, and having access to lesson plans. Similarly, in their discussion about peer-led student reading groups Davies and Barak suggest “the bonds built in these groups add… sense of belonging to the class and institution” and formalize time spent building will (i.e., formalized learning out-of-class) and skill (i.e., improved analysis of core materials). The discussants also note benefits of:

vibrant classroom discussions

improved class preparation and organization by the instructor

empowered students

Two examples, one using technology, that show how learning communities enhance achievement, and personal and professional growth. Although these examples are with students the same parallels hold when implemented among professionals. We invite you to share your experiences with learning communities by commenting on this post.

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DuFour, Richard, and Eaker, Robert. (1998). Professional Learning Communities at Work: Best Practices for Enhancing Student Achievement. Available online here.

Davies, Bill, and Barak, Maya. (02.18.2013). Peer-led Reading Groups Boost Engagement and Retention. Faculty Focus Newsletter. Available online here.

iTeacherSuite introduces teachers to practical and research-based tools, resources, and online learning communities for the purpose of helping teachers become highly effective and engaging students to learn and achieve.