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Development of Cross-School Professional Learning Communities

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Schools where staff members are heavily committed to their own learning as much as the students’ are seen as professional learning communities. The development of staff learning occurs through continuous examination of and reflection on practice and sharing the outcomes with colleagues. This examination often takes the form of structured in-house professional learning inquiry, leading to the growth of a research-based culture, enabling professional insights and leading to school improvement. School leaders are important in facilitating and developing such cultures.

Collaboration between schools, including those in quite different contexts, is growing rapidly this century, and where the collaborating schools are learning communities, the potential enrichment for all involved, within a federation or academy chain for example, is considerable. Such communities and the collaboration between them take time to develop, and barriers to progress exist, including a tension between collaboration and competition in some systems. The answer lies in a commitment to mutual learning, to the benefit of all those concerned, including the students themselves.