In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Professional Learning Communities

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • PLC Participation as Professional Development
  • Joint Activities of PLCs
  • Cultural Norms in PLCs

Education Professional Learning Communities
Stephanie Knight, Amy Ricketts
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0134


Since the turn of the 21st century, the topic of communities of learners has spawned a number of journal articles, books, workshops, and presentations within education. Often, educators who form a group to learn together are labeled a professional learning community (PLC). While definitions of a PLC differ depending on the various authors’ orientations, for the purposes of this article, all groups of educators that focus on collaborative learning to improve teaching practice, student learning, and/or learning environments, or to transform beliefs about teaching, learning, schooling, or students, will be considered to be under the umbrella of the concept of PLCs. As such, they share certain common attributes—a focus on learning of the organization or on learning of educators and/or their students, a culture of collaboration, and shared activity to address their learning goals. However, the type and focus of the activities of PLCs are varied. Different activities include those that focus on analysis of student work, lesson study groups, collaborative teacher research, and video analysis, among others. Since learning and the development of community are so important within PLCs, the processes that are related to their enhancement or hindrance are of primary importance to those who implement and study PLCs. In particular, collaboration and conflict in the development of community, issues of identity formation, and the development of an appropriate stance toward inquiry into practice all play important roles in establishment of successful PLCs.

General Overviews

This article is divided into a number of sections and subsections that address the topics introduced above. First, we provide a selection of reports and standards that include important information related to PLCs. While there are only a few sources dedicated solely to this topic, the references provided are useful as a starting point for the search for additional and future information on PLCs. Next, we provide overviews and references for key articles and books related to the conceptualization of PLCs (definitions, attributes, and theoretical frameworks); the impact of PLCs on teachers and students through their use as professional development; types of shared activities in PLCs, and lastly, the particular cultural norms that are crucial to developing a productive, sustainable PLC.

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