Starting and Supporting Professional Learning Communities

Teacher Professional Learning Communities

The Integrated Strategic Framework for Teacher Professional Development (ISPFTED) foresees the nation-wide implementation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). PLCs are put forward as a central instrument to strengthen teachers’ continuous professional development (CPD) and as a strategy to encourage educators to take responsibility for their own professional development. The SACE CPTD Management System which is also promoting  CPD, also takes into account PLCs as one way of professional development and awards participation with PD points.

Knowledge and skills that children need to succeed in society are evolving at a relentless pace. Traditional one-off initiatives of teacher professional development often fail to have durable effects on teaching and learning and are ill-suited to equip teachers with attitudes, skills and knowledge to keep abreast of educational innovations. Research has given us good insight in what constitutes effective professional development. PLCs bring professional development beyond traditional courses, workshops or qualifications. PLCs can be used to implement effective methods such as planning lessons together, observing colleagues, coaching each other, collaboratively developing resources or reflecting with other colleagues on frequent learner errors and many more subjects of common interest (e.g. transition between grades, (gender)violence, discipline issues, discuss implementation of workshop content etc.). Moreover, PLCs shift the focus from the teacher as an isolated practitioner to a teacher as a professional within a school team. PLCs are groups of professionals who decide, voluntary, to come together to learn with and from each other on needs they have identified themselves. This can be within a school (school-based) or between schools.

In collaboration with VVOB, DBE has developed a guideline on Professional Learning Communities. VVOB has conducted a study on the status of PLCs in Free State. Findings were shared during the provincial maths summit on 12 October 2017. The presentation can be accessed here.

DBE (through support of VVOB) has training material available on PLCs for district officials, universities and other training providers. These can be accessed upon request (


DBE (2015). Professional Learning Communities – A guideline for South African schools.

Easton, L. (2016). Strategic accountability is key to making PLCs effective, in: Kappan Magazine Dec 2016/Jan 2017, p.43-48.

​Dufour, R. & Reeves, D. (2016). The futility of PLC Lite, in: Kappan Magazine, March 2016, p. 69-73.

Schollaert, R. and Leenheer, P. (Eds.) (2006) Spirals of Change. Educational change as a driving force for school improvement, Leuven: Lannoo Campus

Stoll, L. et al. (2006). Professional learning communities: a review of the literature, in: Journal of Educational Change, Vol. 7.