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To create a professional learning community:
  • focus on learning rather than teaching
  • work collaboratively
  • hold yourself accountable for results
(Dufour, 2004, p.6)






Richard Dufour's work examines the core principles of professional learning communities. Key among these principles, is collaboration. According to Dufour, collaboration in a professional learning community is not to be confused with comraderie or congeniality.
"The powerful collaboration that characterizes professional learning communities is a systyematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice. Teachers work in teams, engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning. This process, in turn, leads to higher levels of student acheivement." (Dufour, 2004, p.9)

Barriers

"Time is often considered the most significant barrier to implementing effective collaboration." (Henry, 2005, p.32)
Some teachers find working alone safer than and preferable to working together. (Dufour, 2004, p.10)


The success of a professional learning community depends on the committment and the persistence of the educators within it.
"Building the collaborative culture of a professional learning community is a question of will. A group of staff who are determined to work together will find a way." (Dufour, 2004,p.10)

Professional Learning Community Online

Dufour's concept of professional learning communities is dependent on teachers spending time collaborating in person, within a school. Working online will not replace these meetings but it can extend the potential of the community. There are many advantages to working online, and teachers may find that the ability to build and to sustain effective professional learning community is improved.

Advantages

  • Convenience. Teachers may have access to a wiki on their own timetable. Online collaboration eliminates the physical barrier of having everyone in in the same physical location.

  • Efficiency. Teachers are kept informed online of any new developments and can be well prepared before any meetings take place, allowing the group to really maximize their precious time together. Follow-up questions or reflections can also be posted without having to wait until the group meets again.

  • Cost effectiveness. Online communities, such as wikis, can be developed by educators for free. The expense of travel, or of having substitute teachers, for example, is also eliminated.

  • Currency. Working online allows users to post information on a continual basis, without having to wait for the next meeting. The information and resources online can be kept very current.


Benefits

  • Working online will allow teachers to become comfortable and proficient with new technologies which may then be incorporated into their teaching practice. (George, 2007, p.14)

  • Online format lends itself well to blending subject area content with technology integration strategies. (George, 2007, p.14)

  • Online communities don't have geographical barriers. Collaboration can extend to include a wide group of teachers in a content area. This is especially beneficial for teachers who are few or even alone in their subject area in a school. Teachers in very rural locations may be able to take part in collaboration with great breadth.

Examples

A wiki has been started for High School Art teachers in School District 2 in New Brunswick. Have a look here.
Collaboration on a much larger scale among teachers can be found on the wiki Curriki.