The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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Professional  Learning  Communities

This book draws together research on professional learning communities in schools and teacher education in diverse contexts in South Africa. Each chapter captures the rich and complex nature of professional learning communities, the challenges in developing and maintaining them, and the extent to which they promote successful learning for teachers and changes in teaching practices. The book shows that professional learning communities can promote continuous learning in response to local school and classroom realities and work against 'quick-fix', fragmented workshops for teachers, where learning tends to dissipate. This book should be of interest to teachers, school-leaders, teacher-educators, policy-makers and researchers. It represents the first set of research studies in what is a new and growing field in South Africa.

Product information

Format : 240mm x 168mm
Pages : 224
ISBN 13 : 978-0-7969-2548-0
Publish Year : October 2016
Rights : World Rights

About the authors



1. Working through the 'hardness' of teachers' pedagogical habitus: Pedagogical learning among teachers in a professional learning community
Jennifer Feldman and Aslam Fataar

2. Developing professional learning communities for inclusive education: A university community engagement opportunity
Elizabeth Walton

3. Teachers' critical inquiry into cognitive and social dimensions of learners' mathematical errors in a professional learning community
Rolene Liebenberg

4. Choosing a knowledge focus in a professional learning community
Anthea Cereseto

5. Examining the joint enterprise of mathematics teaching and learning in two pre-service teacher education mathematics classrooms 101
Anthony A Essien

6. Using data to transform teaching practice through a professional learning community at a primary school
Mathakga Botha

7. Building sustainable professional learning communities: Relational affordances
Raymond Smith

8. Facilitating professional learning communities in mathematics
Karin Brodie

9. Shifts in practice of mathematics teachers participating in a professional learning community
Nicholas Molefe

10. The importance of identity in a teacher professional learning community
Million Chauraya



This book speaks vividly to the possibilities and challenges entailed in cultivating professional learning communities (PLCs) as a site and resource for teacher learning. South Africa presents a compelling context for this work as it pursues large-scale improvements in schools and in teacher education. The editors credit key policy documents with signaling symbolic and material support for PLCs, but the very notion of teacher community represents a fundamental change in the social ecology of teachers' work in South Africa as elsewhere. The pivotal work takes place on the ground, and that is the work explored here. The chapters in this fine volume offer a nuanced and detailed analysis of efforts to forge productive and supportive teacher community in a range of settings.  The book makes a valuable contribution to a growing body of research and offers rich insights to inform practice.

Judith Warren Little, University of California, Berkeley

The editors and chapter authors are to be congratulated on the publication of the first book to address the contextual challenges of introducing and sustaining professional learning communities in the 'ever and never changing' South African school system. Each 'glocal' chapter draws on international theoretical and empirical literature to inform a local empirical study and to present findings which both support and contest the theories and practices described in this literature, thus making an important contribution from the political south to conversations on PLCs. All of the authors critique narrowly bureaucratic or 'quick fix' approaches to teacher professional learning and offer examples of collaborations which hold promise for sustainable professional development, even in less than optimal teaching and learning contexts. As eight of the eleven authors are early career researchers, the book is also an impressive example of the collaboration among expert and novice professionals which PLCs are envisaged as enabling.

Yvonne Reed, Wits University

This book puts teacher professional learning communities in South Africa firmly on the international agenda. The opening chapter sets the scene not only for South Africa but also for the current state of PLC scholarship and practice and will be useful for school leaders and academics alike. The rest of the book provides detailed and well-theorised case studies, particularly in poor, rural, and otherwise marginalised schools. These diverse studies open up the complex, non-linear and challenging work of developing professional learning communities. They address how best to facilitate teachers' learning and professional identity, school-university partnerships, building capacity for team collaboration and teacher community, learning to read data and inclusive education. At a time when there is much teacher bashing in media and policy, this collection provides necessary identification of conditions needed for collective teacher learning that make for sustainable, practical improvement of teaching and learning. In a well-edited collection, the authors offer us a significant degree of practical hope for South Africa and more widely.

Professor Marie Brennan, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Karin Brodie is Professor and Head of School in the School of Education at Wits University in Johannesburg. She teaches in the areas of learning, teaching and curriculum and mathematics education. Her research is on interaction in secondary mathematics classrooms and the extent to which it promotes mathematical understanding. She also works in mathematics teacher development, to build teaching practices that promote classroom interaction and mathematical understanding.

Hilda Borko is an educational psychologist who researches teacher cognition and changes in novice and experienced teachers' knowledge and beliefs. Her work has identified factors that affect teachers' learning of reform-based practices. Previously she was chair of the educational psychology program area in the school of education at the University of Colorado, and is also a former president of the American Educational Research Association. Her university education (PhD 1978, MA 1973, BA 1971) was completed at the University of California. Currently, she is a professor in the Graduate School of Education, Stanford University.

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