All About Learning Communities: CoPs and PLCs

According to Jimenez-Silva and Olson (2012), “the construct of community of practice (COP) is grounded in sociocultural theories of learning and development that contend that all human development is founded upon social interaction in cultural/historical practices that are mediated by the use of cultural artifacts, tools, and signs” (p. 336).  The principles of COP helped promote the development of professional learning communities (PLCs) in schools across the nation.PLC

In his article Cranston (2011) quotes DuFour, Eaker, and Hord (2004) who state “that the most promising avenue for creating sustained, substantive school improvement is by developing the ability of the teaching staff, or faculty, to function as a professional learning community” (p. 59).  Adams (2009) describes a PLC as an opportunity for teachers, who share the same educational vision, to come together on a regular basis to establish goals and help one another in accomplishing those goals (p. 1).  More simply, a PLC is a beneficial way for teachers to work together to support one another in order to improve student achievement.

PLCs offer many benefits to student learning, particularly those students who are struggling in a particular area or with a specific skill.  The main purpose of a PLC is to review and analyze student assessment data to identify trends or areas of weakness.  By collecting this information teachers are able to target the problem areas that exist, then brainstorm an array of solutions to address those areas, which will help increase student progress (Adams, 2009).

Discussing these issues at a PLC is beneficial for teachers because it combines the diverse knowledge and experience of several individuals, which provides a teacher with a wide range of options for strategies and interventions that he/she can use to help his/her students.  Adams (2009) also points out that overtime PLCs can help to lighten a teacher’s load because teamwork divides the responsibilities amongst several individuals rather than just one (p. 3).

The use of technology can enhance a PLC by making the meetings more organized and the process more systematic.  At my school’s PLCs we use Google Docs to post the weekly meeting agenda, which includes members in attendance, group norms, materials needed, and topics of discussion.  The PLC facilitator posts the agenda up to a week prior to the meeting, which allows team members ample time to review the agenda so they are prepared for the meeting and aware of items being discussed.  In addition, at each meeting, a designated “note-taker” types detailed notes of the discussion into the Google Doc agenda so it can be referred to at a later date.  Lastly, the facilitator or any other team member can use Google Drive to upload any documents or resources that they think would be helpful to others for instructional or interventional purposes.  Google Drive has a positive effect on PLCs by increasing communication amongst all team members and making the sharing of resources easy and accessible.

Question: Does does your school or workplace incorporate technology into your CoPs or PLCs? If so, how?

Click to find out helpful ways for using Google Drive in Education:

The learning activity for my final project will require my first grade students to gain information about the life cycle of an animal through the reading of e-books or by listening to a video clip on the I-Pad. As a follow-up, the students will demonstrate their understanding of the animal life cycle by using the Educreations app on the I-Pad to create a diagram of that life cycle.  Students will use the web to search for photographs of their animal to include in their lifecycle.  They will also need to incorporate labels in their diagram and record a brief oral description of that life cycle using the app. I have chosen to use I-pads in this learning activity for a few reasons.  One being that students love using them, which automatically gets them excited and engaged in what we are learning.  Second, with the increase in technological tools both in the school and non-school settings, students need to become proficient at using technological tools to search for and create things.  This activity will allow them to do both!


Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor. 119(1), 28-31. Retrieved from

Cranston, J. (2011). Relational trust: The glue that binds a professional learning community. Alberta Journal of Educational Research. 57(1), 59-72. Retrieved from

Jimenez-Silva, M. & Olsen, K. (2012) A community of practice in teacher education: Insights and perceptions. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (24)3, 335-348. Retrieved from




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