Early Childhood teachers’ Professional Learning Communities (PLC): An Exploratory Study in Chile

Year: 2018

Author: Guerra, Paula

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have emerged as an alternative to foster collaboration among teachers.  However, PLCs have not been a frequent practice for professional development (PD) of early childhood teachers. Early Childhood education has specific features and demands related to the improvement of practices which, in the Chilean context, shows important deficiencies. In this context, PLCs, as professional groups who share a commitment to improving education and thus PD, help to engage teachers in systematic collaboration, reflecting on and inquiring about their practices (Hord, 1997).
In this regard, an exploratory case study was conducted to characterise two PLCs from the participants’ and researcher’s perspectives. Ten to sixteen early childhood teachers conformed each PLC that emerged from a PD experience to improve pedagogical interaction carried out during 2014-2015. Data collection included group interviews, non-participative sessions observations, and analysis of PLCs documents. Besides, a rubric that presents PLCs’ characteristics with four levels of progression (National College for School Leadership, 2003) was analysed with participants. Qualitative analysis was performed according to the theoretical categories.
A synthesis of the results shows that both PLCs have strong and shared values, but only PLC 1 explicitly mentioned and declared them in documents. Collective responsibility for students’ learning was strongly debated in both PLCs. The researcher observed that PLC 1 frequently discussed children’s learning but in an impersonal way, while this aspect was not evident in PLC 2. Additionally, both PLCs showed different ways of collaboration among participants. PLC 1 regularly reflected on practices observed from videos of teachers, shared their interpretations of the performances and provided ideas to improve them. In PLC 2, participants collaborated in small groups that aimed to accomplish specific purposes such as: design an instrument for a small research, analyse data collected and elaborate examples of mediated practice for a teachers’ manual. Professional learning is a central aspect in both PLCs, which organize activities including internal and external PD experiences and self-formation actions. Reflective inquire was also an important feature in both PLCs, but with different focuses: PLC 1 uses tools from action-research to analyse their practices, whereas PLC 2 focuses on descriptive research about mediation practices. Resources and structures are identified in both PLCs, including conditions of time and space for meetings. Implications for PD and early childhood teachers’ professionalization will be discussed.