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ERIC Number: ED544210
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Sep
Pages: 37
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 114
Can Online Learning Communities Achieve the Goals of Traditional Professional Learning Communities? What the Literature Says. REL 2013-003
Blitz, Cynthia L.
Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic
For more than a decade practitioners have promoted professional learning communities (PLCs) as an effective structure for providing teachers with professional development (Chappuis, Chappuis, & Stiggins, 2009; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005). These collaborative networks are believed to be effective because they expose teachers to new ideas and practices and improve teaching by promoting critical reflection (Hord, 1997; Wood, 2007). Underpinning this argument is the theory of situated learning in communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991), which contends that teachers who learn within a self-directed and problem-centered community of learners are more likely to find value in their learning and to apply it in their classrooms. When teachers disseminate this knowledge to other teachers and invite feedback, their school becomes more learning-oriented and results-focused. Ultimately, the expectation is that by cultivating PLCs, schools can improve student achievement by making teaching and classroom practices more effective.One way to facilitate PLCs is to move them online or partially online (Beach, 2012). Online PLCs are loosely defined as teams of educators who use digital and mobile communication technologies, at least part of the time, to communicate and collaborate on learning, joint lesson planning, and problem solving. Partially online (hybrid) PLCs combine online and face-to-face interactions. This review of the scientific literature on online PLCs responds to a request from district and school administrators in the Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic Region to learn more about the potential of online PLCs to engage teachers in professional development inside and outside school and their routine school day. It is confined to peer-reviewed journal articles and government-sponsored research studies published during 2000-12 as they relate to two questions: (1) What are the advantages and challenges of online and hybrid models of PLCs compared with traditional (exclusively face-to-face) PLCs?; and (2) What, if any, are some emerging best practices in designing and organizing online and hybrid PLCs? Before examining these two questions, the report describes common characteristics of PLCs and the logic model used in the analysis. Appendix A provides context for the discussion of online and hybrid PLCs by reviewing the literature on traditional, face-to-face PLCs. Appendix B details the study methodology and outcomes. (Contains 2 notes, 3 boxes, and 2 tables.) [This report was prepared for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by ICF International. For the report summary, see ED544211.]
Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic. 11785 Beltsville Drive Suite 300, Calverton, MD 20705. Tel: 301-572-0889; Tel: 866-735-6239; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic (ED); National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (ED)
IES Funded: Yes