Schools' perspectives on the creation of professional learning communities : a case study of three primary schools in Pinetown District.
Professional learning communities refer to groups of professionals, who collaboratively learn together with an aim of improving their practice and learner performance. A requirement in the creation of professional learning communities (PLCs) is a harmonious working together of the teachers, with the school principals taking full responsibility in the developmental programmes within the school. Taking into cognisance that teams are more effective than individuals, this study explores what school principals do to create professional learning communities in three primary schools in Pinetown District. The objectives of this study were to investigate what schools which have principals who completed Advanced Certificate in Education School Leadership (ACE: SL) Programme are doing regarding the creation of PLCs. This study will also determine what those school principals regard as barriers in the creation of PLCs. Finally, the study will examine how school principals who completed ACE: SL Programme overcome the barriers that they encounter when trying to create or facilitate the creation of PLCs. The study employed an interpretive qualitative approach with a case study research design. For the purpose of this study, purposive and convenience sampling techniques were used. The study was conducted in three primary schools in Pinetown District of the eThekwini Region. The research participants sampled comprised of three primary school principals who successfully completed ACE: SL programme. Three Heads of Departments (HODs) and three Post Level One (PL1) educators (one per each school) who were willing to participate in the study were also selected. Data was elicited by means of semi-structured interviews. Elicited data was analysed and categorised into themes that emerged. The key findings that emerged from the research were that PLCs have a positive impact on the improvement of teachers’ daily practices and learner performance. To ensure the creation and sustainability of PLCs, school principals are expected to be at the forefront, share leadership with School Management Team (SMT), involve teachers in decision making like crafting or reviewing the vision and mission statements of the school and to ensure that every stakeholder understands clearly the purpose of any programme at the school to avoid negativity. School principals can alleviate interpersonal conflicts in schools through talking to the teachers in staff meetings and by encouraging them to collaborate in PLCs. School principals play a vital role in the creation of PLCs and they need to fully participate in such communities without dominating.