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Together with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), and with the funding of the European Union (EU) and the Belgian Government, VVOB South Africa organised a series of dissemination events to share the evaluation of the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) Pilot. Dissemination Events (March-April 2019) were organised in the three pilot provinces: North West, Northern Cape and Free State. The purpose of these events was to share the results of the year-long pilot and answer questions like: what makes PLCs effective? What are essential ingredients for effective PLCs? And what are the effects of the PLCs on inclusive classroom practices?

In the beginning there was…

Flashback to 2014-2015: the ISPFTED is stressing the importance of PLCs as important tools to support the professional development of teachers. PLCs are groups of professionals who decide to come together to learn with and from each other on needs they have identified for themselves. VVOB supports DBE to develop the national PLC Guidelines, which become official beginning of 2015, and VVOB assists in rolling out training to the district officials of the provinces. 

2017-2018 – PLCs in and between ordinary, Full Service Schools and Special Schools were piloted as a sustainable model for continuous professional development in inclusive education (IE) for foundation and intermediate phase teachers.  The pilot aimed to strengthen inclusive education by utilising the expertise of Full-Service and Special Schools as Resource Centres.     

PLCs are communities that provide the setting and necessary support for groups of classroom teachers, school managers and subject advisers to participate collectively in determining their own developmental trajectories.

The data showed that PLCs can be successful across quintiles and geographic spread. The selection of topics rested with the teachers participating in the PLCs and keeping with the needs-based nature of PLCs, it was clear that these topics did not need to be subject-based. Indeed, a wide range of topics were covered in the PLCs, from identifying and accommodating different types of barriers like ADHD, to teaching strategies such as the use of technology in the classroom. Language appeared to be the most important key challenge faced by teachers. A skilled facilitator ensured that the topics discussed were seen through an inclusive education lens, focusing on quality teaching for all.

To run an effective PLC, 6 essential ingredients have been identified. First of all, PLCs should be needs-driven. Teachers should be able to choose the topics at hand, based on their own needs and dealing with topics that are important to them at that time. This allows PLCs to be practice-oriented and interactive. Second, there should be mutual trust and respect in between the members of a PLC, so that these members can make sure everyone in the PLC feels at ease and able to talk freely, and provide emotional support.

I would say we were a close group that worked well together and supported each other with new ideas. Being in the PLC also made us feel that we are not alone in the system.
PLC pilot participant

The PLC pilot was implemented with support of VVOB – education for development through funding from the European Union and the Belgian Government.