Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have emerged as critical collaborative teacher networks embodying DuFour’s (2004) “big ideas” of having a focus on the results of students, involve collaboration and reflection on teacher practices, and consider the impact on student learning. In an effort to expand the literature beyond its examination of PLCs in traditional public school settings, this qualitative phenomenological case study explored PLC practices within one American international school in Southeast Asia.
Data from interviews with individual teachers, observations of elementary and middle school PLCs, and documents were used to understand international schoolteachers’ perspectives on what they valued about their participation in PLCs. Individual teachers’ self-efficacy was also examined within the context of PLC experiences to gauge how teachers perceived their sense of self-efficacy impacted their ability to engage in tasks associated with the work of PLCs. A process of open coding of the data resulted in the emergence of three key themes: PLCs as a Tool for Instructional Improvement, PLCs as a Tool for Teambuilding, and the Challenges of PLCs in International Schools.
Whether existing in public schools or within international school settings, PLCs have shown an ability to transform student achievement. However, in light of perspectives offered by participants of this study, it is recommended international school leaders consider the unique contextual factors of international schools when implementing PLCs in order to maximize their effectiveness.