A Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Roundtable took place at the DBE Building in Pretoria from 29 to 30 October 2019. PLCs are one of the strategies within the Integrated Strategic Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development (ISPFTED 2011-2025). The focus of the Roundtable was on the establishment and functionality of PLCs in provinces.
In summarising the status of PLCs, Ms Veronica Hofmeester, DBE’s Director for Continuing Professional Teacher Education, alluded to the different levels of functionality of PLCs across provinces. A Steering Committee was selected comprising of one member from Teacher Development per province. Their role will be to relook the DBE Guidelines and to initiate a contextual Framework, in understanding how to set up a PLC, but most importantly, to ensure that the Guidelines are functional.
Mr Gerrit Coetzee, Acting Chief Director for Education Human Resources Development at the DBE, emphasised that since PLCs are voluntary communities for teacher development, additional support is essential, but monitoring and reporting are not mandatory. “A PLC creates the opportunity for all layers of school communities to be involved in collaborative efforts in ensuring that quality teaching and learning is happening. PLCs further allow teachers to take responsibility for their own professional development by sharing best practices, and engaging in pedagogical discussions to enhance classroom practices”.
In his keynote address, Professor Yusuf Sayed, put emphasis on the importance of PLCs, and the benefits for teaching and learning. He further complimented the DBE on the Guidelines that have been developed, but identified the need for clarification on what is meant by “teacher-led” and “teacher initiated”. He also invited the South African Council for Educators (SACE) to re-visit the Continuing Professional Teacher Development CPTD system, especially the area that is linked to the allocation of professional development points for different activities that will be drawn from the Guidelines.
Dr Wilfried Theunis from the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB), who has been assisting the DBE with the development of the PLC Guidelines, as well as support materials since 2014, shared an important Impact Assessment Report on PLCs. The report showed the immense contribution that PLCs have made in equipping teachers with the necessary skills for effective curriculum delivery at school level.
Dr Deva Govender from the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) addressed the Roundtable on the establishment of PLCs in two Limpopo districts. The report addressed the successes and gaps on the functions of PLCs, and it was clear that more work still needs to be done in provinces.
Break-away discussions focussed on the creation of an inclusive organisational structure to enhance the use of PLCs for collaborative learning in respect of strengthening functionality across all roles and levels in schools, circuits and districts.