Communities of Practice (CoP) and Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

PLC clipart

Helping educators help students learn – this is the general purpose of CoPs and PLCs. Both are not new, and evolved as a network to promote peer learning. Many educators take the success of their students personally “If students don’t learn, it’s not their fault. It’s our fault. We are taking responsibility. It makes us better teachers”. (Adams, Caralee, 2009). Both CoPs and PLCs support learning because they put the student first and find ways to help the students learn.

Communities of Practice (CoP ) and Professional Learning Communities (PLC) were both originally designed in the corporate world as a way for peers to get together and discuss a common topic or interest in order to help each other. Both the CoP and the PLC are very similar and as the YouTube video points out “the CoP and the PLC were designed so that people with a common interest can learn from each and share what they know” (Bouchard, 2012). The PLC was designed more for educators at the K-12 level, which of course can be used in higher education as well. Watch the 9 minute video on YouTube below.

Additionally, PLCs are a form of collaboration that will help support teachers. “Researchers and teachers’ organizations universally endorse improving schools through PLCs, and with good reason: PLCs can help you be a better teacher while saving you precious planning time, thanks to the power of collaboration.” (Adams, Caralee, 2009).

CoP and PLC can utilize technology which will essentially enhance the learning environment. Since by definition, CoPs are groups of people with a common interest that would like to learn and collaborate this is a type of networking with peers for information and advice, etc. The internet and social media is a perfect tool for a CoP and PLC to continually collaborate and communicate.  CoPs and PLCs can be beneficial in any environment.

Learning about CoPs and PLCs has been informative for my learning activity because of collaboration and teamwork. Not only as educators can CoPs and PLCs be beneficial but for students as well. What is students collaborated more constructively in the same way? Such as in a “flipped classroom”? What if students had a learning management system that allowed them to turn to their peers for their homework assignments and projects?

How can we in an academic institution take advantage of CoPs and PLCs? If a CoP or PLC doesn’t exist in your environment, then is it possible to introduce it as a worthy and beneficial communication learning tool?


Student Athletes at Becker College – representing teamwork and academics

becker group_1989


If you would like to start and develop a PLC – check out the website link !

Developing a PLC

Adams, Caralee. (2009). The Power of Collaboration. Instructor, 119 (1), 28-31.

Bouchard, J. (2012). CoPs and CLPs. YouTube Video

Photo courtesy of Becker College Marketing Department (4/19/2011)


About deborahcrowley

I work as an Administrative Assistant in the Academic Affairs office at Becker College in Worcester, MA.
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4 Responses to

  1. I was talking about this unit’s topic with a coworker the other day, and she couldn’t speak highly enough of the help teachers get from collaboration in PLCs. When I brought up that the Teaching Assistants, paras and interventionists could benefit from their own PLCs she whole heartedly agreed. We both then acknowledged that no district we know of extends this supportive practice to non-classroom teacher staff. I think it’s unfortunate, and I may just have to take the bull by the horns and suggest it to our principal.
    I mentioned in my post that the learning activity I’m planning is like a CoP for kids! It’s nice to know I wasn’t too far off base!


  2. In an academic institution we can take advantage of CoPs and PLCs by using them to collaborate with our peers within our specific department and other departments within the school as a whole. It can be used as a great way to continue anything learned in training or make sure the institution is practicing the goals and objectives of the mission and vision statements. Currently there is not a CoP or PLC in my environment but CoP or PLCs could be beneficial to make operations across each department more streamline. Having common practices within the admissions department and have those practices understood and/or continued into other departments, like advising, could be very beneficial for a college. There would be open communication among everyone, who are here for the same reason- the student and their success. It could help with increasing the accountability of other departments and improve the student success services. It would help with overall achievement as a school and on an individual student basis.


  3. M. Wiggins says:

    I feel tempted to go into work this week and figure out how to make this happen with my current educational context. Although I don’t teach, I still see a benefit of having PLCs and CoPs in place within Wake Tech. I am a member of two statewide organizations in which I’m able to collaborate with colleagues in a shared topic in an effort to improve services offered to students. One of those organizations is NC Campus Compact a network of Civic Engagement professionals who meet bi-annually as a group to discuss events and trends in the field, but imagine the possibilities if we were intentionally connected to further develop ourselves as professionals in the field and collectively build on the work we’ve begun in civic engagement. I’m also an advisor of a leadership honor society and the national office host monthly meetings for advisors across the country to share their experiences and glean from others to support the mission of the society and build stronger chapters and leaders back on campus. PLCs could serve as support system for new advisors; a benefit for new teachers as well noted by Caralee Adams’ article The Power of Collaboration.


  4. joespero19 says:

    Hello Deb,
    First off, I want to say I am a huge fan of your webpage! Working in higher education, I can certainly say that we take full advantage of CoPs and PLCs. All of the different committees and organizations on campus are just a small example of the CoPs and PLCs that take place in a higher educational institution. Groups collaborate once a week to discuss issues that need to be resolved or revamped. For example, at Becker this fall, we introduced the “Global Citizenship” major. Prior to that, a committee met once or two a month to evaluate the current curriculum and figure out a way to add in a “Global” element to each one of the majors that Becker offers. With the full support of administration behind us, we worked on ways to implement a more active learning approach to the curriculum and how each student would benefit from the global course.



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