Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

Professional learning communities

To maintain a 21st century focus teachers need to be continually learning themselves. This means engaging in professional learning communities where educationally challenging discussions and sharing of practice occur. The exposure to new ideas and ways of teaching ensures teachers are continuing to learn and improve their practice. Professional learning communities need to be more than networks; they need to stimulate and provoke teacher learning and development.

What is a learning community?

A learning community is a group of organisations or individuals that operate as a collaborative network. Some are face to face but many are connected via the Internet.

A learning community provides opportunities for educators to connect with others, share ideas and resources, reflect critically on their practice, and create new knowledge about teaching and learning.

Why create or join a learning community?

Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.

George Siemens

Strong principles of an effective learning community include connection and collaboration. Participants can:

  • get and provide advice, feedback and support
  • access a wide range of resources and perspectives
  • stay up–to–date on important changes in the field of education
  • work towards a shared goal, or on a collaborative inquiry, such as:

Participation also provides an opportunity for on–going, self–directed learning and ownership of professional development.

Schools are being talked about as “learning organisations”, and educators are encouraged to become “professional learning communities” or even “networked learning communities” within and across schools. School leaders have responsibility for supporting and sustaining a continuous culture of learning amongst staff, in a dynamic environment

Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective

Mary Ann Baxter and Kathy Paterson, teachers from Hamilton Girls' High School, describe how their staff developed as a professional learning community through incorporating the key competency – managing self, with e-learning and ICT.

Key resource

20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network
An article outlining 10 tips for using professional learning networks.

Discussion starters

Use these discussion starters in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework to identify and develop professional learning communities within your school or cluster that share e-learning understandings and practices focused on improved student learning outcomes.

Teacher at laptop
  • Within and beyond your school community, what does an effective professional learning culture and community look like?
  • What is the relationship between effective professional learning, effective teacher practice, and improved student outcomes?
  • How are you actively involved in leading and mentoring others’ e-learning professional learning within your school?
  • How might you lead and mentor others to strengthen their pedagogy and practice in e-learning across the school?
  • How can you support others who are leading e-learning?

Practical steps

  • makoura009
    Make sure these activities align to the strategic plan and the needs of the whole school.
  • Establish a clear structure, led by the Principal, that shares responsibility for leading e-learning across the school and allows everyone to share new ideas and practice.
  • Plan for a range of approaches to professional learning (blended learning workshops, visits, access to mentors/experts) that respond to staff strengths and needs.
  • Make time for regular opportunities for networking, reflection, and sharing resources and experiences. Encourage formative risk-taking, pilots and innovation through ‘show and tell’ staff sessions.
  • Make sure everyone has reliable and equitable access to ICT resources.
  • Deliberately capture evidence (for example, feedback, appraisal, observation) of the impact of professional learning and evaluate progress.
  • Be proactive and committed to your own and other’s professional development in e-learning.
  • Be prepared to share your learning and your experience with your colleagues.
  • Join learning communities, such as the Enabling e-Learning community , to extend your professional learning within and beyond the school.

e-Learning: Leadership community discussions

Join the discussions or create your own thread in the enabling e-Learning: leadership community

Do principals really have time for a PLN?

Filter by: Primary Secondary

HGHS thumb

Developing a professional learning programme

Mary Ann Baxter and Kathy Paterson,  teachers from Hamilton Girls' High School, describe how their staff developed as a professional learning community through incorporating the key competency – managing self, with e-learning and ICT.

The power of online professional learning communities

The power of online professional learning communities

Josie Woon, Assistant Principal at Takaro School, talks about how and why she uses the Virtual Learning Network. The community has helped her integrate technology into her class in a purposeful way by enabling her to connect with other "expert" teachers.

Potential of Enabling e-Learning community groups to impact on teacher practice

Enabling e-Learning groups impact on teacher practice

Josie Woon talks about the potential of Enabling e-Learning community groups to impact on teacher practice.

The benefits of Enabling e-Learning community groups on priority learners

The benefits of Enabling e-Learning community groups on priority learners

Josie Woon talks about the benefits that being involved in Enabling e-Learning community groups brings to teachers of priority learners, and the learners themselves.

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Tailoring professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs: A blended model

Teachers discuss tailored professional learning to enhance literacy e-learning needs using a blended model. 

Using the Virtual Learning Network as part of a blended professional learning model

Using the Virtual Learning Network as part of a blended professional learning model

Teachers discuss using the Virtual Learning Network as part of a blended professional learning model and the benefits it has had for their cluster.

The impact of using the Virtual Learning Network on professional development

The impact of using the Virtual Learning Network on professional development

Teachers discuss the impact of using the Virtual Learning Network on their professional development.

Sorry, no items found.

Key resource

What Is a Professional Learning Community?
This article outlines key ideas behind effective professional learning communities.

Teacher standards and e-learning: Professional relationships
Look at how technologies can help you maintain professional relationships.

This website provides some useful research information on developing professional learning communities. It contains resources to support the successful integration of ICT in learning.

Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education
This international association is made up of teachers, educators, and affiliated organisations of teacher educators. Their focus is on the use of information technology in teacher education and staff development.

ICT professional learning
This page, from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia, makes references to how schools can plan, implement and evaluate effective ICT professional learning that contributes to improved teacher ICT capabilities.

Learning communities
This link, from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia, makes reference to how schools use ICT to extend learning beyond the school to support and connect students, staff and families to local and global learning communities.

Professional learning groups to support school wide e-learning at Epsom Girls Grammar
In this video clip from the NZC Online secondary middle leaders site on TKI, Claire Amos, Director of e-learning at Epsom Girls Grammar School, discusses how learning area professional learning groups support teachers with e-learning.

Principals' professional learning communities
This NZ Curriculum Online digital story follows a year-long trial in three Wellington primary schools that incorporated a new initiative into their Principals' Professional Learning Community (PPLC). The trial involved three primary principals and a mentor from the New Zealand Principal and Leadership Centre.

Network learning community case studies
Network Learning Communities are one of the professional learning and development opportunities offered in 2011 by the Ministry and delivered by School Support Services. Ten case studies, from NZ Curriculum Online, outline how school leaders have made connections and learned together to shape their school curricula.

Marautanga learning community conversations
Watch this NZ Curriculum Online video about the Ngati Porou Marautanga o Aotearoa Cluster, who have developed a strong professional learning community to provide support as they design their Marau-ā-kura and put this into action in classrooms.

Network learning community case studies
The Ministry of Education carried out an evaluation of the Network Learning Communities (NLC) initiative in 2010. These ten case studies on NZC Online outline how school leaders have made connections and learned together to shape their school curricula.

Formative coaching
In this EDtalks video, Tineka Tuala-Fata, DP at Peterhead School, describes the "Formative Coaching" model used at her school. This combines the power of structured peer observation, the sharing of good practice, learning conversations in teams, and reflective journals.

Professional learning communities
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, digital learning consultant, educator and teaching graduate, describes the way professional learning communities have lead to change in teacher practice for teachers in hundreds of schools in the state of Alabama.

Building communities of practice
In this EDtalks video, Cheryl Doing talks about the importance of establishing norms and protocols when setting up communities of practice.

Sustainability of professional learning
Dr. Pam O'Connell, Learning Media Ltd, describes the findings from her three year investigation into professional development programmes, and how schools planned for sustainability.

Virtual Learning Network

VLN groups
The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) groups is a social network for teachers, school leaders and facilitators to connect, share experiences, and learn together. The main intent is to foster the co-construction, co-development, and the sharing of best practice in blended learning environments. Find out more »

Enabling e-Learning community
This professional learning community within the VLN has been developed alongside the Enabling e-Learning website. It contains several groups to discuss particular aspects of e-learning. These include:

VPLD online discussion group
Join the discussion on VPLD (Virtual Professional Learning and Development) in the VLN.

Facebook groups

Twitter groups

Twitter educational chats

NZ Curriculum groups and mailing lists

English Online mailing lists

The English Online mailing list is a place to share ideas, request help and resources, and establish professional relationships.

ESOL Online mailing lists

Links to all the ESOL and literacy mailing lists. Join the relevant groups to participate in email-based discussions.

Arts Online
Arts Online promotes professional communication through community discussion groups for each discipline, for primary and early childhood teachers, and for secondary school arts coordinators.

Media Studies
Join the Media Studies mailing list on TKI. This list is setup to allow the community to send emails to the whole group.

Science Learning Hub
Subscribe to the Science Learning Hub newsletter. Keep up-to-date with news, articles, and links for science and technology.

Professional association for language teachers in New Zealand. 

Home economics and technology teachers association of New Zealand. 

The NZ Health education association provides a professional community of support for health educators.  

EONZ is a national professional organisation supporting education outside the classroom (EOTC) and education outdoors . 

The New Zealand Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers aims to create a community of teachers that share resources, communicate and speak with one voice.

NZ Educators professional learning networks

An online network for educators throughout New Zealand to connect, share knowledge and grow capabilities.

Connected educator
A collaborative calendar connects thousands of educators so they can engage in free (and freely given) online professional learning.

Professional learning groups in secondary schools-What makes them effective.doc (DOC, 86.00 kB)
This paper outlines the importance of professional learning in the secondary school context, reviews relevant research on professional learning groups, and details the experiences of two schools that have introduced such groups.

A literature review focused on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and e-learning in the context of Te Reo Māori and Kaupapa Māori education
The Ministry of Education has identified the need to further explore the use of Virtual Learning Environments, particularly in the context of te reo Māori and kaupapa Māori education. This literature review was sought to provide further understanding for the Ministry of Education in this area.

More readings »

e-Learning community discussions

Join these groups to participate in discussions with other teachers/educators about the content here, or that is relevant for you.

Enabling e-Learning
e-Learning: Leadership
e-Learning: Teaching
e-Learning: Technologies
e-Learning: Professional Learning
e-Learning: Beyond the classroom
Using the e-Learning Planning Frameworks

Keep informed

Subscribe to the newsletter.