Professional Learning Communities (PLC) are internationally highly appreciated to serve school development and thus better pupils’ achievement. In a previous ERASMUS+ project (HeadsUP http://plc-headsup.eu/) broad experiences on establishing and developing PLCs of school principals and of teachers were gained and two important perspectives were finally deduced: (1) For real understanding what successful PLC work requires and how it is done effectively it needs to be experienced personally (2) and this experience should be provided early enough to equip teachers with methods of necessary professional development. Thus already student-teachers should become familiar with this method during teacher education at university. Courses on practical issues at university as much as phases of internship/practicum offer the opportunity to anticipate the later job as much as to practice PLC work and get familiar with its requirements and chances.
Future professional actions or skills of students require two elements that can be tested and effectively linked together in the protected (university) environment of the collective: Scientific knowledge and thinking on the one hand and procedural skills in the form of experience-based action patterns on the other. The difference between science and practice, between reflection and action is a central theme, especially in the setting of a PLC. Dealing with this gap in a learning community enables the development of new action-guiding patterns and simultaneously experiences structures and processes of the corresponding professionalization instrument (PLC).
The consortium consists of a group of experts that are highly experienced in setting up and accompanying PLCs. These partners are also experts on teacher education and bring out university courses and accompany internship/practicum on a regular basis. They aim at bringing the knowledge of effective PLC work into university didactics by experiencing and reflecting on students’ PLCs. The project is to establish students’ PLCs and accompany them to provide the chance for the teacher students to experience this special form of productive cooperation for learning and professional development. Against the background of different university programs and traditions the project builds up different models of student-teachers’ PLCs (SPLC) according to local possibilities: (1) collect experience on long-term SPLCs (a semester or more) and on a short term (a couple of weeks), (2) develop combined PLCs of student- and mentoring-teachers. Furthermore, the consortium includes the perspective (3) how to work with school principals and with university staff on how to foster students’ PLCs and combined PLCs of students and mentoring teachers.
The project advances the experience with this often discussed instrument of professionalization and promotes it into early teacher education and university didactics. It also shows the possibilities for full teachers to also benefit from a combined PLC e.g. to get up-to-date by learning from current scientific knowledge that student-teachers possess. The impact will be on the students getting familiar with PLC work and using it early in their education at university and later on for their professionalization on the job. Also, the consortium will provide ideas attendant reflection of school leaders how combined student and mentoring-PLCs in future can be initiated more often and contribute to school development. For the (inter)national debate on teacher education the results of the project will be informative and be brought out in practical and scientific publication.
Having gotten familiar with PLC work the student teachers will be able to take up this instrument again when they are part of a school’s staff. Also, with wider networking in the matter of PLC for school development, the establishment of the instrument in schools and across schools can be expected as much as adjustments in the mainstream of professional development in the school system.