Paper Analysis: “PLCSs and COPs: A Comparison of Models, Literature Review”


Blankenship, S. S. (University of G., & Ruona, W. E. A. (University of G. (2007). Professional Learning Communities and Communities of Practice: A Comparison of Models, Literature Review. Online Submission. Retrieved from


Research Questions:

  1. How are professional learning communities and communities of practice similar, different and related?
  2. How is knowledge devlopment and sharing focused on within thes concepts?


Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) –

Dufour and Eaker (1998)

  • they define a professional learning community as “educators creating an environment that fosters mutual cooperation, emotional support and personal growth as they work together to achieve what they cannot accomplish alone”
  • 6 characteristics of PLCs:
    1. Shared mission, vision and values
    2. Collective Inquiry
    3. Collaborative Teams
    4. Action Orientation and Experimentation
    5. Continous Improvement
    6. Results Orientation
  • the importance of the roles of the principal, parents and community play in establishing the learning community as well as the changes in the curricular focus of the schools are emphasized

Murphy and Lick (2004)

  • The Whole-Faculty Study Groups model draws from learning organization theory and is grounded in collaborative learning
  • it is a framework for implementing changes in curriculum, instruction and classroom assessment in every classroom in a school
  • it links professional development on curriculum, instruction and classroom assessment to  collaborative teams of teachers working together to apply their new learning to the student needs they address in their study group action plans
  • five guiding principles for the WFSG:
    1. Students are first
    2. Everyone participates
    3. leadership is shared
    4. responsibility is equal
    5. the work is public
  • it is a comprehensive framwork for implementing the concept of PLCs

Hord (2004)

  • model based on research into school renewal and school reform
  • model also draws upon learning organization theory
  • 5 dimensions of a PLC
    1. Supportive and shared leadership
    2. Shared values and vision
    3. Collective learning & application of learning
    4. Supportive conditions
    5. Shared practice
  • through this model, schools gain a structure for continous improvement by building staff capacity for learning and change
  • places emphasis on reflective dialogue as  a vehicle for collective learning
  • supportive conditions enable collective learning and shared practice
  • faculty may come together in groups as large as 30-40 in this model

Communities of Practice (COPs)

Brown and Duguid (1991)

  • informal groups form to “get the work done” through generations of solutions to problems
  • three elements that are present in organizations, within the context of community:
    • working
    • learning
    • innovation
  • CoPs are counter-culture to the organisation
  • organisation seen as a community of communities

Wenger, McDermott, Snyder (2002)

  • “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis”
  • CoPs have the following fundamental structures
    • domain
    • community
    • practice
  • CoPs may take different forms, may vary in size, life span, location, relationship to the organisation and composition
  • they may be organic or formed intentionally by the organisation
  • a structure for creating and codifying knowledge
  • some of the problems relating to CoPs relate to the hoarding of knowledge, clique information, limitation of innovation, exclusiveness with regard to membership

Saint-Onge and Wallace (2003)

  • CoPs are seen as vehicles for increasing intellectual capital and for improving individual, practice and organizational performance
  • CoPs with a strategic purpose help to create an organization’s competitive advantage
  • “communities of practice may be the most significant, tangible example of knowledge management at work in an organisation”
  • grouded in knowledge management theory and embraces the use of technology as appropriate to support communities of practice
  • 3 types of CoPs
    • informal
    • supported
    • structured
  • common elements of all 3 types
    • practice
    • people
    • capabilities
  • they can exist in a variety of forms as well as having varied support
  • strategic in nature and highly strcutured
  • valued, supported, encouraged and promoted by management as best practice unlike those in Brown and Duguid’s model

Comparisons of Models


Knowledge Development and Sharing Within the Models

  • The Knowledge Development Cycle consists of 4 phases:
    1. knowledge creation
    2. knowledge adoption
    3. knowledge distribution
    4. knowledge review & revision
  • there are several “feedback and feed forward” loops ocurring througout the phases
  • all the above models deal with knowledge development and dissemination differently
    • the Hord and Dufour and Eaker models examine the factors involved in creating a school culture, but Dufour and Eaker give little attention to the ways teachers are sharing knowledge outside of their collaborative teams. In both models, knowledge development and dissemination seems to be concentrated at the individual and group level
    • Hord’s model takes into account that knowledge may be created and shared
      • through collaborative inquiry teams
      • through peer-coaching & feedback
      • through reflective dialogue
    • Murphy and Lick’s model goes into detail about the knowledge development process within the study team and the ways in which that knowledge is made available to the larger organisation
    • it is unclear in each model how group knowledge is transformed into organizational knowledge and then adopted, which should result in organizational improvement
    • Brown and Duguid’s use of storytelling as a mode for sharing work-related knowledge is a good example of how knowledge is shared informally


The PLC model places greater emphasis on the organizational level in terms of building a culture of collaboration that woud lead to school improvement – the CoP model is more focused on improving practice




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