Appraising ‘professional learning communities’ (PLCs) for Malaysian schools through the lens of sociocultural theory: A critical review of literature with implications for research and practice

Tiong Ngee Derk

Abstract


In this article, I scrutinise the theory and practice of professional learning communities (PLCs), focussing on their implementation for the Malaysian context, seen mainly through the lens of sociocultural theory. PLCs in Malaysia are a relatively new development over the past decade and have been affirmed as a key strategy under the Ministry of Education’s ‘New Narrative of Educational Practice’ in 2019. Here, I consider both theoretical and empirical literature to argue that, in theory as well as practice, PLCs can be a sustainable and viable model for professional learning; however, important caveats apply. The arguments put forward here are primarily from the perspective of sociocultural learning theory, which draws attention to (1) dialogue as the primary mechanism for learning in PLCs and (2) sociocultural context as influential for enabling or constraining said mechanism. Building on these, I review some of the specifics of the Malaysian context, drawing possible connections to practice and positioning them as ‘foreshadowed problems’ (Malinowski, 1922). The paper concludes by issuing a call to action for practitioners and researchers, inviting further work to clarify and better understand PLCs in Malaysia and internationally.


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