Conference Papers

Enhancing professional practice

Enhancing professional practice

Professional learning communities (PLCs), and the associated idea of ‘professional capital’ (Fullan and Hargreaves, 2010) have become a significant potential approach to professional development (see Watson, 2014 with respect to schoolteaching; Davies, 2012a with respect to healthcare).
In this paper I address two issues with respect to PLCs. The first is to distinguish between ‘anarcho-populist’ models of PLCs and centrally planned use. Whilst Fullan and Hargreaves discuss, by enlarge, centrally planned use of PLCs, the origins of PLCs lie in small scale local responses to individuals’ collective desire for professional development. I argue that of crucial importance to the efficacy of PLCs are the characteristics of its anarcho-populist form. I question whether this is fatal to the centrally planned approach lauded by Fullan and Hargreaves.
The second is to question, and critique, the use of the metaphor of ‘capital’ in relation to professional learning embodied by PLCs. Developing arguments previous articulated (Davies, 2012b), I argue that the metaphor of capital is problematic in general, not only in the context of ‘professional capital’. However, in relation to a discussion on two models of PLCs, the metaphor emerges from, and connects with, a more centrally planned (and large scale) approach to PLCs.
In conclusion, I argue for the importance of anarcho-populist models of PLC and they ways in which more centrally planned approaches are parasitic upon the characteristics of these local forms. Drawing on Kolodny’s (2010) account of partiality in relationships, I put forward an alternative to ‘professional capital’ which asserts the local, activist and collaborative nature of professional enhancements through anarcho-populist PLCs.


Davies, R. (2012a) ‘Interprofessional Education and the idea of an educated public’, Journal
of Vocational Education and Training, 62(2)
Davies, R. (2012b) Professional capital: transforming teaching in every school, Journal of Education for Teaching, 39(1), 144- 146
Fullan, M. and Hargreaves, A. (2010) Professional Capital: Transforming teaching in every school, Teachers College Press, New York.
Kolodny, N. (2010) Which Relationships Justify Partiality? The Case of Parents and Children, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 38(1), 37-75
Watson, C. (2014) Effective professional learning communities? The possibilities for teachers as agents of change in schools, British Journal of Educational Studies, 40(1), 18-29

Davies, R. (2014) 'Enhancing professional practice', paper presented to The 10th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 26–27 June, viewed 21 January 2020, <>