Collaboration within intercultural professional learning communities: A case study

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Gregory S. Brunton—Western International School of Shanghai (China)

The effectiveness of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) depends on the ability of educators to collaborate. At many international schools, teachers are recruited from various countries, bringing diversity to the school’s teaching teams. This qualitative collective case study examined how teachers with diverse backgrounds overcome the normal and intensified challenges to collaboration encountered in what I call an intercultural PLC context, comprised of teachers of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, educational and teaching experiences, and proficiencies with English at a private, international school in China. Multiple data collection methods were used in order to gain an understanding of the challenges to collaboration these teachers face, and the conditions that foster or hinder collaboration in this context. The findings of this study suggest that though there were advantages and disadvantages to working collaboratively, and there were successes and challenges with communication, this intercultural PLC provided many opportunities for teachers to learn. Collaborating meant sharing responsibilities while working through the difficulties experienced working with colleagues who held opposing culturally-based attitudes and beliefs. The provision of dedicated time for collaborative meetings had the greatest impact on supporting collaboration.

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