Postgraduate Dissertation

Does a Professional Learning Community have a positive Impact on the children in an education system driven by market forces and borrowed pedagogy –if so, how, and if not, why not? A case study


From 2010, the English government has promoted collaborative approaches to improving pupil achievement including learning communities and ShanghaiRstyle maths mastery. Although these collective approaches in and between schools have been introduced, they sit within a neoliberal, marketised educational system which pits schools against one another in competition. Additional problems lie in accepting a pedagogy suited to a very different culture and context with insufficient funding for guidance in working collaboratively and implementing the necessary collaboration that underpins Shanghai’s success in teaching maths. In this article, I endeavour to unravel and compare the complexity of opposing paradigms within which “Ardwell” School’s (pseudonym) professional learning community (PLC) finds itself. A case study research design was employed for this smallRscale enquiry over a month. Individual and group interviews of staff, pupils and parents plus observations of maths mastery classes were held in Ardwell. The data collected was compared then further compared to relevant literature and summative data documentation. Comparisons between practices in Shanghai and Ardwell were made with additional comparisons between neoliberal and collective approaches to education to build bridges in knowledge gaps. The findings show that since introducing the Shanghai model, there has been an improvement in maths results initially, followed by improvements in all core subjects which arguably, suggests there are other factors involved than the pedagogy alone. Practices within the professional learning community, influenced by the Shanghai model, include teacher research groups and open practiceZ all similar to practices suggested in the literature as the basis for PLCs as a platform for improving teacher practice and learning outcomes. Although this study focusses on one school, therefore its findings cannot be generalised, it’s strengths are the comparative elements, the analysis of the effects of the lesson design and its focus on the construct, context and causality of Professional, Learning and Community.

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Pratten, Elizabeth


Supervisors: McLachlan, Marian

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\School of Education

Degree programme

MA Education



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