COPs, also known as “communities of practice” are defined as, “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, n.d., para. 4).
PLCs, also known as “professional learning communities” are defined as, “a group of teachers who meet regularly, setting goals and committing to a shared educational vision” (Adams, 2009, para. 3, p. 28).
From reading both definitions, it appears that COPs and PLCs are very similar in concept. Both groups support learning in a group environment and allow members of the group to speak freely and have their ideas and opnions heard.
COPs and PLCs also support teaching because depending on the type of group that somebody is in, teachers are allowed the opportunity to enhance their skills by discussing different techniques and situations. One of the positive things about being involved in COPs and PLCs in regards to teaching is that if you are in a group with teachers who are in the same content area or same grade level as you, you are given the ability to discuss different ideas and strategies with one another.
It is difficult for me as a Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher in my district because I am the only teacher in both of my buildings and the other FACS teachers in the district do not get together for meetings….we do not even have a supervisor. The most exposure I have had to working in a PLC/COP was when I was doing my TEAM program for the state. My mentor was another FACS teacher in the city and we were able to bounce ideas off of one another.
PLCs and COPs that are established via technology enhance the community and overall experience. When technology is used, it allows people in the PLC/COP to interact with other people throughout the world, making their PLC/COP that much more beneficial. It allows the “learners” to gather even more resources and make even more connections with others.
One of the PLCs that uses technology that I have found very beneficial is Twitter.When I first joined Twitter I was very skeptical of using this system, however the more I searched for different users and hashtags, I found more information that became valuable to me. Also, one of the things that gets me excited and fascinates me about Twitter is the fact that there are so many Family and Consumer Sciences teachers on Twitter. I keep getting notifications that I have a new follower and when I look, I find out that I am being followed by other Family and Consumer Sciences teachers across the United States! This is so exciting to me because I have never really associated/communicated with other FACS teachers because there are not many of us. It is so beneficial to be able to go onto Twitter and see what the other teachers are doing, re-tweet some of their activities, and tweet to them asking them questions, etc.
COPs and PLCs can also be used in the classroom via blogging. There are various SAFE blogging sites for students that allows them to blog within their own class, connect with other classes in their building, and other classes throughout the state and beyond.
Overall, COPs and PLCs can be very beneficial to all. In my past experience, I have found cooperative groups to be beneficial ONLY when I am able to control what groups I am in, what I am learning, etc. With the incorporation of technology, I am allowed the opportunity to do so and get better results.
What kind of COPs and/or PLCs are you using and how beneficial are they to you?
Adams, C. (2009). The power of collaboration. Instructor, 119 (1), 28-31.
Wenger, E. (n.d.). Communities of practice: a brief introduction. Retrieved from