Fostering Professional Learning Networks Through Online Collaborative Learning: The Value Case




Romiti, S., Ranieri, M. & Poliandri, D. (2021, March 8-9 and 17-18). Fostering Professional Learning Networks through Online Collaborative Learning: The Value Case [paper presentation]. ICSEI Virtual Congress 2021 “Crossing Boundaries and Building Bridges”.


Over the last years, professional learning networks have gained momentum for their potential in supporting schools’ innovation and improvement through bottom-up processes of knowledge sharing and exchange of practices (Brown & Poortman, 2018; EU, 2018). Collaboration and networking are increasingly seen as strategic approaches to enhance the role of teachers as researchers (McIntyre, 2008) and grow professional capital of organizations (Chapman et al., 2016). Learning in a network allows teachers and schools to sort out their specific contexts and learning from each other: the formula of «peer-to-peer epidemics» (Hargreaves, 2003) is still effective to catch the intimate nature of schools’ innovation processes. Collaborative processes of peer-to-peer learning can be supported and augmented by digital technologies: from informal social media platforms (Fox & Bird, 2017) to courses delivered through learning management systems the opportunities that schools and teachers have for networking have duplicated (Ranieri, 2019). During the pandemic, informal digital networking among professionals increased and proved to be crucial for those that were unprepared for the “digital turn”, while innovative schools had the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge and skills (JRC, 2021). However, the potential of digital professional learning networks for school improvement is still underexplored. In particular, the building up of online professional networks, the sustainability over the time and the translation of knowledge among different contexts need further investigation.

This paper presents the methodological model of a professional development programme addressing 500 teachers and school leaders from 45 primary and lower secondary schools in northern, central and southern Italy. The VALUE programme aims to develop expertise for school evaluation and self-evaluation and will be delivered from October 2021 to July 2022 through a digital learning platform (Moodle). It is based on the following assumptions: experiential learning (Kolb, 1984), leveraging on case studies and learning by doing; self-directed learning (Knowles, 1975), ensuring flexibility and personalisation to adult learners; social learning (Dron & Anderson, 2014), promoting collaboration and knowledge exchange. Therefore, the learning environment is organised into four phases: activation, aimed at encouraging learners to mobilise previous experiences; documentation, intended to provide information about the concepts dealt with; application, oriented to facilitate knowledge appropriation through collaborative practices such as wiki pages and forum; and final reflection at individual and community level. Networked practices are promoted according to a two-layer network model encouraging collaboration within and across the schools. Looking at learning analytics from Moodle, this contribution will show how the methodological choices may support the building up of professional networks and how digital technologies may ensure its sustainability, within and over the Covid-19 crisis. Furthermore, the paper reflects on the value that this approach may have in supporting professional development on school evaluation and self-evaluation for improvement. Indeed, to master these aspects, collaboration among professionals within the same school is fundamental, as is the sharing of practices across schools and the exercise of the role of mutual critical friends. The focus on digital networking (Brown & Duguid, 2001) particularly fits with fostering professional learning for school improvement in a social space.


distance learning, lifelong learning, self-evaluation, evaluation, competence

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Open access. The document is freely downloadable and usable for non-commercial purposes, provided that the authors are always mentioned as reported in the quote field (author, year, title, etc.).


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Sara Romiti, Maria Ranieri, Donatella Poliandri








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