Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Effects of interdependency between teachers in professional learning communities on differentiated teaching based on cognitive differences of students

What relationships exist between different types of PLCs and cognitive differentiated teaching?

2015 - 2020


  • L.A.H. de Jong MSc - PhD candidate
  • prof.dr. W.F. Admiraal - supervisor
  • dr. J.A. Meirink - co-supervisor

During this research project different professional learning communities are followed. Data are collected on three levels (intended, implemented, and experienced cognitive differentiated teaching) from both teachers as students.

Social relevance

In teacher communities teachers share and critically reflect on their teaching practices. They have certain levels of commitment, dedication and responsibility for developing and sharing knowledge (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002). Teacher communities are claimed to contribute to improvement of practices of teaching (Darling-Hammond, Hammerness, Grosman, Rust, & Shulman, 2007; Little, 2003), as well as individual teacher development and collective capacity of schools (Achinstein, 2002; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001; Piazza et al., 2009).

Scienctific relevance

Despite the growing knowledge base on teacher communities, insight into the actual collaboration processes within these communities as well as their effects on teachers’ practices is limited. More specific, the community notion as the basic underlying construct, indicated by the interaction and participation of teachers and their interdependence in learning and working, seems to be weakly elaborated (Sleegers, den Brok, Verbiest, Moolenaar, & Daly, 2013; Westheimer, 1999).

Therefore, the current study investigates how in-school teacher communities contribute to learning and teaching. The dimension of interdependence is understood as the basic underlying construct of definitions of teachers communities (Little, 2003). Collegial interaction with a low level of interdependence is labelled ’storytelling’ which mostly takes place in staff rooms or hallways. Collegial interaction with a high level of interdependence and a rich learning potential is labelled ’joint work’. In this type of collaboration teachers feel a collective responsibility for the work of teaching (Little, 1990).

Research questions

Several professional learning communities in which teachers collaborate on the topic of cognitive differentiated teaching will be followed. The main research question reads as follows: 'What relationships exist between different types of PLCs and cognitive differentiated teaching?'

  1. Do Joint work and Shared practices result in differences in intended, implemented, and attained cognitive differentiated teaching?
  2. Do Joint work and Aid and assistance result in differences in intended, implemented, and attained cognitive differentiated teaching?

Materials and methods

Several sources of data will be used: video recordings and teachers logs from the meetings, pre-  and post-questionnaires on cognitive differentiated teaching, and individual interviews with participating teachers.


The PhD research of Loes is part of the NRO PROO project ‘Professional learning communities in pre-vocational secondary schools: Effects of interdependency on differentiated teaching’.

The research is carried out in collaboration with Erasmus University Rotterdam (Sabrina Alhanachi, dr. Lonneke de Meijer, & prof. Sabine Severiens) and Eindhoven School of Education, Eindhoven University of Technology (Marloes Hendrickx, Marieke Thurlings, & Perry den Brok).

Foto: John Birdsall MR / John Birdsall Social Issues Photo Library / Press Association Images / Universal Images Group

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