Professional learning communities in Chinese preschools: Challenging western frameworks

Alfredo BAUTISTA ARELLANO, Rongrong XU, Fangmei CEN, Weipeng YANG

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In the education field, professional learning communities (PLCs) are regarded as an effective method for fostering professional development for teachers, enhancing student learning and achievement, and promoting school reform. Quality leadership and management are understood to be essential for schools to become effective PLCs. Mainly proposed by Western scholars, existing PLC frameworks explicitly or implicitly assume that PLCs should be initiated and led by teachers themselves, following a bottom-up approach. The goal of this conceptual overview paper is to challenge certain taken-for-granted core principles of Western PLC frameworks by analyzing the current approach to PLCs adopted by preschools in mainland China, which follow a top-down leadership and management approach. We review multiple research streams, including policy frameworks and regulations, as well as the most relevant conceptual, theoretical, and empirical studies published in recent years. After reviewing China’s core socio-cultural traditional values, we describe the recent policies that have mandated the establishment and implementation of PLCs in Chinese preschools. We then review several recent studies that demonstrate that, despite profound differences to Western frameworks, PLCs in Chinese preschools are effective in benefitting teachers and highly regarded by the relevant stakeholders. The literature shows that Chinese preschools enact culturally situated versions of PLCs, characterized by some standard PLC principles (e.g., shared vision, collaboration, and collective responsibility) alongside features that resonate with Confucian values (e.g., strong hierarchical structure, guidance of external experts, internal leadership support, and greater emphasis on ecological support rather than personal agency and autonomy). We conclude that Chinese preschools merit international attention, as their approach to leadership and management allow us to reconsider certain core principles of Western PLC frameworks. Future directions for PLC policy and practice are suggested. Copyright © 2023 by the authors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1055
JournalEducation Sciences
Early online dateOct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


Bautista, A., Xu, R., Cen, F., & Yang, W. (2023). Professional learning communities in Chinese preschools: Challenging western frameworks. Education Sciences, 13, Article 1055.


  • Professional learning communities
  • Preschool education
  • Professional development
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • China
  • PG student publication


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