So, two questions: will it work and is it helpful?
My feeling is that it could be helpful inasmuch that it could encourage members to be motivated to learn, and provides a framework for that learning (in the same way that assessment helps to direct student learning). After all, there is a difference between thinking about doing something and saying that you are going to do something. It also helps to overcome the common problem with individual staff development, which can inspire people to want to change and then leave them frustrated because they do not have authority to do so.
However, in my opinion, a community forms when individual members feel that there are some benefits from membership (or, at the very least, there are penalties for opting out). How will membership of a Professional Learning Community be sold? Will it be altruism (the students will benefit) professional pride (I always want to do a job well), self-interest (my life will be easier) exclusivity (I want to be part of a club) or representation (our collective voice carries more weight)? Possibly it is some or all of the above.
Also, I suspect that PLC’s are like online fora in that they are excessively reliant on momentum. People will want to contribute if others do. In the same way that a discussion thread can quickly falter when participants start to sense that it’s running out of steam – thereby fulfilling their own prophecy – I wonder if PLC’s could be vulnerable to sudden dips in commitment. How do you go about sustaining any momentum? If, as you say, that these are formally constituted what are the penalties for deciding you have somewhere better to be?
So, in a nutshell, what are the incentives for joining a PLC and what are the disincentives for leaving? Can you tell that I spent a lot of time with economists?