The role of Facilitators in Professional Learning Networks: achieving valued network outcomes

Submission deadline date: 30 September 2024


For effective educator professional development, active, collaborative learning is one of the main factors; coaching is another main factor (Hollweck, 2020; Visscher et al., submitted). In recent decades, there has been a growing interest in PLNs, in which such factors are (supposed to be) inherent (e.g., Poortman et al., 2022). Specifically in PLNs, facilitator support is mentioned as a main influencing factor (e.g., Dogan & Adams, 2018, Marsh et al., 2015). According to Hadar & Brody (2021), facilitators serve three roles:

  1. Organizational functioning; e.g., organizing events, connecting, encouraging;
  2. Expertise; e.g. knowledge about group dynamics, listening, diagnosing (could also be content expertise); and
  3. Approaches to group facilitation, e.g. three approaches (referring to Wang & Odell 2002 - Focus on participants - Learning through sources - Facilitators as change agents).

Facilitators are perceived to hold a key role in professional learning, however, the literature analyzing their functioning is sparse (Hadar & Brody, 2021). Although the facilitator role is often mentioned as a main influencing factor in PLNs in the literature, it is hardly ever the subject of study. Further research is needed, therefore (e.g., Marsh et al., 2015; Elfarargy et al., 2022; Hadar & Brody, 2021).

The aim of this special issue, therefore, is to examine the role of facilitators in PLNs. The special issue will fill a gap in the existing literature by bringing together for the first time the latest international literature on the role of the facilitator and their impact on valued network outcomes.

List of Topic Areas

  • Understanding the role of the facilitator in the PLN in achieving valued network outcomes
  • Role in terms of process functioning, organizing and subject expertise, for example
  • Transferability of roles for sustainable practice, e.g. by teacher-leaders, school leaders, quality care managers in the school
  • Understanding the conditions under which facilitation is more-or less- effective
  • Understanding the skills and knowledge required for facilitators to be effective

Submissions can cover conceptual aspects in addition to empirical research, case studies and literature reviews. We also encourage “Voices from the Field” contributions either to accompany papers or, for example, practitioner PLN-members reflecting on one or two of the special issue papers.

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.

Author guidelines must be strictly followed.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "Please select the issue you are submitting to". 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Guest Editors

Cindy L. Poortman, University of Twente: [email protected] - first contact person for questions after 27th August, 2024

Mei Kuin Lai, University of Auckland, New Zealand: [email protected] - first contact person for questions before 27th August, 2024

Key Dates

Opening date for manuscript submissions: 8th July, 2024

Closing date for manuscript submissions: 30th September, 2024


Doğan, S., & Adams, A. (2018). Effect of professional learning communities on teachers and students: reporting updated results and raising questions about research design. School effectiveness and school improvement, 29(4), 634-659.
Elfarargy, H., Irby, B. J., Singer, E. A., Lara-Alecio, R., Tong, F., & Pugliese, E. (2022). Teachers’ perceptions of instructional coaches’ practices in professional learning communities. SAGE Open, 12(3), 21582440221116103.
Hadar, L. L., & Brody, D. L. (2021). Interrogating the role of facilitators in promoting learning in teacher educators’ professional communities. Professional development in education, 47(4), 599-612.
Hollweck, T. (2020). Growing the top: Examining a mentor–coach professional learning network. In Professional learning networks: Facilitating transformation in diverse contexts with equity-seeking communities (pp. 141-170). Emerald Publishing Limited.
Poortman, C. L., Brown, C., & Schildkamp, K. (2022). Professional learning networks: a conceptual model and research opportunities. Educational research, 64(1), 95-112.
Marsh, J. A., Bertrand, M., & Huguet, A. (2015). Using data to alter instructional practice: The mediating role of coaches and professional learning communities. Teachers College Record, 117(4), 1-40.
Visscher, A., Dmoshinskaia, N, Pellegrini, M. (2023). Effects of teacher professional development on student academic achievement: a meta-analysis of 143 studies. Paper presented at the EARLI Conference, August 22 – 26, Thessaloniki, Greece.