The Benefits of Community Building and Participatory Leadership in an Interdisciplinary Virtual Professional Learning Community in Higher Education during COVID-19 and Post-Pandemic Times




interdisciplinary virtual professional learning community, higher education, knowledge-sharing, professional development, participatory leadership, COVID-19 emergency, emotional engagement


The transition of educational institutions to remote learning during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic breathed new life into Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). For full-time and adjunct faculty who were struggling with unexpected technology issues and social isolation, PLCs became platforms for building social and professional ties, further learning, and problem-solving. An extensive number of specialized studies have outlined the definition of PLCs as an umbrella term encompassing an array of collaborative efforts in education united by the distinctive features that include (1) engaging in ongoing collaborative activities to identify and work towards common goals, (2) co-constructing, sharing, and disseminating knowledge, and (3) sharing and reflecting on individual practices. Despite an impressive history of research on PLCs, certain fields remained understudied, in particular, opportunities of fostering university’s goals and major relevant concepts via PLC, inclusive participatory leadership, emotional interaction, and collaboration in interdisciplinary PLCs. This exploratory qualitative study demonstrates the benefits of an interdisciplinary virtual PLC, as exemplified by the PLCs implemented at Westcliff University in Irvine, California, USA, based on case study, self-reflection, observation, unstructured interviews, and analyzing university statistics. The study has uncovered numerous benefits of an interdisciplinary virtual PLC in a higher educational institution, applicable both to an emergency (COVID) situation and to a regular mode of work after the pandemic, including knowledge-sharing, disseminating, and constructing new knowledge; building skills and educational practices through the sharing of instructional strategies and dissemination of the new technologies; enhanced professional growth, especially for the less experienced instructors; relation-building and creating a trusting and positive emotional atmosphere, as well as a platform for participatory inclusive leadership. Analysis of the university statistics confirms the improvement of students’ learning outcomes after their respective professors had participated in the PLC. The recommendations based on the discussed experiences and driven conclusions are provided to help educators and universities benefit fully from the implementation of a PLC in their institutions.

Author Biographies

Tatiana Andrienko-Genin, Kyiv International University

Doctor of Science, Professor of Intercultural Business Communication, Leadership and Dissertation Research Methods, is a former Associate Dean of the School of Business and Economics, and inaugural Intercultural Communication department Chair, and a VP, Global Academic Mobility.  Dr. Andrienko-Genin is a part-time faculty and Faculty Senate Faculty Affairs Committee Chair at Westcliff University, California (USA). Author of 8 books and numerous scholarly publications focusing on intercultural communication, academic quality of higher education.

Jodi Consten, Westcliff University, California

PhD (Business Administration, Westcliff University), Master’s Degree (Teaching, Chapman University) and a Bachelor of Science (Political Science, California Baptist University). Professor Consten is currently the Associate Dean for the College of Education at Westcliff University. With 25 years of education experience, Professor Consten enjoys collaborating with industry experts to deepen learning, foster innovation, and transform leadership.

Jennifer Money, Westcliff University, California

PhD (Claremont Graduate University). She is currently a professor at Westcliff University whose research includes digital adaptation and expansion in the post-pandemic age, specifically the exploration of spaces of cooperation and conflict between technology and the humanities.

Mary Broding, Westcliff University, California

PhD, Ed.D. (Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leading, Northeastern University). She holds Master of Arts in English (University of Arizona) and Art History (San Diego State University) and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History (University of San Diego). Currently, she works as a Curriculum and Instructional Designer for Westcliff University and teaches part-time at several community colleges and universities. Dr. Broding has been teaching, tutoring, and holding administrative positions in higher education for the past 18 years and her areas of research interest include women student veterans in higher education writing courses and faculty in professional learning communities.

Lara Dorman, Westcliff University, California

Masters of Arts (Teaching in Advanced Studies) and a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry). Lara has been a high school science teacher for over 14 years and has taught a variety of courses such as Biology, AP Biology, Honors Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, College in High School Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. She has also served as a cyber school biology and chemistry teacher and has been a member of the positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) team improving student outcomes. Lara has also developed an AP Chemistry curriculum for a cyber school program as well as an Honors Chemistry curriculum for a public high school

Stephen Shepard, Westcliff University, California

Bachelor and Master Degrees (Electrical Engineering, Stanford University), Assistant Professor (mathematics, Westcliff University College of Education). He also teaches at the University of Phoenix where he is a Lead Faculty and Area Math Chair. Based on his engineering education he achieved an extensive background in design and management in the aerospace industry. His education also includes a Master Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling which is the basis for teaching assignment in psychology and human development. He is also a real estate broker in California and teaches real estate at Peak Real Estate Academy.

Omid Mousavi, Westcliff University, California

Adjunct College Professor in History, Political Science, Business and Contract Law. He earned his Juris Doctor from Trinity Law School of California with an interest in Human Rights, Worker’s Compensation, and Personal Injury.


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How to Cite

Andrienko-Genin, T., Consten, J., Money, J., Broding, M., Dorman, L., Shepard, S., & Mousavi, O. (2023). The Benefits of Community Building and Participatory Leadership in an Interdisciplinary Virtual Professional Learning Community in Higher Education during COVID-19 and Post-Pandemic Times. Filosofiya Osvity. Philosophy of Education, 29(1), 66–91.






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