A Study of the Implementation of Professional Learning Community Practices and Their Relationship to Teacher Practices and Student Learning Outcomes
Type of Degreedissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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The present study was designed to examine the PLC elements identified by the leadership team at Angel Primary School. The three features of the school’s implemented innovation were common formative assessment, the school’s collaboration plan and differentiated instruction. The data collection instruments allowed participants (n = 18) to indicate their perceptions and give detailed descriptions of how school-wide implementation of the PLC practices of Common Formative Assessment, the Collaboration Plan, and Differentiated Instruction had developed during the implementation year. This mixed-methods research study used data generated by the Angel Primary School Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Survey, the Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ), the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS), interviews, and additional documents and artifacts. Outcomes of the study included: facilitators and hindrances of implementation as measured by the Angel Primary School PLC Survey, teacher instructional change as measured by the SoCQ, and student learning outcomes as measured by the BAS. The framework of the case study was based on the five attributes of PLCs identified through the work of Shirley M. Hord (1997, 2004): 1) supportive and shared leadership, 2) shared values and vision, 3) collective learning and the application of that learning, 4) shared practice, and 5) supportive conditions. The Angel Primary School PLC Survey was strongly aligned with the Hord (1997) framework presented above. The survey addressed six principles in all which included each of the five individual principles in the Hord (1997, 2004) framework with the principle Supportive ii Conditions being divided into Supportive Conditions-Relationships and Supportive Conditions- Structures. Comparison of the Angel Primary School PLC Survey beginning of year data to the data collected at the end of the year culminated in PLC had improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year in all six principles addressed by the survey. Four of the six principles; Shared and Supportive Leadership, Shared Personal Practice, Supportive Conditions-Relationships, and Supportive Conditions-Structures experienced significant change. The analysis of data revealed a number of factors that facilitated the implementation of the Common Formative Assessment, Collaboration Plan, and Differentiated Instruction. Evidence of facilitative factors was identified in relation to each of the four principles addressed by the Angel Primary School PLC Survey experiencing significant change. Facilitative factors to the implementation of the Common Formative Assessment, Collaboration Plan, and Differentiated Instruction included; high expectations from school leadership, strong leadership support, teacher autonomy, teacher empowerment, encouraged risk taking, leadership focus on collaboration, collaboration focused on improved instruction and student learning outcomes, opportunities for teachers to apply their own learning and to share results, an overall supportive school culture, adequate resource personnel, effective communication systems, and professional development opportunities . The greatest hindrance to the implementation process identified through the analysis of data was the amount of time necessary for full implementation of the Common Formative Assessment, Collaboration Plan, and Differentiated Instruction with fidelity across the entire school. The SoCQ results of both the pre- and post-test indicated participants still had a great need for additional information pertaining to PLC implementation of common formative assessment, the collaboration plan and differentiated instruction. Results of the SoCQ also iii suggested that teachers needed more information related to how the implementation will affect them personal and professionally. Kindergarten student learning data from the beginning of the year administration of the BAS was compared with data from the end of the year administration during the both the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 school years. Significant change did occur from the beginning of the year to the end of the year for both school years. First grade student learning data from the beginning of the year administration of the BAS was also compared with data from the end of the year administration during the both the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 school years. Significant change did occur from the beginning of the year to the end of the year for both school years at this grade level as well. Results suggested that if the PLC practices of Common Formative Assessment, Collaboration, and Differentiated Instruction are applied consistently, student achievement will increase regardless of the staff’s personal feelings and concerns about the model. One important implication for action is to apply what was learned about factors that hindered the implementation of the PLC practices and to identify and implement solutions to those problems.