This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Professional Learning Communities: An Examination of 21st Century and Traditional Facility Designs




Howard, Brandi

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Today’s educational structures require teachers to move from isolation to collaboration to improve knowledge, skills, and instructional practices for effective teaching and learning. To do this, many schools across the United States have implemented professional learning communities as the framework for collaboration. The purpose of this framework is to improve the professional culture of schools by providing formal opportunities for educators to work together to strengthen instructional practices. In addition to Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), the spaces that educators occupy represent the educational philosophy of the school as well as their own. Schools of the 21st century are undergoing facelifts or new buildings are being designed to create workspaces that serve as flexible spaces for teachers and students to teach and learn. To bring awareness to the role that the physical design/floor plan of a school plays in collaboration based on the professional learning community, an explanatory sequential mixed method study was conducted in 21st century and traditional schools. The purpose of this study was to identify if there was a relationship between school type (21st century and traditional) and supportive conditions-structural (a dimension of a professional learning community). Also, the study sought to determine if differences existed between the six dimensions of a professional learning community; and to identify facilitators and barriers of the professional learning community in 21st century and traditional layouts. This study utilized the Professional Learning Community Assessment- Revised (PLCA-R) (Olivier et al, 2010) with elementary educators in the two design types to answer research questions from phase one, qualitative. Results from the PLCA-R were analyzed using SPSS (v. 28.0). The findings were analyzed according to research questions one and two. Research questions one and two did not indicate statistical significance when determining if there was a relationship between school type and the six dimensions of a professional learning community. To further explain quantitative results and get more information regarding the professional learning community within a 21st century and traditional layout, focus group interviews were conducted to answer research question three. Findings from the focus group interviews identified three themes and six subthemes as facilitators and two themes as barriers to the professional learning community in the 21st century and traditional layout. Although quantitative results did not yield evidence that there was a relationship between school type and the dimensions of a PLC; findings from the qualitative phase will make contributions to the literature on collaboration based on the professional learning community framework in different design types. This is the first known study that explored professional learning communities in 21st century and traditional layouts. The study provided evidence on the importance of schools having collaborative structures in place for an effective professional learning community regardless of the physical design layout. Also, findings from this study identified that the learning community gives educators an opportunity to come together and discuss instructional practices that will improve teaching and student learning. Lastly, the study identified that colleagues being in proximity to one another provides opportunities for informal collaboration and supportive learning environment for educators.