Selected Teachers' Experiences in a High School Professional Learning Community
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The establishment of PLCs, a form of professional development, has been shown to be successful in improving student learning (Crow, Hausman, & Scribner, 2002; DuFour & Eaker, 1998; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005; Hord, 1997; Hord, 2004; Toole & Louis, 2002). In addition, participating in a PLC allows individual teachers to carefully examine and reflect upon their current teaching practices and how those practices either achieve the goal of improved student learning or need to be improved (DuFour, 2004). This examination and reflection may affect an individual’s sense of identity as a teacher. The literature reviewed in this study falls into three main categories which are professional development, PLCs and teacher identity. The section on professional development defines it and looks at how effective traditional forms of professional development have been on improving student learning. The next section on PLCs explores what they have to offer to both teachers and students, discusses concerns with leadership and PLCs, and examines a few case studies of PLCs that have been successful. Literature concerning PLCs in high schools, barriers to their effectiveness and examples of successful PLCs is also reviewed in this section. Finally, the review looks at the concept of teacher identity and how it may be affected by collaboration, teacher interaction, feelings of efficacy and participating in a PLC. The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of PLCs in a high school setting and explore how teacher identity may be affected throughout the process of collaborating with colleagues in a PLC. With the use of narrative inquiry as the methodology, three teachers’ experiences as members of a sustained PLC at the high school level are presented. In addition, their feelings about the experience and how it has affected each one’s sense of identity as a teacher, if at all, were explored. Specifically, this study aimed to answer the following research iv questions: (1) What are the experiences of the three individual teachers in the same interdisciplinary PLC in a high school setting? (2) How does being a member of an interdisciplinary PLC in a high school setting affect, if at all, their core beliefs about teaching and being a teacher? (3) How does being a member of an interdisciplinary PLC in a high school setting inform their teaching so as to improve student learning? (4) How does being a member of an interdisciplinary PLC in a high school setting influence how they interact with their colleagues on a professional basis? The data were collected by means of conducting semi-structured interviews and having the teachers respond to a writing prompt. The interviews were then transcribed and analyzed for common themes. The themes which arose in the narratives included teacher identity, positive and negative feelings associated with the PLC, learning achieved in the PLC, isolation versus collaboration, the effect of the PLC on teacher interaction, the effect of the PLC on student learning and the effect of the PLC on teacher identity. The findings identify an understanding of the experiences of the three individual teachers as members of the same interdisciplinary high school PLC. The implications for theory include the need for further study in the area of the effect of participating in a high school interdisciplinary PLC on teacher identity. The implications for practice revolve around the need for school divisions to prioritize the creation and sustainability of PLCs in their high schools and to allot professional development time for them. The implications for future research include the need to examine the negative aspects of PLCs including the administrator’s responsibility to recognize the signs of jockeying for position and possible bullying among colleagues.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
CommitteeRenihan, Pat; Dray, Norm; Hajnal, Vivian; Molnar, Tim
Copyright DateOctober 2011