Implementation of a collaborative culture in one Midwestern urban school
Today, a wide range of researchers and authors are beginning to focus their attention on school change, decreased teacher isolation and increased collaboration among educators with a focus on improving student learning. A term, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), has come to represent this focus and embodies promise for educational change.
The purpose of this study was to examine one Midwest urban school's approach to implementing the concepts and philosophies of a Professional Learning Community. The purpose in doing so was to study the school's process of implementation and how it reflected three themes which emerged from the literature review: Leadership, Collaboration and Focus on Student Learning.
The guiding research question was: How is a Professional Learning Community initially implemented within a school? The method of research was a qualitative case study approach with data collection including: interviews with two administrators and three classroom teachers who were involved in the implementation process, observations of collaborative teaching teams and documents which supported the implementation process.
The results of the study demonstrated a need for increased professional development in order for teachers to have a better understanding of the function and purpose of a PLC and to address issues that arise from increased collaboration like item analysis and interventions that support student success. A need for more time for the business of collaboration (e.g., meetings, preparation) also surfaced as a result of the study. The shift from teacher isolation to collaboration requires a great deal of time and although there was a common plan time allocated, all teachers noted the need for more time in order to complete the tasks necessary for a well functioning PLC.