DISSERTATION DEFENSE ANNOUNCEMENT Ed.D. Program: Melissa Edwards Kane “A Mixed-Methods Study Examining Elementary Professional Learning Community Implementation”

11:30 am - 1:00 pm

Twenty-first century teachers need to be adaptable and open to change in order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. As such, professional development that supports teachers’ continuous growth is vital. One of the most promising forms of professional development that provides teachers with ongoing opportunities for collaboration and critical reflection are professional learning communities (PLCs) (Dufour, 2014; Owen, 2015; Tam, 2015; Vescio et al., 2008; Wells & Feun, 2013). While there is evidence of the potential of PLCs to improve the quality of instruction in schools, the favorable outcomes of PLCs are dependent on their implementation. This mixed-methods study examined PLC implementation in one New Jersey school district to inform how it might be improved. This study also aimed to learn about stakeholders’ perceptions of PLC practices and to compare these perceptions with DuFour et al.’s (2010) critical attributes of effective PLCs. By merging quantitative survey data with qualitative interview data, two cases were selected and compared to gain an understanding of the factors mediating PLC implementation. Data analysis revealed two themes: 1.) principal leadership is crucial to developing effective PLCs and includes providing supportive structures for collaboration and granting teachers the autonomy to direct their PLCs, 2.) PLC teams need to establish collaborative cultures through structured accountability, trusting relationships and engagement in collective inquiry. The implications of these findings for the school district include supporting principals in leading PLCs through ongoing professional development, developing a repository of PLC materials in the district to support teachers in developing collaborative PLCs, encouraging teacher leadership and principal-teacher collaboration through formal structures and yearly evaluation of district PLCs. Implications of these findings are also considered for principal preparation in higher education.

Keywords: professional learning communities, teacher leadership, distributed leadership, collaboration

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