The Relationship Between Professional Learning Communities and Instructional Practices

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Virginia Tech

"This case study examined the implementation of the Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) at a high school that was labeled as a turnaround school (overall academic achievement proficiency below 55%) in 2006-2007. The foundation of PLCs is built on a shared vision and mission. The PLC principles of learning for all students, a collaborative culture, and a focus on results were the components most identified in the literature review, which helped shape the design of the methodology. Under the leadership of a new principal and with the implementation and focus on PLCs, Ocean Breeze High School's (OBHS) academic achievement proficiency grew from 48.6% to 87.5% within a three-year period. Based on this phenomenal progress, this case study investigated the relationship between PLC characteristics and instructional practices at this school. The data sources included fourteen interviews with eleven teachers and three administrators, observations of two PLC meetings, fourteen classroom observations, and a document review.

The data from the interviews were transcribed and themes were matched to reflect common perceptions from teachers and administrators on PLC practices. PLC meetings were observed to identify collaborative interactions between team members. A document review included any documents or artifacts that the school has used to implement PLC principles or similar practices. Classroom observations were conducted to compare if instructional practices correlate with interview responses, PLC meetings, and the documents reviewed.

This study found that there is a relationship between PLCs and instructional practices. The findings included: (a) teachers ensure that all students learn by developing common instructional guides that support the state curriculum; (b) teachers meet to discuss the curriculum, pedagogical strategies, and assessments in PLC meetings; and (c) teachers and administrators analyze data to make instructional decisions to enhance teaching and learning.

Career development, professional learning community, results-orientation, teacher effectiveness, collaborative teaming, action-orientation