The development and perpetuation of professional learning communities in two elementary schools : the role of the principal and impact on teaching and learning

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Chad Edward Maynor (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Meagan Karvonen

Abstract: Professional learning communities (PLCs) provide schools with a tool to meet the professional development needs of their teachers through ongoing, job-embedded staff development designed to improve instruction and student learning. While research exists on the development of PLCs, there is a gap in the literature concerning the principal’s role in the development and perpetuation of PLCs and the perceived impact of PLCs on instruction and student learning. The purpose of this study was to explore the development and perpetuation of PLCs at two elementary schools. The specific research questions addressed in this study were: (1) How did the professional learning communities in two elementary schools develop and perpetuate? (2) What was the role of the principals in the development of a professional learning community in two elementary schools? (3) How have the principals in these two elementary schools perpetuated the professional learning community? and (4) What, if any, relationship do teachers perceive exists between the development and perpetuation of the professional learning and improved instruction and student learning? The two elementary schools in this study were purposefully selected based on their histories with PLCs and their dramatic growth in student achievement in recent years. Through an ethnographic case study approach that included face-to-face interviews, on-site observations, and document analysis, I explored how the schools developed and perpetuated PLCs and the principals’ role in the PLCs development process. The principals in this study allowed teachers input in various school-based decisions, established a tone of professionalism and high expectations, created a caring/supportive environment where teachers felt appreciated and supported, and facilitated the transition of the PLC from development to perpetuation. Four themes were significant to the principals’ role in the perpetuation of the PLCs at one or both schools. The principals in this study ensured the teachers understood the PLC would take precedence over non-teaching responsibilities, worked diligently to overcome time barriers that would interfere with the PLC, conducted needs assessments to ascertain the professional development needs of their teachers, and actively participated in the PLC. Since the implementation of the PLCs, the teachers in this study have begun sharing/collaborating more frequently, using data to drive instruction, focusing on student success, working to increase student participation, incorporating research-based practices into instruction, and consistently differentiating instruction to meet the needs of students. With the support of the PLCs, classroom instruction and student learning have improved considerably across all grade levels at both schools. Several implications for research and practice emerged from the study. Future research may want to explore the role of district versus school decisions to implement PLCs, examine the role of the instructional coach, determine the impact of the principal’s leadership style, and explore other forms of data collection. Principals desiring to develop or perpetuate a PLC in their own school may choose to apply this study’s findings in their own schools.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Elementary Schools, PLC, Principal, Professional Learning Community
Professional learning communities
Elementary school teachers -- In-service training

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