An Analysis of One School District's Implementation of Professional Learning Communities in its Elementary Schools
Smith, Myra Jean
Dudley, James J.
Parham, Carol S.
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: AN ANALYSIS OF ONE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S IMPLEMENTATION OF PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES IN ITS ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS Myra J. Smith, Doctor of Education, 2009 Dissertation directed by: Dr. James J. Dudley, Professor Emeritus Department of Education Leadership, Higher Education and International Education This mixed method study was designed to investigate the extent to which the professional learning community (PLC) program has been fully implemented in two groups of elementary schools in one county school district and whether that implementation has sustained a culture of a PLC in two groups of elementary schools. One group of elementary schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and the other group of schools achieved AYP through the provisions of safe harbor and/or the confidence interval. The study sought to assess the perceptions of elementary school principals, staff development teachers, and 5th grade team leaders from the two groups of schools regarding the five domains of the PLC: shared and supportive leadership, shared values and vision, collective learning and application, shared personal practice, and supportive conditions--relationships and structures (Huffman & Hipp, 2003). According to Hord (2004), the PLC domains are not isolated, but are intertwined as each dimension affects the other in practice. These data were gathered through the use of a survey to answer questions 1 through 3 and individual key informant interviews to answer the fourth research question. A survey instrument was sent to principals, staff development teachers and 5th grade team leaders from the two groups of elementary schools. The survey was designed to solicit their perception of the PLC implementation in their schools. The individual interviews were held with key district leaders. There was a statistically significant difference that favored principals and staff development teachers in the schools that achieved AYP and no statistical difference for 5th grade team leaders with respect to the five PLC domains. The researcher conducted a one-way analysis of variance of differences between principals, staff development teachers, and 5th grade team leaders' judgments of these leaders' perceptions of the five PLC leadership domains for both groups of schools. This study has implications for training, policy, and practice for elementary school principals and other leaders in the school. Hord (2004) suggested the principal is the key to the creation and existence of a PLC. This study provides a shared leadership model for principals and other leaders operating schools as high-performing professional learning communities. It is expected that this research will assist school districts in their efforts for district-wide reform.