A CASE STUDY OF THE ACTIONS TAKEN BY A SCHOOL DISTRICT IN PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTING A STRATEGY TO ESTABLISH SCHOOL-BASED PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES

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2005-08-01

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Abstract

A Case Study of the Actions Taken by a School District in Planning and Implementing a Strategy to Establish School-Based Professional Learning Communities

Abstract

This case study focused on the actions taken to create school-based professional learning communities during a two-year period of planning and implementation by a mid-sized, suburban school district located in the State of Maryland. The study examined the implementers' perceptions of the actions taken by the district. Archival documents and databases were utilized during secondary analysis of district actions.

Analysis using a social systems model revealed that during both planning and implementation periods district actions were directed largely to structural, political, cultural, and individual system approaches of supporting change. Analysis of transcripts from structured interviews with members of instructional leadership teams in a sample of ten of the 50 schools in the district was conducted.

The study found that a difference existed between the perceptions of district leaders and school-based leaders on the extent of use and the helpfulness of various district actions, thus highlighting the importance of addressing differential needs of schools. Despite differences, implementers were generally positive about the actions the district took. The study found differences in the degree of progress made by the ten study schools in the development of the conditions of professional learning communities. Possible explanations are presented for differences in progress made by each of the ten study schools. Findings reinforce the value of using a heuristic model for analysis of systemic initiatives.

Recommendations include that districts use intentionality in designing actions to address differentiated school needs. It is further recommended that districts implement systemic inquiry-based self-study practices. Suggestions for future research include exploration of the relationship between professional learning communities, collective efficacy, and student achievement.

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