Professional learning communities: the key to school improvement?

The purpose of this study was to examine teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of the effectiveness of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) after the first year of implementation in a unified school district. The study initially investigated teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of the effectiveness of four PLC characteristics; Mission, Vision, Values and Goals; Collaborative Culture; Collective Inquiry; and Results Oriented. In order to understand alignment of perceptions the researcher compared teachers’ and administrators’ findings. A mixed methods approach used a survey and interviews to gather data. Out of 193 possible participants, 40 teachers and 10 administrators responded to the survey, and 6 administrators were interviewed. Key findings indicated both teachers and administrators perceived their schools to have mission, vision, values and goals as well as collaborative cultures that were focused on best practices and instructional strategies. Teachers and administrators perceived focusing on results and analyzing student-learning outcomes as an area of weakness. Findings indicated a statistically significant difference between teachers’ and administrators’ perceptions of the overall effectiveness of PLCs. Administrators’ perceived the initial implementation to be successful yet teachers’ did not. Teachers’ had a higher disagreement rate when the term PLC was in the wording of the question. The study outlined recommendations for the district in subsequent years including additional focus on analyzing student data and more knowledge of the importance of PLCs. Furthermore, the study provided information for other districts to consider when implementing PLCs.