Date of Award

5-13-2011

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program

Education (also CAGS)

First Advisor

Rebecca H. Woodland

Second Advisor

Jennifer Randall

Third Advisor

Kathryn A. McDermott

Keywords

Instructional Practice, Professional Learning Communities, Student Achievement, Teacher Collaboration

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a three-year Professional Learning Community (PLC) staff development initiative that took place in a suburban school district in Connecticut. An operational definition for PLCs was developed. This definition may prove beneficial for future research on PLCs. A comprehensive review of the current literature base was conducted, including the detailed examination of one earlier literature review (Vescio et al., 2008) and six empirical studies which examined the relationship between PLC-like initiatives and student performance. The present study builds upon the relevant literature base, specifically by attempting to determine the relationship between teacher collaboration and two dependent variables: changes in teachers’ instructional practice and student achievement outcomes. In addition, the study considered the relationship between the support provided by administrators to PLCs and student achievement outcomes. Achievement outcomes were measured by performance on Connecticut’s annual standardized assessments. Correlational and multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationships between the variables. Survey data viii were drawn from a sample of 325 teachers, while student achievement data were drawn from a sample of approximately 2,270 students.

A modest, statistically significant relationship was noted between administrative support for PLCs and student performance in both reading and writing. No statistically significant relationships were observed between collaboration and student achievement outcomes. A significant relationship was noted between collaboration and changes in instructional practice as measured by responses on the survey instrument. In addition, the interaction of teacher collaboration and administrative support served as a predictor for student performance in both reading and writing, suggesting that optimal learning occurs when teachers in PLCs collaborate at high levels while simultaneously receiving strong administrative support. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings for policy, professional practice, and future research on the topic of PLCs.

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