A Study of Teacher Perceptions of Professional Learning Communities in a Cross-Section of Public Elementary Schools
AuthorParks, Troy R.
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It is important to support teachers and administrators in the commitments, understandings, and skills necessary to lead schools where professional learning communities (PLCs) are well established (Saphier, 2005).When schools operate as PLCs, educational professionals increase their capacity to create the results that they truly desire; new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, collective goals are set free, and people continually strive to learn together (Senge, 1990). The purpose of this study was to explore teachers' perceptions of PLCs in a cross-section of eight elementary schools in a large, urban school district in the Western United States. Data were gathered through the Professional Learning Communities Assessment-Revised (PLCA-R). The PLCA-R assesses perceptions of the PLCs based on six subscales: (1) Shared values and vision, (2) Shared and supportive leadership, (3) Collective learning and application, (4) Shared personal practice, (5) Supportive conditions-relationships, and (6) Supportive conditions-structures. Each of the subscales was rated on Likert scale ranging from 1 = Strongly Disagree to 4 = Strongly Agree; these subscales and a total score of the subscales were used as dependent variables. The independent variables that were tested in this study were: the number of years a teacher has taught, the highest level of education attainment, years teaching at their school, elementary primary grade (K-3) versus upper grade (4-6) teachers, and score differences among the eight schools. One-way ANOVAs and t tests were conducted using the independent and dependent variables in order to answer the research questions and to understand if any significant differences existed among the variables. If differences were indicated by ANOVA, post-hoc analyses were conducted to detail where the differences were found. No significant differences in PLCA-R scores were found for highest level of education and primary versus upper grades teachers. Significant differences in the PLCA-R scores were found for the independent variables of years a teacher has taught, years teaching at this school, and among the eight schools. In addition, responses to the open-ended questions suggested that teachers enjoy collaboration and want more time to work with each other. This conclusion is aligned with several studies and current research on teacher collaboration.