Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Carleton Holt

Committee Member

Janet Penner-Williams

Second Committee Member

Wenjuo Lo

Keywords

Professional learning communities, Teacher leadership, Teacher professional development

Abstract

This descriptive case study closely examined a professional learning community in an Arkansas middle school. The site was selected because the school was removed from the state's school improvement list after implementing professional learning communities. The purpose of the study was to determine how the design of a professional learning community impacts teacher instruction in a middle school setting. The literature reviewed included historical perspective, definitions and characteristics of professional learning communities, teacher professional development, and teacher effect on student achievement. Eight teachers, one principal, and one instructional facilitator were interviewed about the professional learning communities in their school. The interviews focused on the characteristics of professional learning communities and the perceived impact of professional learning communities on instructional practices. Observations of professional learning community meetings were conducted, and related documents were also reviewed. The data revealed that a culture of collaboration, data-driven decisions, and supportive leadership impact instruction. Combined, these three factors created the conditions for teachers to build their capacity and provide better instruction to students. The data also revealed that the annual school-wide book studies were an important aspect of professional development for the teachers at this school; many described it as the most beneficial professional learning community strategy utilized by the school.