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Francis d2

  1. 1. IMPROVING A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY AT ONE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: AN ACTION RESEARCH STUDY Donald Spencer Francis II A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF EDUCATION WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY College of Education May 2011
  2. 2. “Most states and districts are still not providing the kind of professional learning that research suggests improves teaching practice and student outcomes. The research tells us that teachers need to learn the way other professionals do— continually, collaboratively, and on the job.” (Darling-Hammond, Wei, Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009, p. 1)
  3. 3. The Issue • Professional Learning Communities are said to be the most promising school improvement tool since the invention of the overhead projector (Roy & Hord, 2006). Districts advocate for these teacher teams, but how is their development supported? • There was a desire by staff to have functioning PLCs, but frustration with a lack of professional development or support in this area. • What are the roadblocks that individual PLCs are facing? This had not been fully explored.
  4. 4. Research Questions (a) What journey took place for this team as it became a PLC? (b) What resources were needed to help this PLC improve its’ functioning? (c) What do I as an administrator need to know about how to guide the improved functioning of a PLC? (d) How can other PLCs learn from this PLC and its efforts to improve student learning in mathematics at Monument Elementary School?
  5. 5. Appendix A Monument PLC Timeline August 2006 Three-hour district introduction of PLCs. 2006-2007 William, Darrell, Lisa, and Don start at Monument. Leadership team Learning by Doing book study. PLC Staff development several times over the year. ESD facilitated work days on PLC with 12 staff members. 2007-2008 Working with PLCs as they developed. Mike arrives at Monument. 2009-2010 School Improvement grant begins. David arrives at Monument.
  6. 6. Appendix A (cont.) Fall 2009 CEE survey on nine characteristics of highly effective schools. August 2009 Introduction of research project at staff retreat. Survey baseline data on PLCs at Monument. Fall 2009 Pilot Qualitative study of PLCs at Monument. Feb. 2010 6th grade math team explores action research. March 2010 6th grade math team establishes norms and structures to improve functionality. Spring 2010 CEE survey on nine characteristics.
  7. 7. Appendix A (cont.) May 2010 Research narrows to 6th grade PLC. They become co-researchers for the study. June 2010 Team uses PLC rubrics to gather data on its functioning. Summer 2010 Team gathers more data on functionality. Engages in reflection and explores possible actions. Fall 2010 Team engages in practices to improve functioning. Nov. 2010 Team explores emergent themes from data analysis. Jan. 2011 Team plans action for exploring functioning in relation to shared practices.
  8. 8. Rationale for Study • Will a grass roots effort allow staff to become effective PLCs? The implication of this could save thousands of dollars spent sending all staff to DuFour’s Institute. • Will a look, listen, think, and act process be a model that will allow PLCs to flourish? Action research and its implications in PLC work. • Can this process benefit other schools in the district? State? Country? World? • Staff want to know more about how to be effective PLCs and to reflect on their current practices.
  9. 9. Methodology: Action Research Richard Sagor (a) selecting a focus (b) clarifying theories (c) identifying research questions (d) collecting data (e) analyzing data (f) reporting results (g) taking informed action
  10. 10. Methodology: Action Research Ernest T. Stringer Ernest Stringer
  11. 11. Purpose of Study This is an action research study that improved the functioning of a professional learning community (PLC) team at one elementary school. As principal of the school, I was the head researcher with the members of the PLC team serving as co- researchers.
  12. 12. Setting • Monument Elementary had an enrollment of 600 students in grades 4-6 in 2008. • 85% free or reduced lunch, 80% Hispanic, 33%language learners • 36 teachers with average teaching experience of 8.3 years • 2007 3rd grade WASL: 56% passing rate in math and a 61% passing rate in reading. • 2008 4th grade WASL: 45% passed math and 55% passed reading, a slight drop in scores. • 2009 5th grade WASL: 37% pass rate for math and 48% pass rate for reading. • In the 6th grade our math scores have been 26%, 32%, and 29% from 2006 to 2009. In 2010 as the study progressed and the 6th grade team became more functional, scores improved to 46%.
  13. 13. Stakeholders – Math Coach, Kim – David, Darrell, William (Lisa, support) – Added Mike in 2010 school year – Learning improvement team – All grade levels – District – The principal – Community (including parents) – Students
  14. 14. Data Collection • interviews • student performance data (NWEA, MSP, WASL, classroom assessments) • Survey • Meeting minutes and artifacts from the school • School climate survey • School Performance Report • School Improvement Plan • PLC Rubrics • Team Functionality Rubrics • Video taped PLC discussion sessions • Focus group • Learning journals
  15. 15. “Look” • Interviews of key stakeholders (includes pilot study) • observation of significant events or activities: Staff meetings, PLC meetings, work sessions, dialogue and conversation. SIP • Literature Review. Resource for PLC to use. • Notes, audiotapes, videotapes, reflection journals • Collaborative PLC descriptive accounts, answering the why, what, how, who, when, and where in relation to their reality, and creating community profiles. • The organization of meetings, procedures, decision making, and communication become critical components of action research within this stage (Stringer, 2007).
  16. 16. “Looking” at our PLC Table 1. Monument 6th Grade Math Professional Learning Community Demographics and Self Perceptions Name Role Years Teaching Personality _______________________________________________________________________ Darrell Team member 4 Reserved, passionate, loyal David Active participant 6 (Passionate, problem solver) Don Principal, secondary 13 Outgoing, passionate Kimberly Support member 15 Quiet, listen then act, conservative Lisa Team member 6 Reserved, no conflict Mike Colleague, listener 20 Sequential thinker William Team member 4 Easy-going, flexible ________________________________________________________________________
  17. 17. “Think” • PLC “think” tanks to understand more clearly the way the issue affects their lives and activities. • Use of DuFour’s Learning by Doing rubrics and “Cultural Shifts in PLC” documents as a framework for analysis of the functioning of the PLC. • Categorization and coding of key experiences; analyzing of this data using frameworks for interpretation, reports written. • Presentation to staff
  18. 18. “Act” • Action plan is developed by PLC for improving its functioning (goals, objectives, tasks, persons, time, and resources.) • PLC implements the plan while paying attention to communicating how the plan is going, nurturing people’s efforts, reflecting on progress, assisting members in overcoming roadblocks, resolving conflicts, and connecting members to supportive networks. • Progress is reviewed and the plan with its implementation are reviewed, assessed, revised, and achievements are celebrated (Stringer, 2007)
  19. 19. Positionality • Principal hat off, researcher hat on (staff retreat) • Working with the team that most wants to be a part of the research project (part of their National Boards). • Research fits into our staff crafted School Improvement plan (Validate staff initiative)
  20. 20. Ethics • IRB approval Fall of 2009 • Informed consent • Confidentiality discussion in PLC • Mutual benefits of this research study • School action research by “other” PLCs • Checks for trustworthiness (Lincoln and Guba) Credibility, transferability, dependability, and conformability.
  21. 21. Literature Reviewed • History of Teacher Learning Communities • Characteristics of PLCs • The role of PLCs in PD and SIP • Process of developing a functional PLC • The role of principals in developing collective efficacy within PLCs
  22. 22. PLC Trust “Why does it take so long to initiate a PLC? One answer can be found in the increasingly robust research that suggests that trust is an element of organizational culture that is critical and routinely overlooked—probably because administrators do not really want to face the music.” (Louis, 2006, p. 482)
  23. 23. The Action Research Study • The Pilot Study • 7 PLCs experimenting with action research • Narrowing the focus to one PLC • The Math PLC moving through the action research phases
  24. 24. Pilot Study Themes • Definitions, activities, & frustrations of PLCs • Influences of PLC Functioning: – Structure – Size of the PLC – Schedule and time – Facilitation – Trust and Relationships
  25. 25. The 6th Grade Math PLC “Looks” and “Thinks” “As the team engaged in the action research cycle, it became clear that “looking” and “thinking” were so intertwined that it was not possible to clearly separate these phases.” (p. 89)
  26. 26. Resources for “Look” and “Think” • Learning by Doing (DuFour, 2007) • Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Lencioni, 2007) • Interviews and group reflection sessions • Team created survey • Built in reflection time at each meeting
  27. 27. Moving Toward Action • Effort to reflect more often • Creation of team norms • Commitment to taking minutes and posting them • Attending meetings on a more regular basis and coming prepared • Creation of an agendas ahead of time • Structuring a plan to get into each other’s classrooms
  28. 28. Outcomes of the Study • The major outcome of the study was the overall improvement in the functioning of the PLC. • Attendance was improved, mutual trust was developed, communication was more consistent, and a new level of collaboration was attained.
  29. 29. Conclusions of the Study • The importance of the role of the principal in facilitating PLC functioning • The impact of changes in team membership • The critical role of using rubrics as a basis for reflecting on team processes • The impact of size of team membership.
  30. 30. Thank you for supporting this action research study! Questions???