Improving a Professional Learning Community at One Elementary School: An Action Research Study
Francis, Donald Spencer
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The purpose of this action research study was to improve the functioning of one professional learning community (PLC) at Monument Elementary School in the Quincy School District in Washington State. The study was structured according to Stringer's (2007) action research phases of "look," "think," and "act" and was conducted from the fall of 2009 to the winter of 2010-2011. The "look" phase started with a fall 2009 pilot study of all PLCs within the school and continued when the 6th grade math PLC became the primary focus of the study in the spring of 2010. Data collection for the "look" phase included the original pilot study, interviews with team members, and observations of team meetings. The team shifted into the "think" phase during summer and fall of 2010, analyzing together all data collected, and into the "act" phase in the winter of 2010-2011. The "act" phase involved the creation of norms for team functioning, a commitment to better attendance at meetings, and a structured plan to visit and observe each other's classrooms to collaboratively improve math instruction and learning. 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. Conclusions of the study include 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, and the impact of size of team membership.