The world of education in the K–12 setting is constantly changing. The most recent shift in educational reform is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These new standards require students to think critically and demonstrate higher depths of knowledge. As a result, teachers are faced with the large task of realigning curriculum, instruction, and assessments to meet the new demands of Common Core. Unfortunately, with new standards and new expectations for assessments, teachers may feel overwhelmed and overextended. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) offer a structure in which educators are able to collaborate and align content across grade levels. The six guiding principles outlined by DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker require PLC teams to state a shared vision, maintain a collaborative culture, collective inquiry, action orientation, commitment to continuous improvement, and result orientation. These principles, when combined with curriculum, instruction, and assessments, and the key elements of the CCSS provided the conceptual framework for this study. This study confirms when PLC structures are implemented with authenticity; individual members are better equipped to withstand the unpredictable changes in education.
This qualitative case study sought to better understand the manner in which PLC structures supported the development of curriculum, instruction, and assessments for 7th and 8th grade Common Core math. Through semi-structured interviews during the beginning and end of the first semester, multiple observations of PLC meetings, and document analysis, this study determined the following findings. First, this case study found that curriculum development for the Common Core Standards was supported as individual members built capacity between each other to redevelop new district-mandated textbooks. Second, instruction strategies for the new standards was maintained as PLC members demonstrated high levels of trust with each other in an effort to share individual shortcomings and challenges. Third, assessment development required teachers to reflect on both curriculum and instruction in an effort to promote student achievement. Finally, an unexpected finding of shared decision making was determined through participant interviews. Participants longed for greater autonomy within their PLC structures, and hoped to have greater input in the larger overarching decisions made school wide.
The implications of this study encourage educators in various school settings—urban, suburban, and rural—to continuously improve year after year through PLCs. Regardless of new reforms in education, PLC structures provide a stable environment for educators to professionally learn in their site communities. The recommendations for this qualitative case study include suggestions for policy, practice, and future research. For policy, district members and officials would be well advised to provide additional professional development days for all certificated staff on how to authentically implement PLC structures at school sites. For practice, the major themes of capacity building, trust, reflection, and shared decision making can guide PLC teams as they practice true collaboration through PLC structures. Once PLC structures are authentically implemented, curriculum development can begin, instructional strategies can be shared and improved, and assessments can be effectively aligned to new standards. For future research, it is recommended that the scope of study be expanded to include the K–12 grades as well as extend the study for multiple years. As educators and school sites continue to make greater meaning of the CCSS, the impact of PLC structures in relation to student achievement will improve. Therefore, additional research on the effectiveness of PLC structures in relation to curriculum, instruction, and assessments will be richer as Common Core continues to be implemented.
|Commitee:||Magee, Connie, Slater, Charles|
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 77/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Communities, Core, Curriculum, Learning, Math, Professional, School, Teachers|
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