Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Revealing patterns of discourse in high school professional learning communities
by Rodriguez, Yvonne J., Ed.D., California State University, Fullerton, 2011, 214; 3467830
Abstract (Summary)

The educational leadership problem that this qualitative study addressed was the need to understand how discourse within professional learning communities (PLCs) can enhance or constrain knowledge construction and its application to student improvement. This understanding has the potential to help educational leaders to develop productive professional norms and practices for these communities as well as to gauge their effectiveness. Study participants belonged to two professional learning communities in the 9th- to 10th-grade English department from a single high school. Data sources included video recordings, transcripts, field notes, individual interviews, artifacts, and questionnaires. The approach to the overall analysis of discourse included two levels of analysis: the macro level, which included several sets of domain analyses; and the micro level, which included a critical examination of specific episodes of discourse. These procedures involved the mapping of conversations, including micro-analysis of full transcription of all key events (episodes) into message units.

The findings from the discourse analysis indicated that leadership was found to significantly influence the work of the group—from levels of leadership outside the PLCs as well as from the leadership present inside the PLCs. In conducting the analysis of discourse, a sense of efficacy emerged as a frequent feature of team interaction and was recognized as a component of the work of PLCs. The analysis of the discourse also revealed that members, both individually and collectively, often exerted their autonomy, making decisions outside established guidelines. Overall, the analysis showed that a belief in one's ability and the willingness to take risks within a strong system of support are conducive to collaboration and knowledge construction, which promote the determination of best practices.

The main conclusions drawn from the study were that (a) leadership can influence and be influenced by PLCs through multiple feedback pathways and a willingness to share power and authority; (b) the recognition of team effort and improvement from all sources creates a culture of empowerment; and (c) an operational culture that supports knowledge construction and transformation of practice through autonomous action provides learning opportunities for teachers and, ultimately, their students.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Crawford, Teresa
Commitee:
School: California State University, Fullerton
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Educational leadership, Teacher education, Secondary education
Keywords: Discourse, Knowledge construction, Professional learning communities
Publication Number: 3467830
ISBN: 9781124806587
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