2 Page Analysis

timer Asked: Nov 10th, 2016

Question description

For this assignment, use the three research articles located in the attachments below, along with the Synthesis Matrix Chart to complete your assignment. Fill in the Synthesis Matrix Chart with the corresponding information from the articles. Use the chart to detect/identify commonalities in the ideas of the authors. Following the chart, write a two-page scholarly analysis of your findings.

Length: Completed Chart from three scholarly sources (as listed in the resources) and a two-page analysis of the findings from the chart

Your chart should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts presented in the course by providing new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your paper should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards.

Be sure to adhere to Northcentral University's Academic Integrity Policy. (see attachment below)

Scholarly Article References:

Gray, J., Kruse, S., & Tarter, C. J. (2015). Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis: Antecedents of professional learning communities.

Mintzes, J. J., Marcum, B., Messerschmidt-Yates, C., & Mark, A. (2013). Enhancing self-efficacy in elementary science teaching with professional learning communities.

Peppers, G. J. (2015). Teachers' perceptions and implementation of professional learning communities in a large suburban high school.

Article Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis: Antecedents of professional learning communities Educational Management Administration & Leadership 1–17 ª The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1741143215574505 emal.sagepub.com Julie Gray, Sharon Kruse and C. John Tarter Abstract This study tested the role of enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis in the development of professional learning communities (PLCs) in a low-income school district. The empirical study was based upon the perceptions of teachers and principals as provided by survey responses (N ¼ 67 schools). While enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis simultaneously contributed to the explanation of PLCs, only structure and trust had a unique effect on PLCs with structure having the larger contribution. Keywords academic emphasis, collegial trust, enabling school structures, professional learning communities Introduction Historically, educational research has looked to organizational structure as a key variable for understanding school change (Hargreaves and Goodson, 2006). Indeed, the history of the ‘restructuring’ movement of the 1990s suggests that practitioners and researchers alike have long sought a structure that might assist educators to achieve educational goals (Hipp et al., 2008; Hord, 1997, 2004; Louis and Marks, 1998; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006). Since then research has focused on the relationship between school structure and school success, primarily attending to posited relationships between structures and student learning, teacher effectiveness, trust and other salient outcomes (Bottery, 2003; Bryk and Schneider, 2002; Cosner, 2009; Honig and Hatch, 2004; Little and Curry, 2009; Tschannen-Moran, 2004). Of particular interest has been the study of professional learning communities (PLCs). Literature concerning the development of PLCs suggests that when functioning effectively, the structure Corresponding author: Julie Gray, School of Education, University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, Building 85, Pensacola, FL 32514, USA. Email: jgray2@uwf.edu Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 2 Educational Management Administration & Leadership can have positive effects on student achievement and academic progress (Bryk et al., 1999; Gray, 2011; Louis and Marks, 1998; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2003; Wahlstrom and Louis, 2008). However, while there is much in the prescriptive professional literature extolling the virtue of the PLC, little is understood about how effective PLCs are cultivated and developed (Louis and Marks, 1998; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2003; Spillane, 2005; Supovitz, 2002). Furthermore due to poor implementation and/or efforts to sustain collegiality and focus (Hipp and Huffman, 2010; Hord and Tobia, 2012) PLCs have been found to fail in producing intended results. However, other work (Gray, 2011) has demonstrated that as a school improvement model, PLCs offer educators a structure to improve school culture and climate and increase student achievement. Finally, the literature suggests that PLCs promote teachers’ sense of professionalism, collegial trust, participation in shared decision making and collaboration (Gray, 2011; Hipp and Huffman, 2010; Hord, 1997, 2004, 2007, 2009; Huffman and Hipp, 2003; Kruse and Louis, 1993a, 1993b; Kruse et al., 1994; Louis and Kruse, 1995; Lieberman and Miller, 2008; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006; Wahlstrom and Louis, 2008). We will explore the role of enabling school structures (ESS), collegial trust (CT) and academic emphasis (AE) in the development of PLCs in a low-income school district. The formal aspects of the school will be represented by enabling school structures while the informal aspects will be characterized by the variables collegial trust and academic emphasis, based upon the perceptions of teachers and principals as provided by survey responses (N ¼ 67 schools). Previous research has established that each of these factors is essential to the development, maintenance and sustenance of PLCs (Gray, 2011; Wu et al., 2012; Hord, 2009). Theoretical Framework This study hypothesizes that enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis will individually and jointly predict the development of professional learning communities. While there is emerging research about collegial trust, enabling school structures and academic emphasis, to our knowledge, none has been applied in context to PLCs (Hipp et al., 2008; Hord, 1997, 2004; Hord and Summers, 2008; Huffman and Hipp, 2003; Louis and Kruse, 1995; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006). It is our hope that the current study will further expand the theoretical knowledge base through empirical data and inform classroom practice in low-performing schools. PLCs are promoted as a major restructuring effort for schools and contributor to increased student achievement (Hipp et al., 2008; Hord, 1997, 2004; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006). Employing the foundational literature described above, in this study we are making assumptions that PLCs are an effective approach to school improvement, ESS provides the structure to enhance PLCs, academic emphasis is an important characteristic of the school vision and mission, and finally that collegial trust is an essential aspect of PLCs. An enabling school structure (ESS) represents the teachers’ belief that the administration and rules of the school help them in their work (Hoy and Sweetland, 2001). Hoy and Miskel (2008: 110) assert ‘an enabling school structure is a hierarchy that helps rather than hinders and a system of rules and regulations that guides problem solving rather than punishes failure’. In enabling schools teachers and leaders work cooperatively and resolve issues through shared decision making; thus, providing structure and support that helps teachers to do their jobs more effectively (Wu et al., 2012). Collegial trust is the faculty belief ‘that teachers can depend on one another in a difficult situation; teachers can rely on the integrity of their colleagues’ (Tschannen-Moran and Hoy, 1998: Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 3 342). Collegial trust is based upon the teacher’s willingness to be vulnerable to his fellow teachers, while trust in principal varies because of the power structure of the organization and supervisory role of the principal over the teacher (Gray, 2011; Hoy, 2012). Principals need to understand that ‘a culture of school trust is often as important as socioeconomic level in promoting learning and . . . a necessary essential condition for effective professional learning communities’ (Hoy and Tarter, 2012). Finally, academic emphasis is the ‘extent to which the school is driven by a quest for academic excellence’ (Hoy et al., 1991: 62). Teachers, parents and school leaders set high academic goals for students (Hoy et al., 1991). Academic emphasis was ‘positively related to school achievement even after controlling for SES’ (Hoy et al., 1991). In short, goals are set for students that are high but possible to attain, a safe and orderly learning environment is established, and students value academic achievements (Hoy et al., 1991; Hoy et al., 2006; Hoy and Miskel, 2008). Hoy describes academic emphasis as an essential property that affects student achievement despite the socioeconomic status and level of the school (Hoy, 2012). In the almost twenty years since the PLC framework was first developed, others (Hord and Summers, 2008; Huffman and Hipp, 2003; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006; Olivier and Hipp, 2010) have suggested that the conditions included in the original work may well be more complex and as such, while necessary for the development of PLCs, are not sufficient to ensure success. Salient to the current study, and in keeping with the history of PLC research, enabling school structures are represented by the structural conditions, collegial trust by social support, and academic emphasis and collective efficacy by the characteristics and benefits. Conceptual Framework Organizational Learning – the Origin of Professional Learning Communities Senge (1990) introduced the concept of organizational learning as a different type of ‘organizational structure’ to address a changing society. He (1990: 3) defines a learning organization as a place ‘where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire . . . where people are continually learning how to learn together’. Applying the construct to schools, Hoy asserts organizational policies, practices and procedures that promote trusting relationships among colleagues, and encourage active problem solving enable organizational learning (Hoy, 2002). Additional work by Hoy and Sweetland (2007: 361), hypothesizes ‘that enabling school structures are important to the development of effective learning organizations’. Furthermore, Serrat (2009) asserts that organizational learning improves the overall health of the school in the development of shared goals and values, opportunities for teacher leadership, more open communication between colleagues, and constructive problem solving. In schools, the constructs of organizational learning are posited to operate with a professional learning community (Hord, 1997; Louis and Kruse, 1995; Kruse et al., 1994; Olivier, Hipp, and Huffman, 2010). Professional Learning Communities For this study we selected the Hord (1997) definition as the best fit as its research led to the development of the Professional Learning Communities Assessment – Revised (PLCA-R) instrument, which was implemented to gather empirical data (Olivier et al., 2010; Appendix A). SEDL (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) credits Hord with the development of the term professional learning communities in the 1990s, which is accepted by many researchers in the field of Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 4 Educational Management Administration & Leadership education (Hord, 1997). Hord defines a professional learning community as a collegial group of faculty and staff who are united in their commitment to student learning (Hord, 1997). According to Hord, PLCs encompass these common characteristics: supportive and shared leadership, collective creativity, shared values and vision, supportive conditions and shared personal practice (Hord, 1997). For teachers to be willing to take risks and try new instructional strategies, they must feel supported to do such (Kruse et al., 1994). As teachers are more involved in shared decision making and collegial relationships, expectations are more formalized, and professional activity among teachers is encouraged, they tend to perceive the school to be more effective (Miskel et al., 1979). ‘In order for students and teachers to benefit from empowerment, a professional community must develop among teachers, one committed to fundamental change in teaching practices’ (Kruse et al., 1994). The conceptual framework for this study is based upon early work in PLCs that established that certain structural conditions are important in the development of an effective PLC: time to talk and meet, physical proximity, interdependent teaching roles, communication structures, teacher empowerment and school autonomy (Kruse et al., 1994; Louis and Kruse, 1995). Further, certain social and human resources are critical to PLC development to include openness to improvement, trust and respect, cognitive and skill base, supportive leadership and socialization, which will be considered in the form of collegial trust (Louis and Kruse, 1995). For this study enabling school structures will represent the formal structure, that which supports teachers performing their instructional tasks more effectively. While the informal aspects of the school will include teacher perceptions of collegial trust and academic emphasis, these relate to the social and human resources needed to support the development of the PLC (Louis and Kruse, 1995). Enabling School Structures Enabling school structures represent the teachers’ belief that the rules and administration of the school help them in doing their work (Hoy, 2002, 2012; Hoy and Sweetland, 2000, 2001). While we acknowledge the complexities of the construct of enabling school structures, the variability of ways to measure such, and given the parameters of this study, we found the Hoy and Sweetland (2000) definition to be the most appropriate for our purposes. By definition, all formal organizations are centralized to some degree, that is, they all have administrative decision making. Similarly, all formal organizations are formalized to some degree; that is, they all have written rules and regulations. The conceptual importance of enabling structure is the recognitions that some bureaucratic arrangements contribute to the effectiveness of the organization – enabling – and some do not – hindering. Hoy (2002: 91) asserts that enabling school structure is built upon a ‘hierarchy of authority and a system of rules and regulations that help rather than hinder the teaching learning mission of the school’. Enabling structures allow teachers to solve problems with the support of the principal who encourages openness and professionalism (Hoy and Sweetland, 2007). In contrast, hindering school structures are more tightly controlled or managed by the principal (Hoy, 2002). In all organizations the formalization of the organization ranges along a continuum from hindering to enabling (Hoy, 2002). Miskel et al. (1979: 114) summarize that teachers who viewed their school as effective were ‘characterized by (a) more participative organizational processes, (b) less centralized decision making structures, (c) more formalized general rules, and (d) more complexity or high professional activity’. Hoy and Sweetland (2007: 362–363) assert that for schools to improve there must be a Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 5 ‘structure that enables participants to do their jobs more creatively, cooperatively, and professionally’. In respect to the development of the professional learning community, we assert that the enabling school structures are operationalized by opportunities for teachers to meet and collaboratively plan lessons together, the development of interdependent teaching roles and regularly scheduled time for professional development (Louis and Kruse, 1995). The principal facilitates these structures within the organization by fostering shared decision making and encouraging collaboration among teachers. In turn, these enabling structures provide teachers with a sense of support and a positive culture that ‘emphasizes trust, efficacy, and academics’ (Wu et al., 2012) and increases teacher empowerment and dignity (Louis and Kruse, 1995). Collegial Trust Supporting social and human resource conditions of the professional learning community are collegial trust and academic emphasis. Trust has long been posited as essential in the development of collegial relationships (Cohen, 1988; Firestone and Rosenblum, 1988; Louis and Kruse, 1995). Certainly, research in the last 25 years has established trust as an important organizational factor in schools (Bryk and Schneider, 2002; Forsyth et al., 2011; Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 1999, 2003; Tschannen-Moran, 2004; Tschannen-Moran and Hoy, 1998). Collegial trust is the faculty belief ‘that teachers can depend on one another in a difficult situation; teachers can rely on the integrity of their colleagues’ (Hoy and Kupersmith, 1985: 2). Again, we acknowledge the complexities of the construct of trust, in particular teacher trust in colleagues. Trust can be measured by a variety of constructs, however we selected the Hoy and Tschannen-Moran definition for the sake of this study as the most appropriate construct. Hoy (2012: 78) asserts ‘faculty trust was conceived as the collective belief that the word and promise of another individual or group could be relied upon, and further, that the trusted party would act in the best interest of the faculty’. Hoy and Tschannen-Moran characterized the five facets of trust: benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty (Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 2003). In other words those who view their colleagues as honest, open, competent, reliable and professional will tend to have more trust in their colleagues. In the midst of change, trust plays an important role as teachers view their fellow educators as invested in the process of improving the school (Louis and Kruse, 1995). In the same manner in which professionals trust each other, they need to share a common belief in the ability of their students in the form of academic emphasis. Academic Emphasis Academic emphasis is defined as the ‘extent to which the school is driven by a quest for academic excellence’ (Hoy et al., 1991). High and achievable academic goals are set for students by both teachers and parents (Hoy et al., 1991). Students are expected to work hard, seek additional work, be cooperative and to respect others who achieve good grades and academic success (Hoy et al., 1991). There is a focus on learning with the belief that all students have the ability to be successful academically (Hoy, 2012). Parents and teachers alike press all students for academic achievement (Hoy et al., 2006). ‘A school climate with a strong academic emphasis influences not only individual teacher and student behavior but also reinforces a pattern of collective beliefs that are good for the school’ (Goddard et al., 2000: 698). In other words, academic emphasis affects the collective beliefs of teachers in a positive way. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Educational Management Administration & Leadership Formal 6 Enabling School Structures + ___ Collegial Trust β = .___ + ___ Professional β= .___ Learning Informal Communities + ___ β =.___ Academic Emphasis R= .___ Adjusted R²= .___ Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of hypothesized relationships. Note: **p < 0.01 In Figure 1 we demonstrate a conceptual diagram of the hypothesized relationships of the variables in this study. Enabling school structures will represent the formal aspects of the school while collegial trust and academic emphasis will characterize the informal facets of the organization. We assert that an explicit focus on enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis is a necessary antecedent of the development of strong mature professional learning communities. Clearly, the intensification of each is also an outcome of the work of teachers within nascent or developing professional learning communities. In this way, the establishment of these factors is iterative and mutually informing. We also consider the collective and reciprocal relationships of the variables of this study. Methodology An existing database from a large southeastern school district provided the data for this study. The sample consists of 67 public elementary, middle or high schools in the large metropolitan district. The majority of the students in the 67 schools qualified for free and reduced lunch services, a widely accepted indicator and proxy of low socioeconomic status (NCES, 2012). Teachers completed surveys online via the Qualtrics Research Suite™ software, which was exported to Excel and then SPSS for statistical analysis. Hypotheses The preceding literature makes a case for a zero-order correlation of all the variables. Structure by itself as well as each dimension of trust should correlate with each other and with professional learning communities. The independent variables represent the formal and informal elements of organization and should be connected to any organizational element of the school. Therefore, we hypothesized: H1: Enabling structure, collegial trust, academic emphasis and professional learning communities will correlate with each other. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 7 While each of the independent variables would logically contribute to the development of the learning communities, there was no guiding literature as to which elements would be greater contributors. Consequently, we used the phrasing of simultaneous regression and hypothesized the following: H2: Enabling structure, collegial trust, and academic emphasis will individually and jointly contribute to an explanation of professional learning communities. Instrumentation Professional Learning Communities PLC development was measured by a shortened version of the Professional Learning Community Assessment (PLCA) instrument, which was developed by Olivier et al., but revised to form the PLCA-R (Olivier et al., 2003; 2010). The Cronbach alphas for the subscales ranged from 0.82 to 0.94 (Olivier and Hipp, 2010), meaning that the items were reliable and consistent in what they are meant to measure. The subscales of the PLCA-R include: shared and supportive leadership, shared values and vision, collective learning and application, shared personal practice, supportive conditions – relationships and supportive conditions – structures (Olivier, 2003: 69; Olivier et al., 2003, 2010). Sample items include: ‘Leadership is promoted and nurtured among staff members’, ‘Professional development focuses on teaching and learning’, and ‘Opportunities exist for coaching and mentoring’ (Olivier et al., 2003, 2010). The shortened version of the PLCA-R is a 12-item, Likert-type scale with answers ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ (Olivier et al., 2003, 2010). The shortened form of this instrument was developed after two items were selected from each of the six subscales. A pilot study was conducted in eight schools (elementary, middle and high) in a small southeastern school district. Further, factor analysis was performed to determine that the shortened version of the PLCA-R had high internal reliability with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.92 (Gray, 2011), meaning the items were reliable. Enabling School Structures Enabling school structures was measured using a 12-item, five point Likert-type scale that ranges from ‘never’ to ‘always’ and was reliable in the high 0.8 s and 0.9s (Hoy and Sweetland, 2001). Sample items include, ‘Administrative rules help rather than hinder’, ‘The administrative hierarchy of this school enables teachers to do their job’, and ‘Administrative rules in this school enable authentic communication between teachers and administrators’ (Hoy and Sweetland, 2001: 307). The Cronbach’s alpha was 0.91 for this study, demonstrating high internal reliability (Gray, 2011). Collegial Trust Collegial trust was measured by a subscale of the Omnibus Trust instrument, Omnibus T Scale (Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 1999, 2003). This scale is comprised of a 26-item, six-point Likert-type scale including three subscales: teacher trust in principal (eight items), teacher trust in students and parents (ten items), and teacher collegial trust (eight items). The choices for response ranged from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. Sample items include, ‘Teachers Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 8 Educational Management Administration & Leadership in this school are open with each other’, ‘The teachers in this school do their jobs well’, and ‘Teachers in this school trust each other’, (Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 2003: 189). The alpha coefficient of reliability for collegial trust is 0.94 (Hoy and Tschannen-Moran, 1999) and 0.91 for this study (Gray, 2011), both demonstrating high internal reliability. Academic Emphasis Academic emphasis was measured by a subscale of the Organizational Health Index (OHI), an eight-item Likert-type scale with an alpha coefficient of 0.93 (Hoy et al., 1991) and 0.89 for this study (Gray, 2011), which represent high internal reliability. Responses range from ‘rarely occurs’ to ‘very frequently occurs’ and sample items include ‘Academic achievement is recognized and acknowledged by the school’ and ‘The school sets high standards for academic performance’ (Hoy et al., 1991). Control Variables The control variables for this study include school level, elementary, middle and high school, and socioeconomic status (SES) of students enrolled in each school. It is our belief that elementary schools will be more likely to have developed PLCs than middle or high schools. Finally, the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch services, an indicator of household income and therefore socioeconomic status, will be used to determine the SES of each school of the study (Wu et al., 2012). For the sake of this study we categorized a school with more than 50% of its students eligible for free and reduced lunch services as having low socioeconomic status (NCES, 2012). The majority of the schools in the study had low socioeconomic status and thus more impoverished populations (NCES, 2012). Data Collection Approximately 3700 teachers and 190 principals and other administrators were invited to participate using the Qualtrics Research Suite™ online survey. The local teacher union, as well as the district, supported the data collection and reminders were sent out. As a result there was a 74% return rate for the surveys with 67 out of 89 schools choosing to participate. The final sample consisted of 45 elementary schools, 13 middle schools and 9 high schools. We gathered data from a large school district with enrollment of over 62,000 students, ranging from 90 to 2123 students, with a mean of 685 students per school. Each school employed from 12– 126 teachers, with a mean of 41 teachers per school. Of the 3700 invited participants, 42% had a bachelor’s degree, while 51% had a master’s degree and 4% had advanced degrees beyond a master’s degree. The overall completion rate for teacher participants was 75% (67 participated out of 89 schools invited) with the school as the unit of analysis. Because we are investigating collective, school level variables, enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis, we needed to assess the development of PLCs in the same way, as a collective, school level variable for this study (Hoy, 2012). Further, ‘the PLC model represents a set of ideas that its advocates use to harness the collective learning of school organizations in the interest of student learning’ (Johnson, 2009: 26). Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 9 Table 1. Descriptive statistics of all variables. Professional Community (PLC) Enabling Structures (ESS) Collegial Trust (CT) Academic Emphasis (AE) School Level (Level) % Free/Reduced Lunch (SES) Valid N (list wise) N Minimum Maximum Mean SD 67 67 67 67 67 67 67 2.39 2.43 3.29 1.83 1.00 .34 3.81 4.77 5.80 3.80 3.00 .99 3.0218 3.9948 4.6205 3.0205 1.4242 .7425 0.33181 0.43759 0.52674 0.47024 0.65775 0.18956 The respondents represented 42% of all teachers invited to participate (1713 surveys completed out of 4082 teachers invited), however the teacher was not the unit of analysis for this study. The 22 principals who chose not to have their schools participate mentioned time constraints, busy schedules and voluntary nature of the survey as reasons for nonparticipation (Gray, 2011). Data Analysis The independent variables for this study were enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis, while the dependent variable was the development of PLCs. The unit of analysis was the school; therefore individual respondent scores were aggregated to the school level for the independent and dependent variables of this study. The Pearson correlation coefficient was used to consider the relationship between each of the independent variables (ESS, collegial trust and academic emphasis) with the dependent variable, the development of professional learning communities, and with the other independent variables. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine the individual and collective relationships between the independent variables to the dependent variable. The control variables were SES (measured by 1 – free/reduced lunch) and school level (elementary, middle or high). Findings Hypothesis 1 was supported; all the variables were significant correlated with one another (see Table 2). Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis had significant correlations with PLCs. In Figure 2 ESS, collegial trust and academic emphasis explained approximately 68% of the variance in PLCs development over and above school level and SES. Enabling school structures made a substantial contribution to PLCs development (b ¼ 0.54, r < 0.01), while academic emphasis had a smaller effect on PLCs (b ¼ 0.32, r < 0.01) (Figure 2, Tables 3 and 4). Collegial trust did not demonstrate a significant effect of PLCs development (Figure 2, Table 3). Descriptive Analysis Our first level of analysis involved obtaining descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations of the variables in our study. The descriptive statistics for our sample of schools revealed that PLC development ranged from 2.39 to 3.81 with a mean of 3.02 and a standard deviation of 0.33. Enabling school structures ranged from 2.43 to 4.77 with a mean of 3.99 and a standard deviation of 0.44. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 10 Educational Management Administration & Leadership Table 2. Pearson correlations of all variables (N ¼ 67). Enabling Structures Collegial Trust Academic Emphasis School Level SES (1 – FRL) 0.73** 1 0.57** 0.35** 1 0.65** 0.38** 0.65** 1 –0.36** –0.17 –0.30* –0.51 1 –0.07 –0.14 0.16 0.08 0.15 1 Professional Community (PLCs) Enabling Structures (ESS) Collegial Trust (CT) Academic Emphasis (AE) School Level Socioeconomic Status (SES) Formal Notes: **Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). *Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). Enabling School Structures +.35 β = .54** +.38 Professional Collegial Trust β= .16 Learning Informal Communities +.65 β =.32** Academic Emphasis R= .84 Adjusted R²= .69 Figure 2. Conceptual diagram of hypothesized relationships with results. Note: **p < 0.01 Table 3. Regression of PLCs on ESS, collegial trust, AE, school level and SES. Coefficientsa Unstandardized Coefficients Model 1 (Constant) Enabling Structures (ESS) Collegial Trust (CT) Academic Emphasis (AE) School Level (Level) Socioeconomic Status (SES) Standardized Coefficients B SE Beta t Sig. 0.286 0.401 0.105 0.236 –0.029 –0.061 0.295 0.059 0.063 0.078 0.045 0.137 0.535 0.159 0.318 –0.055 –0.033 0.970 6.811 1.676 3.012 –0.652 –0.444 0.336 0.000 0.099 0.004 0.517 0.659 Note: Dependent Variable: PLCs Collegial trust varied from 3.29 to 5.80 with a mean of 4.62 and a standard deviation of 0.53. Academic Emphasis ranged from 1.83 to 3.80 with a mean of 3.02 and a standard deviation of 0.47. The percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch services ranged from 34% to 99% with a mean of 74% and a standard deviation of 19%. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 11 Table 4. Regression model (PLCs regressed on all variables). Model Summary Model 1 R R square Adjusted R square SE of the Estimate 0.840a 0.706 0.682 0.19652 Note: aPredictors: (Constant), Collegial Trust, Academic Emphasis, Enabling Structures, School Level, SES Bivariate Correlational Analysis Hypothesis 1, which stated ‘enabling structure, collegial trust, academic emphasis and professional learning communities will correlate with each other’, was confirmed as demonstrated in Table 2. PLC development was positively correlated with enabling school structures (r ¼ 0.73, r < 0.01), Collegial Trust (r ¼ 0.57, r < 0.01), and Academic Emphasis (r ¼ 0.65, r < 0.01). In other words, the correlations represent the greater the degree of PLC development and the higher the teachers’ perceptions of enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis, accordingly. PLC development was negatively correlated with School Level (r ¼ -0.36, r < 0.01) indicating that PLC development was higher at the elementary school level and tended to progressively decline at the middle school and high school levels. There was no significant correlation between PLC and SES, as measured by the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch services (r ¼ -0.07, r < 0.01). The 0.73 (r < 0.01) correlation for PLCs and ESS represents the strongest correlation between variables in this study, which is also significant. In other words, as teachers’ perceptions of the development of PLCs are greater, so are their perceptions about enabling school structures. The same can be said for the relationship between PLCs and collegial trust. The correlation for both Academic Emphasis and PLCs and for Academic Emphasis and Collegial Trust is 0.65 (r < 0.01), which signifies strong and significant relationships between these independent variables. The correlation of PLCs with Collegial Trust (r ¼ 0.57, p < 0.01), which is moderate to strong in a positive direction as well as significant. As one of the control variables, School Level had moderate, inverse correlations with several of the independent variables: School Level and PLCs (r ¼ 0.36 r < 0.01) and School Level and Academic Emphasis (r ¼ 0.51, r < 0.01) as demonstrated in Table 2. The other control variable, SES, was not significantly correlated with any of the variables in our study. Regression Analysis Enabling school structures had a significant positive effect on PLC development (b ¼ 0.54, r < 0.01). Academic Emphasis also shared a positive significant effect of PLCs (b ¼ 0.32, r < 0.01). Collegial Trust and the control variables did not demonstrate a significant effect on the development of PLCs (see Table 3). In Table 4 the dependent variable, PLCs, is regressed on ESS, CT, AE, Level and SES. Together ESS, collegial trust and academic emphasis explained approximately 69% of the variance in PLC development over and above school level and SES (Table 4, Figure 2). Scholarly and Practical Significance of the Study This study demonstrates the importance and necessity of enabling school structure, collegial trust and academic emphasis, yet the regression reveals that the structural dimension has more effect Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 12 Educational Management Administration & Leadership than the relational dimension as represented by the trust variable. The empirical findings demonstrate the importance of establishing enabling school structures as an antecedent to the development of professional learning communities. The reciprocal relationship of ESS and PLCs confirms the hypotheses and shows that one depends upon the other for sustenance. Practically, this study suggests that the development of PLCs that foster increased collaboration and in turn, attention to student learning outcomes rests on a school leader’s ability to foster these conditions and factors. Therefore, this study further adds to our knowledge of professional learning communities and to the field of literature. Theoretical Implications This study asserts that any structural implementation, in this case, professional learning communities, must be built upon a foundation from both the informal and formal organization. The formal structure of the PLC allows change, as it relates to classroom instruction and assessment practice, to be institutionalized within the school organization. In turn, change that may have been resisted becomes a more routine function of the school (Hord, 2004). Acting as a change agent within the school the principal may share, distribute or intensify the power of the formal organization through increased opportunities to be part of school decision making and leadership (Hord, 2004; Kruse and Louis, 2009). Informally, it may be that PLCs provide the structure in which trust is developed and in turn, creates the conditions that foster change and innovation. Following a long history in the PLC research (Hord, 2007; Hoy and Sweetland, 2000; Huffman and Hipp, 2003; Kruse and Louis, 1993a, 1993b; Louis and Kruse, 1995; Louis and Marks, 1998; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001, 2006;) this study confirms that both structural and social and human resource conditions must be in place for a professional learning community to be established in a school. In particular, data here suggest that both formal and informal aspects of the organization contribute to the development of PLCs. Our data suggest that enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis are antecedents to the development of a professional learning community. This finding is not surprising; it makes sense that the operational aspects of organizational leadership provide a foundation for the development of social and professional relationships among faculty, staff and community. What is interesting, we believe, is the finding that formal organizational structures appear to be a necessary condition for community building. In this way, our study suggests that school leaders must attend to the development of the formal organization as the means to attain their end goals of student learning. In this way, efforts that rely on the simultaneous development of the formal and informal organization may be less fruitful than those who attend first to enabling structures. Our implication is supported by Hoy (2002: 91) who contends ‘when school structure was enabling, teachers trust each other, demonstrate professional autonomy, are not bound by rigid rules, and do not feel powerless’. Enabling school structures allow the principal to ‘foster trust and value differences’ in order to support organizational learning (Hoy, 2002: 89). Because PLCs are sub-organizational elements, they maintain features of organizations generally; in varying degrees they have centralization, specialization and formalization (Hoy and DiPaola, 2008; Mintzberg, 1983). We contend that enabling structures are essential for the formalization and centralization within professional learning communities. Our findings further support those of DiPaola and Hoy (2008) who contend that principals may empower teachers by encouraging initiative and fostering Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 13 trust via formalization, while promoting collaboration, cooperation and innovation via the centralization of the organization. This study demonstrates the necessity and importance of enabling school structures and collegial trust, yet the regression indicates that the structural dimension has more effect than the trust variable. The empirical findings emphasize the importance of established enabling school structures as an antecedent of professional learning communities (Gray, 2011). One cannot exist or be sustained without the others. This reciprocal relationship confirms the hypotheses, further extending what is known about professional learning communities (see Table 2). Prior to this study, the importance of establishing enabling school structures in professional learning communities, as described by Hord, had not been addressed (Gray, 2011). Therefore, this research adds to our knowledge about PLCs as well as to the field of literature. Limitations While our findings are thought provoking and provide evidence of the importance of enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis in the development of PLCs, this study took place in one large metropolitan school district in the southeast and may not be generalizable to other contexts. We are cautious in interpreting our findings because of the possibility of multicollinearity between the independent variables (Cohen and Cohen, 1983), as some items in the PLCA-R are similar to items in the ESS and AE instruments. However, we were able to eliminate the possibility of multicollinearity with further statistical analysis. The Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) for each variable was ‘less than ten’, which allows us to rule out multicollinearity as an issue (Lomax, 2001: 63). Finally, the tolerance effect for each factor was less than .90, which is not considered to be an issue of multicollinearity (Lomax, 2001). We also acknowledge there can be limitations in the use of instruments with different Likert-type responses (Norman, 2010). That is to say that comparing a scale with four options for response (PLCA-R and AE) with another with five options (ESS) or six options (Omnibus Trust) may not yield the same results. Therefore, we should be cautious in interpreting these items and making ‘inferences about differences in the underlying, latent, characteristic reflected in the Likert numbers, but this does not invalidate conclusions about the numbers’ (Norman, 2010: 629). Conclusion We acknowledge that it can take years for a school to develop an effective professional learning community with much effort on the part of the teachers and school leaders. Bolam et al. (2005: 3) purport that ‘the idea of a PLC is one well worth pursuing as a means of promoting school and system-wide capacity building for sustainable improvement and pupil learning’. This study demonstrates the relationships between enabling school structures, collegial trust, academic emphasis and collective efficacy in developing professional learning communities and addresses a gap in the literature. If PLCs offer schools a model for reform and school improvement, and we believe the literature supports their potential, then educators and school leaders should work together to develop the structures and trust necessary to build these communities of learning. 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(NCES) National Center for Education Statistics (2012) ‘Improving the measurement of socioeconomic status for the national assessment of educational progress: a theoretical foundation’. A report for the National Assessment Governing Board, 1–37, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED542101). Norman G (2010) Likert scales, levels of measurement and the ‘laws’ of statistics. Advances in Health Science Education 15: 625–632. Olivier DF, Hipp KK and Huffman JB (2003) Professional learning community assessment. In: Huffman JB and Hipp KK (eds) Professional Learning Communities: Initiation to Implementation. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 133–141, 171–173. Olivier DF and Hipp KK (2010) Assessing and analysing schools as professional learning communities. In: Hipp KK and Huffman JB (eds) Demystifying Professional Learning Communities: School Leadership At Its Best. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 29–41. Senge PM (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York, NY: Doubleday. Serrat O (2009) A primer on organizational learning. Knowledge Solutions Asian Development Bank, Available at: http://www.adb.org/documents/information/knowledge-solutions/primer-on-organizationalculture.pdf (accessed 12 November 2010). Spillane JP (2005) Primary school leadership practice: how the subject matters. School Leadership and Management 25(4): 383–397. Supowitz JA (2002) Developing communities of instructional practice. Teachers College Record 104(8): 1591–1626. Tschannen-Moran M (2004) Trust Matters. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Tschannen-Moran M and Hoy W (1998) A conceptual and empirical analysis of trust in schools. Journal of Educational Administration 36: 334–352. Wahlstrom K and Louis K (2008) How teachers experience principal leadership: the roles of professional community, trust, efficacy, and shared responsibility. Educational Administration Quarterly 44(4): 458–495. Wu JH, Hoy WK, Hoy AW and Tarter CJ (2012) Enabling school structure, collective responsibility, and a culture of academic optimism: toward a robust model of school performance in Taiwan. Journal of Educational Administration 51(2): 176–193. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016 Gray et al.: Enabling school structures, collegial trust and academic emphasis 17 Author biographies Julie Gray, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership at the University of West Florida. Her research interests include professional learning communities, trust, enabling school structures, collective efficacy and academic optimism. Sharon Kruse is a professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Akron. Her recent books include Building Strong School Cultures: A Guide to Leading Change (with Karen Seashore Louis). C. John Tarter is a professor of Educational Administration at The University of Alabama. His research interests are in organizational theory and decision making. His work has appeared in the Educational Administration Quarterly, the Journal of School Leadership, and the Journal of Educational Administration. Downloaded from ema.sagepub.com at Northcentral University on November 9, 2016
Teachers’ Perceptions and Implementation of Professional Learning Communities in a Large Suburban High School Gloria J. Peppers Abstract: Today’s educators face many challenges in learning environments. The purpose of this study was to explore teachers’ perceptions prior to the implementation of professional learning communities (PLCs) and after the implementation of PLCs in a large suburban high school. This study was a narrative ethnography study that used faceto-face, open-ended semi-structured interviews to collect data from core discipline teachers in a large suburban high school. The theoretical framework for the study was based on constructivism, social constructivism, and andragogy theories relating to professional development, which encompasses a community of learners for improving teaching and student learning. The findings revealed that PLCs have been successful in teachers’ professional development; that collaboration, sharing, planning, and effective transformational leadership is vital to professional development; and teachers’ perception and implementation of PLCs do influence the schools’ learning environment. The findings of this qualitative study will add to the body of research addressing teachers’ perceptions and implementation of the PLC model. About the author: Dr. Gloria J. Peppers is a recent PhD graduate of Capella University. She is a retired Texas Public School Educator and Administrator. Her doctoral specialization is Professional Studies in Education with emphasis on Educational Administration and Leadership and Higher Education. Keywords: accountability, collaboration, empowerment, leadership, perceptions, professional development, professional learning communities (PLCs) INTRODUCTION Outside community influence for accountability in schools and school districts is exerting increased pressure. Teacher retention and mobility, as well as student achievement and the continuing challenge to meet standards to improve academic performance that focuses on learning environments in schools are all factors of concern. Fullan (1991) recommended, “A redesign of the workplace, so that innovative and improvements were built into the daily activities of teachers” (p. 353). Thus, the creation and development of PLCs was implemented in many schools’ learning environments. Many educational theorists, such as Chin and Benne (1969) and House (1981) have concluded, that if good change were suggested, people of good intention would embrace effective school leadership and most likely would adopt National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 the change for educational improvement. Overall, PLCs were designed to focus on communities of professionals embracing and working collegially and collectively to improve student learning by engaging in continuous collective learning on their own as well as seeking and empowering others in a community of professionals (Hord & Sommers, 2008). This study concentrated on teachers’ perceptions and implementation of PLCs in a large suburban high school, focusing on students’ retention and achievement, retention of teachers, and teachers’ views of leadership in a schools’ learning environment. DuFour et al. (2008) and Eaker and Keating (2012) indicated these factors are essential in creating, integrating, and sustaining a successful PLC engaged in this new school reform initiative in public education. Winter 2015 25 AN OVERVIEW OF PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES The creation of PLCs is a new professional development model that has a positive impact on school improvement. In addition, research has shown that when schools operates as PLCs, a context for change that is conducive to the organization and individuals, led by an effective transformational leader, as a whole requires substantial and continuous improvement in public education Cowan (as cited in Huffman & Hipp, 2008, p.75). Stoll et al. (2006) stated that, as learning communities evolve, as a strategy for professional development on a wider scale, there is a small but emerging literature that analyzes PLC models and their impact on teaching practice and student learning. “The use of professional learning communities is the best, least expensive, most professionally rewarding way to improve schools…Such communities hold out immense unprecedented hope for schools and the improvement of teaching” Schmoker (as cited in DuFour et al., 2008, p.67). The Federal Schools and Staffing Surveys of 1999, 2003, 2004, reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, evaluated the status of professional learning in US schools, and their trends over time. The results of the findings indicated that many educational systems are developing and improving upon their understandings of what is involved in exemplary professional learning, as reported by the National Staff Development Council (2007). The surveys disclosed evidence that exponentially there are numbers of schools and districts are providing high-quality support for their teachers. However, these surveys concluded that well-designed professional development is still limited, and few of the nation’s teachers have access to regular opportunities for in-depth learning in their school setting. The survey conducted in 2003-2004 indicated that almost all US teachers 92% participated in workshops, conferences, or other training sessions over the previous 12 months as compared to 95% in the 1999-2000 survey. Additionally, the report indicated, the percentage of teachers who took university teaching courses as an alternative to on-site professional development ranged from 15% in Texas to 79% in Idaho. In addition, another trend the survey data revealed, that nationally about 83% of teachers took advantage of learning opportunities, ranging from 75% in Wisconsin to 94% in New Hampshire. The survey focused on the teachers’ academic content. 26 Winter 2015 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK SUPPORTING PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES The theoretical framework supporting professional learning communities include constructivism, social constructivism, and andragogy, which have a powerful impact on PLCs. During the 20th century and moving toward the 21st century, these theoretical frameworks are embraced in most educational environments (Barnett, & Jones, Kilpatrick, 2003). Constructivism is a theory that is used as a basis for teaching. Windschitl (2002) posited it is a unique theoretical perspective providing a heuristic framework for teachers. It has been proposed that professional learning communities should be implemented as a vehicle to engage school staffs in meaningful learning, which can lead to increased and improved student achievement in the 21st century, an era of globalization (DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Hord, 1997; McLaughlin, 1993; Newman, & Wehlage, 1995; Senge, 1990). In addition, another theory illustrated by Vygotsky (1978) involves the theory of social constructivism, which moves away from the individual process of learning to one that recognizes the contribution of others to the learning process. Additionally, social constructivism emphasizes the importance of understanding culture and the context in society based on how knowledge is constructed (Derry, 1999; McMahon, 1997). The organizational structure encompassing the professional learning community approach is grounded in adult learning theory or andragogy (Morrow, 2010). The adult learner role should involve taking an active role in planning (Holton, Knowles, & Swanson, 2005). In other words, the principle of andragogy involves creating an atmosphere for mutual planning in the organization. Adult learners tend to feel uncommitted to any decision or activity when they feel the event is being imposed on them without their input in the learning process (Zepeda, 1999). On the other hand, understanding what motivates adults to grow and learn enhances professional development and helps the school district or school to become a community of learners (Zepeda, 1999). In addition, Senge (1990) defined “mental models” as the cognitive structures that are the results of an individual’s experiences (p. 174). Senge suggested mental models enable employees to function efficiently on a day-to-day basis. To become effective learners adults need to identify their mental models, test them, and then learn how to change them. He added the results could lead to powerful improvement in individual and organizational learning as well as performance (p. 174). National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 METHODS This qualitative research design included narrative and ethnographic processes in studying teachers’ perceptions of PLCs prior to and following their implementation in a large suburban high school learning environment. The large suburban high school at which this study was conducted is the most recently built of four high schools in the district. The current enrollment is more than 3,300 students in grades nine through 12. The participants were teachers at this large suburban high school. The eight participants in this study represented teachers who were on-site prior to the implementation of PLCs and who are currently engaged in PLCs at this level. Currently, there are 190 teachers teaching the core disciplines as well as Pre-AP and AP (advancement placement), including Dual Credit, and elective classes. The school has an ethnic breakdown of 11.7% African American, 26.4% Hispanics, 52.9% Caucasian, 8.3% Asian, and 0.7% others. The leadership team is composed of the principal, five associate principals, and five assistant principals as well as nine counselors, two registrars, and four special services case managers. Results The results of this study illustrated in this learning environment, that when the school district, schoolteachers, and administrators work together in a community of practice, student learning is successful, according to the National Staff Development Council (2007). There were four research questions used to report the results of data collected from the face-to-face open-ended semi-structured interview questions. The questions are: (1) How do the professional l e a r n i n g communities (PLCS) influence retention and achievement of students, retention of teachers, and teachers’ views of leadership? The participants’ responses for this question focused on describing in-depth content addressing teachers’ perceptions and implementation of PLCs, provided content that highlighted school factors that increase student achievement e.g., viable curriculum; teachers perspectives and the effective on-site scheduled professional development meetings as well as the advantages and disadvantages of PLCs. Additionally, responses from respondents included transformational leadership and its importance as it relates to PLCs and teachers’ views of leadership at this campus site. According to Mitchell, Sackney, Toole, and Louis (as National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 cited in Stoll & Louis, 2007, pp. 2-3) noted, this is a school initiative and model that has been interpreted to demonstrate a group of teachers sharing and critically critiquing their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented, growthpromoting way through engaging in professional development. These authors addressed, most importantly, PLCs have forced those on student learning. Another feature that was elaborated on during these interview sessions was the element of teacher morale. It is well known by educators in the field that stakeholders work harder when there is a sense of ownership, which involve being empowered in the decision making process. Most teachers will go to the ends of the earth for an administrator who allows them to share in decisionmaking (Scherer, 2003, p. 191). (2) How do leadership practices influence the development and sustainability of PLCs when collaboration and empowerment is not entrenched in the learning environment? Building capacity for improvement is imperative in helping schools to sustain the PLC model of professional development. Crowther and colleagues (as cited in Andrews & Lewis, 2004) suggested that “sustaining is about building on the knowledge that has been created and implemented now and into the future of professional development for all educators; it is about continual refinement and the building of enhanced identity and capacity” (p. 137). According to (Hipp & Huffman, 2010) for a reform to be sustained, it must become institutionalized (p. 121). (3) How do teachers’ perceptions changed toward student learning because of the implementation of PLCs? The most important function of educational reform is to build a collaborative educational foundation involving professional growth of teachers because teachers are the heart and soul of sustaining educational reform such as PLCs. Morrow (as cited in Darling-Hammond, 1998) writes “The quality of a teacher is the most important predictor of student success” (P. 10). The level of meaning found in a PLC instills a sense of empowerment, purpose, and accountability (Morrow, 2010). The data revealed in this study illustrated that teachers perceived that PLCs at this site supports collaboration, collegiality, empowerment, and relevant learning. Winter 2015 27 (4) How do teachers’ perceptions changed toward the leadership in a school because of collaboration, empowerment, and communication of PLCs? Research conducted by educational researchers indicates that, school leadership contribute to school effectiveness and student academic performance by actions and leadership skills they take to influence and what impacts their school and classroom (Hallinger, 2003). Consequently, transformational leadership has been adopted in the educational community over the past decade as the leadership model used in transforming the day-to-day routine in PLCs. In other words, Leithwood’s model as noted by Hallinger encompasses the components of support, shared goals, vision, capacity building, in which teachers engage in continuous learning and high expectations, collaboration, and empowerment, which are illustrated in the model of PLCs and professional development. For example, transformational leaders create a climate in which teachers engage in continuous learning and in which they routinely share their learning with others. Subsequently, the school leader is creating the environment, which others are committed and selfmotivated to work towards the improvement of the school without the influence of top-down management (Hallinger, 2003). FINDINGS The findings of the face-to-face open-ended semistructured interview questions revealed that PLCs have been successful in teachers’ professional development. The model has alleviated teachers working in isolation, and instead has established collegiality and a shared learning environment for all members of the learning community. Evidence from the findings indicated that providing opportunities for professional dialogue appear to be advantageous due to the organizational structure of each core discipline department, which enhances more collaboration. process for turning information into knowledge (Hargreaves & Giles, 2003). The findings offered by responses from teachers indicated that the sustainability of PLCs would survive and become the panacea for professional development at all levels of the learning environments. The participants’ in-depth information provided strong support for the implementation of PLCs at this campus site, even though; in the past the concept of teams was used but not mandated prior to the implementation of PLCs. The concept of teams was used as another lens of school reform prior to the PLC model. However, for PLCs to be effective in schools, they must be organized 28 Winter 2015 through professional subgroups or departments because teachers develop a sense of allegiance and a close social culture with their colleagues. The study showed that the implementation of PLCs in high school is beneficial, particularly due to the size and student population. In addition, another finding from this research revealed that the time factor of PLCs presents problems for teachers because of excessive meetings, which takes away planning time as well as preventing time to conference with needed students. Additionally, PLCs are stifling teachers’ creativity and not focusing on diverse learners and their ability levels. The consensus on this campus is that leadership is the critical component of a successful PLC. In order for a PLC to function at its best, there have to be strong team leaders who understand the goals of what their PLCs should accomplish. To achieve this goal each member in a PLC should attend PLC training in order to have a better understanding of his or her roles and responsibilities. Most importantly, the findings from this study as reflected in the literature suggest that whole communities need to work and learn together to find the best ways to enhance and improve teacher and student learning. DeMonte (2013) suggested that in many ways professional development is the link between design and implementation of education reform and the ultimate success of reform efforts in schools. In fact, based on the literature in this study, teachers are the key ingredient in improving schools’ learning environments. RECOMMENDATION FOR PRACTICE The findings from this narrative ethnography study is a small sample of eight high school teachers in one suburban high school in Texas that will add to existing research data about teachers’ perceptions and implementation of PLCs in a large suburban high school 9-12 of up to 3,5000 students. The findings also revealed that teachers who actively engaged in PLCs will increase their professional knowledge to improve and to enhance student-learning outcomes that will lead to success. It is also assumed that the findings indicate teachers should be provided opportunities to collaborate and brainstorm as a group, thus affording them time to help each subgroup of students succeed. However, it is imperative to note that shifting practice and improving student achievement lies in the hands of teachers who need to be part of shaping and implementing school reform initiative such as PLCs. National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 This research implies that PLCs do establish bonds between and among teachers. It is anticipated that PLCs will strengthen the delivery of instruction for students. The following are recommendations based on the findings from this narrative ethnography study. 1. To enhance professional development, it is recommended that school districts work in collaboration with universities to create and develop partnerships in providing continuous support and learning reinforcement to core teachers in the application theoretical concepts and best practices for teacher and student learning. 2. The school district should create a liaison coordinator position that would allow collaboration with higher education institutions curriculum and instructional departments to align course offerings to high school level requirements and state mandated recommendations and standards. 3. The school site should provide training using outside experts regarding the appropriate methods for the implementation of PLCs. 4. The school and school district should work with educational researchers to assess the strength and the direction of current data that would reinforce and emphasize instructional planning and preparation for increased student achievement. 5. The administration should engage in promoting a process, which would provide commitment, accountability, and a genuine and actual shared leadership between teachers and administrators. National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 CONCLUDING REMARKS In concluding, the results and findings of this narrative ethnography study revealed that teachers’ perceptions and implementation of PLCs do influence the schools’ learning environment. Based on the face-to-face semistructured interviews, PLCs presents advantages and disadvantages in secondary high school systems. The themes emerged from the findings suggest there are numerous factors that illustrate the importance of PLCs and professional development, such as continuous learning, ongoing exploration, collaboration, empowerment, and effective leadership, which are essential elements in sustaining PLCs in schools. Consequently, effective and academically successful schools are supporting and implementing the new paradigm of PLCs as a vehicle to improve performance of teaching and student learning. There is a need to continue to add to the body of research addressing teachers’ perceptions and implementation of the PLC model in the study site. The vision for this school reform agenda is to require most teachers to rethink their own practice to build on new classroom roles and expectations about student outcomes, and to teach in ways they have never taught before to produce a productive society of learners for a more globalized world. Winter 2015 29 REFERENCES Barnett, M., Jones, T., & Kilpatrick, S. (2003). Defining learning communities. Faculty of Education. University of Tasmania, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.aare.au/03pap/jon03441.pdf Chin, R., & Benne, K. D. (1969). General strategies for effecting changes in human systems. In W.G. Bennis, K.D. Benne, & R. Chin (Eds). 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Every school, every team, every classroom: District leadership for growing professional learning communities. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service. Fullan, M. (1991). The new meaning of educational change. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Hallinger, P. (2003). Leading educational change: Reflection on the practice of instructional and transformational leadership. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 329-351. 30 Winter 2015 doi: 10.1080/0305764032000122005 Hargreaves, A., & Giles, C. (2003). The knowledge society school: An endangered entity. In A. Hargreaves, Teaching in the knowledge society: Education in the age of insecurity. Maidenhead and Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press. Holton, E. F., Knowles, M. S., & Swanson, R. A. (2005). Adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Inc. Hord, S. (1997). Professional learning communities: What are they and why are they important. Southwest Educational Developmental Laboratory Issues…about Change, 6(1), 1-9. Retrieved from www.sedl.org/change/issues/ issues61.html Hord, S. M., & Sommers, W. A. (2008). Leading professional learning communities: Voices from research and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. House, E. R. (1981). Three perspectives in innovation. In R. Lehming and M. Kane (Eds.), Improving schools: Using what we know (pp. 17-41). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. (2003). Reculturing schools as professional learning communities. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education. Hipp, K.K., & Huffman, J. B. (2010). Demystifying professional learning communities: Schoolleadership at its best. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education. McLaughlin, M. (1993). What matters most in teachers’ workplace context. In J. W. Little & M. McLaughlin (Eds.), Teachers’ Individuals colleagues, and context work. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. McMahon, M. (1997, December). Social constructivism and the world wide web: A paradigm for learning. Paper presented at the ASCILITE Conference. Perth, Australia. National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 Morrow, J. (2010). Teachers’ perceptions of professional learning communities as opportunities for promoting professional growth (Doctoral dissertation). Appalachian State University. Retrieved from http://www.uncg.edu National Staff Development Council (2009). The NSDC standards: Collaboration skills. Retrieved from http://www.nsdc.org/standards/ learningcommunities.cfm Newman, F. M., & Wehlage, G. G. (1995). Successful school restricting. Madison, WI: Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools. School of Education. University of WisconsinMadison. Scherer, M. (2003). Keeping good teachers. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: he art and practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday. Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of Educational Change, 7, 221-258. Stoll, L., & Seashore Louis, K. (2007). Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. New York, NY: Open University Press. Windschitl, M. (2002). Framing constructivism in practice as the negotiation of dilemmas: An analysis of the conceptual, pedagogical, cultural, and political challenges facing teachers.Review of Educational Research, 72(2), 131-175. Retrieved from http://reraera. net Zepeda, S. J. (1999). Staff development: Practices that promote leadership in learning communities. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education. National Teacher Education Journal • Volume 8, Number 1 Winter 2015 31 Copyright of National Teacher Education Journal is the property of National Teacher Education Journal and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
J Sci Teacher Educ (2013) 24:1201–1218 DOI 10.1007/s10972-012-9320-1 Enhancing Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching With Professional Learning Communities Joel J. Mintzes • Bev Marcum • Christl Messerschmidt-Yates • Andrew Mark Published online: 30 October 2012  The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2012 Abstract Emerging from Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, this study of inservice elementary school teachers examined the effects of sustained Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) on self-efficacy in science teaching. Based on mixed research methods, and a non-equivalent control group experimental design, the investigation explored changes in personal self-efficacy and outcome expectancy among teachers engaged in PLCs that featured Demonstration Laboratories, Lesson Study, and annual Summer Institutes. Significant changes favoring the experimental group were found on all quantitative measures of self-efficacy. Structured clinical interviews revealed that observed changes were largely attributable to a wide range of direct (mastery) and vicarious experiences, as well as emotional reinforcement and social persuasion. Keywords Self-efficacy  Science teaching  Professional Learning Community Introduction Decades of research in elementary science teaching have produced a wealth of findings on such central questions as: How much time, effort and budgetary J. J. Mintzes (&)  B. Marcum  C. Messerschmidt-Yates  A. Mark Department of Science Education, College of Natural Sciences, California State University, Chico, CA 95929, USA e-mail: jmintzes@csuchico.edu B. Marcum e-mail: bmarcum@csuchico.edu C. Messerschmidt-Yates e-mail: cmesserschmidt-yates@csuchico.edu A. Mark e-mail: andy-jill@mindspring.com 123 1202 J. J. Mintzes et al. resources are typically devoted to science in the elementary school curriculum? What factors limit or constrain the quality and quantity of science instruction students receive? And most importantly, what can be done to ensure that elementary school children leave our classrooms with a level of scientific literacy that prepares them for further learning, and ultimately for competing in the international economy? Not surprisingly, the overwhelming weight of evidence points to the teacher as the pivotal player in all of these issues. Unfortunately, with many exceptions, it appears that elementary school teachers have a largely negative attitude toward science, do not understand it, tend to be anxious about teaching it, allocate less classroom time to it than other subjects, rely heavily on recitation, worksheets and textbooks and, through their actions and emotions, pass their negative feelings on to their students (Duschl 1983; Shrigley 1974; Tilger 1990; Weiss et al. 2001). Because teachers often feel defensive and inadequately prepared to teach science, teacher educators have begun to explore where best to intervene in this potentially vicious cycle. Substantial work on self-efficacy (Ashton and Webb 1986; Ramey-Gassert and Shroyer 1986) suggests that much can be done to improve elementary teaching and learning by enhancing teachers’ perceptions of their own abilities to affect positive change in their work with children. More recently, several studies have demonstrated the value of extensive instructional support through PLCs (Britton 2010), Lesson Study (Sibbald 2009), and practical, hands-on experiences (Marcum and Heaston 2011). This study investigated the cumulative effects on self-efficacy of these interventions embodied in an intensive, 3 year, whole school, in-service professional development program. Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching Bandura’s (1977, 1982) Social Learning Theory has served as a useful theoretical framework for exploring the effects of efforts designed to enhance self-efficacy in elementary science teachers. At the heart of the theory is the self-efficacy construct which Bandura describes as, ‘‘judgments about how well one can organize and execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations that contain many ambiguous, unpredictable, and often stressful, elements.’’ In basic terms, it is a measure of an individual’s confidence in his or her ability to successfully engage in a complex task. Individuals who demonstrate high levels of self-efficacy approach difficult tasks as challenges to be overcome, setting high goals and persisting in efforts to achieve them. Those with lower levels of self-efficacy tend to avoid difficult or stressful tasks, setting lower goals and disengaging when faced with a challenge. Bandura suggests that an individual’s confidence reflects a self-assessment of one’s ability to perform the task (personal self-efficacy) as well as his or her expectation that performing the task will result in a desirable outcome (outcome expectancy). In the context of science education, personal self-efficacy may be reflected in a teacher’s confidence about implementing an elementary school science program or an inquiry-based science strategy. On the other hand, outcome 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1203 expectancy may be a judgment about how likely it is that such a program or strategy, if appropriately implemented, will help children achieve a desired behavior or level of performance. In theory, Bandura recognizes four ‘‘sources’’ or contributors to self-efficacy: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, physical and emotional states, and social persuasion. For an elementary school teacher, an authentic opportunity to successfully practice teaching an inquiry-based science lesson might be expected to contribute substantially to a feeling of self-efficacy. Similarly, observing others skillfully teaching such a lesson could provide a vicarious experience, while actively participating in a community of like-minded professionals and receiving constructive feedback from peers could offer additional emotional support. Observing children successfully engage in lessons planned by a community of teachers suggests a way of confirming the positive outcomes of one’s efforts. Rather than a generalized personality trait, self-efficacy is viewed as contextually dependent. An elementary school teacher may, for example, demonstrate strong selfefficacy in English/language arts but less so in mathematics or social studies. Recognizing this, science educators have devoted considerable energy to developing and validating instruments for assessing self-efficacy in science teaching. The earliest and most widely used of these instruments is the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) developed by Riggs (1988) and Riggs and Enochs (1990). More recently, Smolleck et al. (2006) developed the Teaching Science as Inquiry (TSI) instrument based on the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 2000). The emergence of the self-efficacy construct and the development of instruments to measure it have stimulated considerable research activity in the past 25 years. Accordingly, a significant effort has gone into characterizing individuals who express unusually high levels of self-efficacy in an effort to identify those who might make strong candidates for science teaching. Other efforts have focused on developing and implementing professional development models that might enhance self-efficacy in pre-service and in-service teachers. To date, this research program has generated a wealth of potentially useful knowledge. Of the variables that have been investigated, a handful has been shown to correlate significantly with high levels of self-efficacy in science teaching, including: the number and quality of high school science courses taken (Mullholland et al. 2004; Watters and Ginns 1995); the number of college science courses taken (Enochs et al. 1995); conceptual understanding of central ideas in science (Schoone and Boone 1998); years of elementary school science teaching (Cantrell, Young and Moore 2003; Liu et al. 2003); a science teaching methods course (Yilmaz-Tuzun 2008), and a preference for activity-based rather than textbookbased instruction (Enochs et al. 1995). Not surprisingly, these findings suggest that the highest levels of self-efficacy are found in those who have a strong science background and an inclination to engage in reform-based teaching practices. Unfortunately, a large proportion of elementary school teachers and teacher candidates have inadequate preparation in and poor understanding of science, and tend to cling to ‘‘safe and familiar’’ teaching practices (Gess-Newsome 2001). This suggests a need to investigate new approaches to pre-service and in-service efforts as a way to mitigate these circumstances. 123 1204 J. J. Mintzes et al. Self-Efficacy and Professional Learning To date, efforts designed to enhance self-efficacy in elementary science teachers have focused overwhelmingly on preservice programs. The findings of these studies suggest that even relatively conventional science methods courses can boost teachers’ self-efficacy (Hechter 2011; Palmer 2006). However, very substantial changes in self-efficacy have been reported in courses that implement each of the following components: community-based service learning (Cone 2009), cases and case methods (Yoon et al. 2006), scaffolded, student-directed inquiry (Liang and Richardson 2009), early field experiences in science teaching (Cannon and Scharmann 1996; McDonnough and Matkins 2010), and hands on science activities (Bleicher 2007). Surprisingly, the number of studies devoted to the effects of in-service professional development programs on self-efficacy in science teaching has been modest. Bearing directly on the current study are recent reports focusing on several related, newly emerging approaches including, PLCs (Hamos and Bergin 2009; Lakshmanan et al. 2011), Japanese Lesson Study (Murata and Takahashi 2002; Puchner and Taylor 2006; Roberts 2010; Sibbald 2009), and university-based, Demonstration Laboratories (Marcum and Heaston 2011). The term, ‘‘Professional Learning Community (PLC),’’ has been applied to ‘‘an ongoing process through which teachers and administrators work collaboratively to seek and share learning and to act on their learning, their goal being to enhance their effectiveness as professionals for students’ benefit (Hord 1997).’’ Another definition suggests that a PLC constitutes a ‘‘group of people sharing and critically interrogating their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclusive, learning-oriented and growth-promoting way (McREL 2003).’’ However, it is defined, the PLC is a group of teachers and administrators meeting together on a regular basis to improve student learning. The methods used to accomplish these goals are diverse and varied. In a comprehensive review of hundreds of papers spanning the years 1995–2010, Britton (2010) uncovered 50 well-designed and well-executed empirical studies that evaluated the effects of PLCs in STEM disciplines. Overall, he found that PLCs can: (1) engage teachers in discussion about science and science teaching or their understanding of it, (2) advance teachers’ preparedness to teach science and improve their attitude toward it, and (3) increase teachers’ focus on students’ thinking in science. One especially promising form of PLC is the Lesson Study, a version of professional development that is widely practiced at virtually all elementary schools in Japan and has been implemented at hundreds of sites across the United States in the past 15 years (Kelley 2002; Lewis 2002). In the formal practice of Lesson Study, 4–6 teachers working at the same school and grade level engage in weekly group meetings after school with an administrator and outside adviser. A complete Lesson Study cycle consists of several stages: (1) research and preparation (teachers jointly draw up a detailed plan for a study lesson), (2) implementation (one teacher presents the lesson to a real class while other members observe), (3) reflection and improvement (the group convenes to discuss, dissect and critically 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1205 analyze their observations), and (4) second implementation and reflection (a different teacher presents the improved lesson to a second class while others observe, and the group reconvenes to discuss the lesson). Although this form of iterative improvement has been widely disseminated, only a handful of studies has explored its effects on teachers’ self efficacy in STEM disciplines. The findings of two studies (Puchner and Taylor 2006; Sibbald 2009) suggest that Lesson Study can substantially boost self efficacy in the teaching of elementary school mathematics, while a third study (Roberts 2010) reported similar findings among secondary school science teachers. The implementation of university-based, Demonstration Laboratories such as that in place at the National University of Singapore offers an additional model of professional development in elementary school science (www.science.nus.edu.sg/ outreach/demolab/). Similar efforts are underway at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (www.cesame.calpoly.edu/programs-lbdl.html) and California State University, Chico (www.csuchico.edu/cmse/k-12_student_programs/hands-on_lab.shtml). These laboratories offer hands on activities for elementary school children and are facilitated by pre-service university interns and observed by in-service teachers. In so doing, the laboratories provide a unique vehicle for concurrently developing and testing instructional materials, inducting novices into the teaching profession, and supporting in-service teachers who seek professional renewal. The CSU Chico ‘‘Hands On Lab’’, for example, has served 1,800 undergraduates, 500 teachers, and 27,000 school children since its inception in 2002. One study conducted at CSU Chico (Marcum and Heaston 2011), documented a positive and significant shift in self-efficacy among pre-service teachers working in the lab. To date however, no work has focused on the effects of this experience on in-service teachers. Method Participants Participants in this study were 116 elementary school teachers representing two geographically proximate school districts in the Northern California Sacramento Valley. All K-5 teachers (N = 55) employed in the Grand Valley Unified School District1 served as the experimental group. The comparison group (N = 61) of teachers was randomly chosen from nearby Mountain View Joint Unified School District. Grand Valley schools has a total enrollment of 900 students in grades K-5 of whom 56 % are Latino and 70 % are on free or reduced lunch regimes; about 40 % of all students are English Language Learners (ELLs). Although Mountain View is a considerably larger school district, the proportion of ELLs is about the same as Grand Valley, and the teaching staff at the elementary school level is quite comparable. In both communities the teacher population is quite stable and the average length of service approximates 15 years. 1 Grand Valley and Mountain View are pseudonyms for two public school districts located in Northern California. 123 1206 J. J. Mintzes et al. Professional Learning Communities Grade level PLCs were established at Grand Valley School, early in Year One. Each community consisted of 4–5 teachers who met biweekly to discuss, analyze, plan, implement and assess inquiry-based science lessons, and the integration of science with English/Language Arts instruction. The centerpieces of PLC discussions were two university-based, Demonstration Laboratories, one designed for grades K-3 and another for grades 4–5. Each of these laboratories served as a model of excellence in curriculum design, implementation and assessment, as a center of innovation in teaching and learning, and as a platform for observing children and undergraduate interns. During the course of this project, each teacher and his or her class visited the Laboratory once a semester for a period of approximately 90 min each. During the visit, children moved through a series of stations which were designed to introduce conceptually-based science activities aligned to the state’s elementary science standards. Teacher observations in the Demonstration Laboratory focused on children’s prior knowledge and their understanding of scientific concepts. Facilitated discussions stemming from these Laboratory observations provided an entry point into the processes of Lesson Study. A modified form of Lesson Study served as the model for professional collaboration. The work progressed in three stages: (1) Lesson Design and Introduction in the Demonstration Laboratory; (2) Grade Level Analysis and Planning; (3) Revision and Classroom Implementation. In sequence, teachers designed a series of basic, grade level lessons and observed university undergraduate interns who facilitated the lessons. Subsequently, teachers met to discuss and reflect on their observations and to consider critical issues of student learning. Finally, the original lessons were revised and implemented in their own classrooms. The revised lessons were observed by members of the grade level team and further discussion, revision and re-teaching ensued. The Demonstration Laboratories and Lesson Study activities were supplemented by 1 week, full-time Summer Institutes in each of the 3 years of the project. The focus of the Summer Institutes varied by year, however over the 3 year period, time was devoted to: model lessons from the demonstration laboratories; hands on presentations of science concepts and conceptual understanding at the adult level; English language development strategies, with a particular emphasis on promoting oral discourse, and integrating science concepts with reading protocols and writing strategies. In all of these activities, an attempt was made to maintain and reinforce grade level PLC identities. Measures The TSI instrument (Smolleck et al. 2006) consists of 69 items which together purport to measure personal self-efficacy and outcome expectancy in elementary science teachers (Fig. 1). Based on five ‘‘essential features of classroom inquiry’’ identified in the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 2000), teachers respond to items using a 5-point Likert-type scale (5 = Strongly Agree; 4 = Agree; 3 = Uncertain; 2 = Disagree; 1 = Strongly Disagree). Scoring of the instrument 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching Scales (NSES) Personal Self Efficacy (34 Items) 1207 Outcome Expectancy (35 Items) (1) Learner engages in scientificallyoriented questions (PS1) I am able to guide students in asking scientific questions that are meaningful. (OE1) I expect students to ask scientific questions. (2) Learner gives priority to evidence in responding to questions (PS2) I am able to encourage students to gather the appropriate data necessary for answering their questions. (OE2) My students derive scientific evidence from instructional materials such as a textbook. (3) Learner formulates explanations from evidence (PS3) I am able to provide students with the opportunity to construct alternative explanations for the same observations. (OE3) I require students to develop explanations using evidence. (4) Learner connects explanations to scientific knowledge (PS4) I am able to negotiate with students possible connections between/among explanations. (OE4) I expect students to recognize the connections existing between proposed explanations and scientific knowledge. (5) Learner communicates and justifies explanations (PS5) I am able to coach students in the clear articulation of explanations. (OE5) My students share and critique explanations while utilizing broad guidelines that have been provided. Fig. 1 TSI: two dimensions, five scales and exemplary items yields five subscale scores in each of personal self-efficacy (PS) and outcome expectancy (OE). The content and construct validity of the TSI were established in a multi-step, iterative, review and revision process using external experts as data sources. Cronbach’s alpha (internal consistency) ranged from of .66 to .76 for personal self-efficacy and .60 to .78 for outcome expectancy. These ranges generally meet or exceed accepted standards for first generation instruments (Nunnally 1978). The reliability and validity estimates were established in an initial study of preservice elementary school teachers, however the instrument’s authors subsequently modified the items to extend its use to work with in-service teachers. In summarizing the implications of their work, the authors suggest that, ‘‘The TSI should be used in combination with other data collection techniques to more fully determine the self-efficacy beliefs of prospective teachers. These data collection techniques may include…interviews with prospective teachers, to more clearly understand their ideas and beliefs….’’ Accordingly, all participants in the experimental group were interviewed at the end of the academic year following the conclusion of the program. Structured but flexible clinical interviews lasting approximately 20 min each were conducted to probe further into teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs, and to explore their views about the PLC and its expected outcomes. The initial questions queried teachers about their instructional practices and how they had changed as a result of their participation in the project. Follow up questions converged on the extent to which they had implemented proposed instructional practices, the value of regular 123 1208 J. J. Mintzes et al. collaboration with peers, and the effects of Lesson Study and Demonstration Laboratory experiences on their classroom efforts. The interviews attempted to seek out, clarify and explain underlying connections between teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs and their personal experiences before, during and after their participation. All interviews were audiotaped and responses were transcribed verbatim. Data Collection and Analysis The study employed mixed (quantitative and qualitative) methods and a general Non-Equivalent Control Group (NECG) experimental design. In this design, participants are selected from similar communities (i.e. school districts) but, because random assignment to treatments is not practicable, pre-treatment differences among groups are statistically adjusted. Qualitative data were analyzed through the constant comparison method (Denzin and Lincoln 2000). The TSI instrument was administered online (using the SurveyGizmoT platform) on two occasions, early in the Spring semester of Year One and again after the final summer institute in Year Three. The initial (pretest) data set represented the responses of 116 teachers, however absenteeism and normal attrition reduced the total to 89 complete pre and posttest response sets. Independent sample t tests were run to explore pretest differences among groups, and the analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was employed to adjust for pretest differences and to document overall effects of the treatment. The Cohen’s d statistic was employed to estimate effect sizes. Clinical interviews were conducted 1 year after completion of the project. Responses were subjected to a constant comparison analysis based on grounded theory (Denzin and Lincoln 2000). An open coding system was employed to examine the initial interview responses. Subsequently, additional responses were reviewed and the coding system was modified to accommodate them. This iterative, inductive-deductive process of data review, analysis and coding was continued until a strong explanatory model emerged. Results In accordance with Social Learning Theory, we summarize the quantitative evidence for changes in self-efficacy occurring over the 3 year period encompassed by this study, employing the Personal Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectancy dimensions as organizing themes. Subsequently, we describe supporting, qualitative evidence for the underlying sources of self-efficacy with a focus on mastery and vicarious experiences, emotional reinforcement and social persuasion. Personal Self Efficacy Figure 2 summarizes the means, standard deviations and results of the data analyses for each of the five subscales (PS1 through PS5) associated with the Personal Selfefficacy dimension. A series of independent samples t tests was run on the pre-test 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1209 scores in order to explore pre-existing differences between the experimental (Grand Valley) and comparison (Mountain View) groups. Results of these analyses revealed significant differences among groups on all five dimensions, favoring teachers in the comparison group. To adjust for differences in pre-test scores, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was subsequently run on post-test scores using pre-test scores as the covariate. Overall, the findings reveal significant differences among groups on all five subscales (p \ .01 on four subscales and p \ .05 on one subscale), favoring teachers in the experimental group. Mean pre to posttest gains were .77 in the experimental group compared to .16 in the comparison group. The Cohen’s d estimates of effect sizes ranged from 1.1 to 1.3 with a mean of 1.2, suggesting that the experimental treatment had a ‘‘large’’ effect. These findings document a significant shift in personal self-efficacy that can be attributed to the PLCs. Outcome Expectancy Figure 3 summarizes the descriptive statistics and data analyses for each of the five subscales (OE1 through OE5) associated with the Outcome Expectancy dimension. As with the previous analysis, a series of independent t tests was run on the pre-test scores and the results revealed significant differences among groups on all five dimensions, favoring teachers in the comparison group. To adjust for these differences, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was run on post-test scores using pre-test scores as the covariate. The findings reveal significant differences among groups on all five subscales (p \ .01 on two subscales and p \ .05 on three subscales), favoring teachers in the experimental group. Mean pre to posttest gains were .73 in the experimental group compared to .18 in the comparison group. The Cohen’s d estimates of effect sizes ranged from .8 to 1.2 with a mean of 1.0, suggesting that the treatment had a ‘‘large’’ effect. These findings document a significant shift in outcome expectancy attributable to the PLCs. Overall Changes A summary of the overall changes resulting from participation in the PLCs can be estimated by combining mean scores on the Personal Self-efficacy and Outcome Expectancy subscales. For teachers participating in the experimental (Grand Valley) group, the mean (and standard deviation) shift in pre to posttest scores was 3.04 (.58) to 3.79 (.41). For those in the comparison (Mountain View) group, the mean shift was 3.39 (.45) to 3.57 (.30). Preparation, Fear and Avoidance The TSI pre-test scores revealed low levels of self-efficacy among Grand Valley teachers; significantly lower even than teachers in Mountain View. Exploring this further, it soon became clear that one source of their diminished confidence was 123 1210 J. J. Mintzes et al. 5 Pre 4.5 Post 4 Mean Score 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 Grand Valley Mountain View (n=48) (n=41) Grand Valley Mountain View (n=48) PS1** * = significant at .05 alpha level ** = significant at .01 alpha level PS2* (n=41) Grand Valley Mountain View Grand Valley Mountain View (n=48) (n=41) PS3** (n=48) PS4** (n=41) Grand Valley Mountain View (n=48) (n=41) PS5** Subscale Error bars represent + and - one standard deviation Fig. 2 TSI subscale scores: personal self-efficacy [PS] (means and SD) poor academic preparation in science. For example, Lynn (2nd, 11 years)2 poignantly described her own childhood feelings about science and her preservice preparation: Y’know as a kid I was afraid of science…. I never really was taught science. I never had it …I never experienced science before – ever…. In some cases the teachers’ poor preparation didn’t become a pressing issue until it was needed in their own classrooms. Penny [5th, 26 years] suggested that, the human body stuff is difficult if you’ve never taken anatomy, and that’s not a required class for us. We’re required to teach some heavy duty stuff in 5th grade. In other cases, teachers readily admitted their anxiety about and avoidance of specific topical areas, especially in the physical sciences: 2 All teacher names are pseudonymous. Grade level and years of experience are designated in parentheses, e.g. Lynn (4th, 11 years). 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1211 5 Pre 4.5 Post 4 Mean Score 3.5 3 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 Grand Valley Mountain View Grand Valley Mountain View Grand Valley Mountain View Grand Valley Mountain View Grand Valley Mountain View (n=48) (n=41) (n=48) OE1** (n=41) OE2** (n=48) (n=41) OE3* (n=48) OE4* (n=41) (n=41) (n=48) OE5* Subscale * = significant at .05 alpha level ** = significant at .01 alpha level Error bars represent + and - one standard deviation Fig. 3 TSI subscale scores: outcome expectancy [OE] (means and SD) Teachers tend to be afraid of tackling physical science….Life science was pretty much something that I’ve loved doing so I always do Life Science. I would definitely say that matter and energy was one thing I didn’t really do… [Ashley, 3rd, 19 years] Of the 3 contents that we worked on, I think that the one that I learned the most about and I think I needed to learn was the physical science. I kind of avoided that because it wasn’t something I was interested in… it was something that we tend to avoid; things we are not competent in sometimes. [Deborah, 3rd, 15 years] Deborah went on to suggest that her feelings were shared by many of her colleagues: I think that teachers would say…if they had to give up one of the areas of the curriculum they’re quickest to toss out science. I think they would chose social studies over science sometimes because social studies in some ways might be a little bit easier for them to teach. And a lot of people maybe didn’t have a good experience with science, too, in their own education and they think they’re not qualified to teach it. 123 1212 J. J. Mintzes et al. In at least one instance, a teacher admitted that she left out science entirely, suggesting that she considered it less important than other subjects and felt constrained by time. I was doing no science, not making time for science because it seemed like one of those things you put to the corner and do if you have time. I was trained…that reading, writing and math are your number one priority and if you don’t have time for anything else, don’t worry about it. So I didn’t do any science before this. [Marie 2nd, 16 years] These assertions provide ample evidence that failure to master basic concepts, especially in the physical sciences, is undoubtedly one significant source of these teachers’ diminished levels of self-efficacy in science teaching. They also suggest that some teachers act by avoiding and, in some cases, omitting science from the curriculum altogether. Said Marie, Y’know when you haven’t been doing something and then you start doing something, it’s a lot of work to try to figure out how to do it. It’s much easier to stay in your routine. Especially when you don’t know the subject area very well. Empowerment Despite their apparent fear and avoidance, Grand Valley teachers generally embraced the concept of PLCs and, when asked to discuss the effects of the PLCs on their own feelings about science, many participants described a strong sense of empowerment. Lynn expressed her new-found confidence as one of ‘‘I can do this’’: some of those things I can do like the seed cups and the [rain] gutters – I can do that – to where before science kind of scared me. Science wasn’t my thing. I don’t know how to do it…I don’t know and you showed me that I can. It gave me a little bit of ‘‘I can do this’’. In many instances the expression of empowerment was associated with a specific ‘‘hands on’’ activity which offered a kind of tangible and concrete, mastery experience. In reference to work on one physical science demonstration, Michelle’s (1st, 4 years) success seemed to reinforce her emerging sense of self confidence. I think that it showed me how you can implement some of these science activities…I didn’t have an idea of how to do that before. It helped me see how I could start to implement that in the classroom. …just getting me to ‘‘I can.’’ It is possible to implement that in my classroom. Instead of feeling ‘‘Gosh, I don’t know where to go with that’’. In other instances, confidence seemed to grow out of an opportunity to watch others succeed. This vicarious experience was especially powerful as teachers observed undergraduate interns facilitating the science lessons with the teachers’ own students in the Demonstration Laboratory. 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1213 …there are times I’m not sure how I want to present something and watching [the interns] present it gives me that ‘‘oh, yeah, that would work’’ ‘‘oh, that was a fantastic way that you handled those kids, how you got them involved’’. It’s fantastic…. [Miriam 5th, 4 years] I think for a lot of teachers, they see things that they can say, ‘‘Oh, I can do that in my classroom’’ when they see the student teachers [undergraduate interns] doing it with the small groups, it makes it not so scary to try it in your classroom. …you have a lot of teachers that they’re comfortable reading out of the science book and doing packets but when it comes to doing hands-on things, you know it’s kind of out of their comfort zone. This let them see…. ‘‘Oh, I can do that in my classroom’’. [Ashley, 3rd, 19 years] Collaboration The opportunity to collaborate in the design, implementation and assessment of a science lesson proved to be a powerful experience for many participants. The power of the cooperative groups seemed to emerge from the emotional support they provide and from the social persuasion that comes with negotiating differences of opinion. Designing the lesson plan together was a wonderful task….we designed this fabulous lesson, it was just invaluable. Being able to pick each others’ brains to see different takes on something. We’ll all look at the same thing and have a different opinion about it. And then watching each other deliver the lesson plan and then we tweaked it slightly and it worked better. We still get together and revisit lessons, share curriculum, share ideas. [Misty, 5th, 15 years] This form of collaborative effort and the emotional reinforcement it engendered seemed to be an unexpected outcome for some teachers. In at least one instance it encouraged teachers to expand an existing cooperative arrangement to include science teaching in their group work. It’s funny, I think some of us have become closer because of it and there’s, I know me and two others, who really share some of the science stuff we have….we seem to be more interested in some things and we share them…. I guess the three of us probably collaborated a lot before, but we do it with science more now. [Lynn, 2nd, 11 years] Outcomes In addition to the emotional reinforcement it offered, many participants commented on the positive outcomes they observed in the children. In some cases the outcomes they described were tangible instances of changes in children’s behavior. In other cases, the descriptions seemed to suggest expected changes that had yet to be actualized. I loved the enthusiasm that they felt and there was a lot of self-discovery even though it was directed, it was self-discovery on their part, and I think they felt, 123 1214 J. J. Mintzes et al. ‘‘wow, I’m really smart, I figured this out’’…. it helped me realize how important it is that I take that type of teaching back to the classroom. [Deborah, 3rd, 15 years] They will use the science vocabulary… they will actually use it and talk about it and it’s throughout the year. So the concepts aren’t just for that one unit and then it’s gone, they still talk about the different cloud types and they have a good understanding of what’s happening when it’s raining. They understand the concepts – the water cycle – and they can talk about it. They are just really looking deeper at everything around them and not just taking for granted – they’re starting to really understand how things work in the world…. [Michelle, 1st, 4 years] …not only it inspired kids via science, it inspires kids to go to college. As we’re walking around campus or looking at the library or looking at the buildings we’re seeing college kids talking and laughing and joking. I can’t tell you how many conversations not only about the science of it but about college – kids are excited to go to college [Misty, 5th, 15 years] In even more concrete terms, participants discussed specific changes in their own teaching that they ascribed to the PLCs. The changes they described suggest a concerted effort to move from a kind of textbook-centered, didactic form of instruction to a more open-ended, inquiry-style of teaching. …we have science books but the science books don’t come alive off the page unless you do some cool station experiment lesson that’s hands-on that the kids can get dirty with and then it comes alive and they enjoy it and they get it. [Misty, 5th, 15 years] We do a lot more science in small groups….I think just using science in small groups has been something that we’ve done more that we didn’t do before. It seems like before it was whole group, use your textbook, read the textbook together – that kind of thing. We found it very effective to break them up into small groups and have different stations of rocks so they can rotate through it. [Jenna, 2nd, 4 years] I’d say my pedagogy has changed a bit – trying to use more of a discovery learning for science. Y’know not just starting them out with the ideas or the concept that I want them to get but allowing them to discover through the experiment – coming to their own conclusion about what’s happening and why it’s happening; so in that way that part has changed. [Michelle, 1st, 4 years] Limitations and Discussion The most important finding of this study is that a group of elementary school teachers with demonstrably low self-efficacy in science teaching grew substantially over a period of 3 years as a result of their participation in a PLC. This growth was reflected in significant improvement of TSI scores, and in reported changes in classroom teaching practices and children’s behavior. 123 Self-Efficacy in Elementary Science Teaching 1215 Nonetheless, the study had several limitations and caution should be taken that the findings not be over-generalized. Most important are: the relatively small sample size (n = 55 in the experimental group); the somewhat atypical composition of the teacher and student populations (experienced teachers and a large proportion of ELL students); the inability to randomly assign treatments to experimental groups; the absence of classroom observation data, and the reliance on self-report measures of self-efficacy. We recognize each of these issues as a potential source of error and suggest that follow-up studies focus on mitigating them. Despite these limitations, the findings provide strong support for many predictions emerging from Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, including the dimensions and sources of self-efficacy. Perhaps most importantly, the results suggest that deficiencies in high school and college preparation can be overcome by high quality in-service programs for teachers. Interviews with participants suggest that PLCs are a powerful vehicle that provide teachers with opportunities: (1) to collaborate with colleagues in small, grade-level groups; (2) to try out their ideas on children in their own classes; (3) to observe undergraduate interns interacting with children, and (4) to experience the outcomes of their work on children’s behavior. Each of these components is strongly supported in Bandura’s (1977, 1982) work and in the design and implementation of ‘‘best practices’’ in professional development programs (LoucksHorsely et al. 2003). The biweekly, grade-level meetings offer a forum for professional sharing that is typically absent in the elementary school environment. For many teachers, these meetings present a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the essential work of the teaching profession; a chance to engage with colleagues in the intellectually demanding and emotionally rewarding tasks that build cohesion and confidence. They also provide a space for exploring potentially ‘‘risky’’ ideas (e.g. small groups; inquiry-style investigations) and for the social persuasion often needed to convince reluctant participants. Much has been said about the isolation of the elementary teaching profession, and the failure of state and local governments to support professional activities such as travel to state and national meetings. PLCs offer a less costly and perhaps equally productive way of engaging teachers in the kind of practice-based, action research that helps build a community of local scholars (Bilica 2007). By supporting teacher research, PLCs enable teachers to develop testable predictions based on their own classroom experience and, in so doing, to enhance their own understanding of the nature of science. The opportunity to test and confirm or restructure their ideas in the nonthreatening environment of their own classroom provides a kind of direct, mastery experience that cannot be duplicated in other ways. In so doing, teachers are given an opportunity to implement a consensually-agreed-upon course of action and to observe and reflect on the results of their work. Observing undergraduate teaching interns as they engage children in a newly designed lesson provides a very powerful vicarious experience. The roots of the Demonstration Laboratory can be traced to the original work of John Dewey (1902), however the importance of this kind of practical work seems to have been lost along 123 1216 J. J. Mintzes et al. with many of his ‘‘Progressive’’ ideas. Nonetheless, the comments offered by many teachers speak to the strong impact of these experiences on their confidence and sense of validation. Finally, it appears that teachers in our study were strongly convinced that their work in the PLCs had some very positive effects on the children they teach. Several teachers commented on their children’s growing vocabulary; their understanding of complex scientific concepts; their greater awareness of natural phenomena, and even their intention to attend college. These enhanced ‘‘outcome expectancies’’ contributed even further to the teachers’ overall sense of self-efficacy. Policy Implications The study we have conducted provides strong support for the PLC as a powerful model of professional development in elementary science teaching. However to realize its full potential, the PLC will need much more support from policy-makers and administrators, and from industry, government and higher education. We concur with Fulton and Britton (2011), who argue that meeting the goals of PLCs will require major policy decisions including: (1) school staffing policies that provide teachers with the time, space and incentives to take on expanded professional roles; (2) enhanced participation by school principals; (3) implementation of online networking capacity, and (4) further, more in-depth, research on ways PLCs can be used to improve teaching effectiveness and student learning. 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Article One Type and purpose of study Type means qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research. Hypothesis or Research Questions Both quantitative and qualitative research can have research questions, but only quantitative can have hypotheses. Population and Sample General group being studied, size of sample or number of participants, age(s), gender, etc. Methodology Examples: survey study, case study, quasi-experimental, comparison study, longitudinal study, meta-analysis, etc. Findings and Conclusions We call it findings in qualitative research and results in quantitative research. Article Two Article Three Points of Convergence or Divergence First: Second: Third: Fourth:
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