Author(s)

Dori Alvich

Date Approved

7-9-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership

Department

Educational Leadership

College

College of Education

First Advisor

Martin, Deb

Subject(s)

Professional learning communities;Writers' workshops

Disciplines

Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration

Abstract

Demands are made for schools to improve student learning. In answer to that demand, school leaders are searching for ways to implement new approaches to enhance student learning and teacher professional development. Professional learning communities (PLCs) implemented in a school setting can increase collaboration and improve instruction and learning if focused on three essential characteristics: student learning, teacher collaboration, and results (Dufour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). Darling-Hammond (1996) recommends that "schools be structured to become genuine learning organizations for both students and teachers; organizations that respect learning, honor teaching, and teach for understanding"(p. 198). Writing is required for all subject areas and is a life skill that is necessary for all students to be proficient. The ability to write well is essential for communication and productivity. In many professions, communication is of primary importance and much of the communication is in written form. By teaching our students to write well, we are giving them tools for success in school and life. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reported in the 2002 Writing Assessment that the average scale score for fourth graders in the United States was 153 on a range of 0 to 300, which is considered partially proficient. By the year 2007, eighth grade students averaged a scale score of 154 on the Writing Assessment (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). The purpose of this mixed methods action research study was to examine teacher perceptions and student writing achievement through the implementation of PLCs focused on student writing achievement. It sought to answer the following research questions: What effects will a Professional Learning Community (PLC) have on the implementation of writer's workshop as measured by student writing achievement, teacher perceptions, and administrator perceptions? How does teacher participation in a PLC affect their perceptions of their ability to deliver writer's workshop? Specifically, what benefits did teachers receive as a result of their participation in the PLC? And, how well did the principal facilitate the formation and sustainability of the PLC? The study also provided information for leaders about how to implement a training model for the development of PLCs focused on student learning. The research methods used in this action research study included interviews and focus group discussions with all teachers involved as well as follow-up observations during writer's workshop lessons. Data collection also included analyzing student writing achievement gathered from a pre-assessment and post-assessment in writing. A survey was administered to evaluate teacher readiness in the development of PLCs. A training protocol was designed for the implementation of PLCs focused on student writing achievement. Study findings revealed that with adequate environmental support, collaboration among the members of the PLC is facilitated which leads to enhanced instruction and improved learning. Specific findings were incorporated into the PLC model followed in this study and used as the basis for the development of a training model for implementation of new curricular programs at Brookside Elementary School.

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