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This study determined how general education teachers in a Midwestern school district perceived their personal skill level in working collaboratively and focusing on academic results while working in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). The overarching question for the research was: Do educator perceptions of their personal skill level in working collaboratively and focusing on academic results while implementing a Professional Learning Community have an effect on student achievement? The study looked at teacher perceptions within the three themes of PLCs: (a) assuring students learn at high levels, (b) creating a culture of collaboration, and (c) focusing on academic results. Student achievement data, reported through Criterion Referenced Test scores (CRTs) and linked to individual teacher survey responses, were studied to determine if a relationship existed between teacher perceptions and student learning.
This mixed-methods research study used a survey design approach to gather data of teacher perceptions of the PLC Process. The survey allowed participants (n = 247) to indicate their perceptions and give detailed descriptions of both the strengths and needs within each theme of PLCs. Data was collected electronically with all survey responses being used in the final statistical analysis of the study.
The major finding in this study was that teachers in the Midwestern school district perceived they have strong skill levels within all three themes of PLCs and find it beneficial to improving student achievement. Consistently reported areas of strength included collaboration and experience. Major areas of need were linked to time and data. Significant differences were found based on teacher perceptions of the PLC process with regard to school level and years of experience.
The Midwestern school district should provide continual staff development regarding the PLC process. District personnel need to be involved in developing a more consistent process and consistent PLC forms to be used in all schools. A means of building level accountability should also be developed. Staff development for teachers should focus on research-based interventions, strategies, use of student data and creating enrichment activities.