Formative Program Evaluation of a Professional Learning Community in an Urban Elementary School
In a professional learning community (PLC), school personnel participate in focused collaboration to improve adult learning and facilitate student achievement. Implementation of a PLC is often haphazard and not evaluated for effectiveness, resulting in poor implementation. This study, a PLC-specific qualitative formative program evaluation, addressed a lack of documented PLC effectiveness at a local urban elementary school in the southern United States. The purpose of this project was to determine how teachers described the functioning of their PLC. The conceptual framework for the study was Hord and Tobia’s 6 characteristics of a PLC. The research questions focused on how teachers described their PLC in terms of: supportive and shared leadership; shared beliefs, values, and vision; intentional collective learning; shared practice; physical or structural conditions; and collegial or relational conditions. The qualitative design consisted of semi-structured interviews with 10 teachers. The findings from the typological data analysis revealed that the research school was not functioning as a true PLC, with lack of collegial-relational conditions being a primary concern. Based on the findings, recommendations were made for school personnel to participate in team building exercises, adopt an educational change model to strengthen their PLC, participate in PLC training, and develop a continuous evaluation cycle for their PLC. The recommendations will help the research school more effectively build trust as they improve their PLC. Implications for positive social change include an improved school culture and delivery system of education, which fosters an educational environment more conducive for improved learning for teachers and students.