Date of Conferral

1-1-2008

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Casey Reason

Abstract

The implementation of professional learning communities is a professional development practice that uses collaborative interactions within a constructivist framework to increase teacher and student learning. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the question of how the dialogue of grade level meetings within professional learning communities impacts the professional development of teachers using the constructivist theory of learning as the conceptual framework. The researcher gathered data through hour-long interviews over a 4-week period with 6 learning community participants, one from each of the 6 grade levels at the elementary school research site. A thematic analysis of the dialogical interactions revealed the following: (a) Professional growth is contingent upon the presence of focused dialogue, (b) Dialogue creates a feeling of acceptance that results in professional growth, (c) Dialogue results in learning opportunities that are prescriptive to the needs of the participants, and (d) Dialogue increases the content knowledge of teachers while providing them opportunities for the acquisition of instructional strategies. These dialogues offered opportunities for teacher examination of school data and focused efforts to improve weaknesses for greater student academic achievement. The results also revealed the qualities necessary for productive interactions to occur within professional learning communities that lead to professional growth and student success. Implications for positive social change include fostering the growth of teachers by revealing how conversing with others facilitates the acquisition of effective teaching practices and providing research based strategies and guidelines that promote the facilitation of productive collaborative and dialogical interactions within learning teams that result in improvements for the entire school community.