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A study of teacher perceptions toward a professional learning community in a rural middle school

Dissertation
Author: Derek (Bo) Hannaford
Abstract:
Many studies provide evidence that professional learning communities are a valid means for school reform in public education. These studies may be even more important since schools are facing more pressure than ever to meet high academic performance benchmarks. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to discover teacher perceptions toward a professional learning community and teacher perceptions of instructional practice in a middle school in a southern U.S. state. Conceptual frameworks included the works of DuFour and Eaker as well as Hord, Senge, and Schlechty that explore potential benefits of a professional learning community. In this qualitative case study, using the case study design of Yin, teacher perceptions of a professional learning community and their perceptions of instructional practice after the implementation of a learning community were explored. Six teacher participants, who were selected from a purposeful sample to represent each core subject, were observed and interviewed. Documentation was analyzed to discover emerging patterns of teacher perceptions toward the professional learning community and teacher perceptions of instructional practice. The results of this study indicated that teachers have a positive perception of learning communities, instructional practice, effective communication, collaboration, shared leadership practices, and the use of common assessments. Teachers, principals, and superintendents may use the results of this study to promote the creation of professional learning communities. The results of this study can lead to positive social change by providing an alternative school culture encouraging a positive perception among teachers that leads to improved instructional practice which can impact student learning.

TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF TABLES………………………………………………………………………..vi SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY .............................................................1

Introduction .................................................................................................................. 1 Problem Statement ....................................................................................................... 3 Research Questions ...................................................................................................... 4 Nature of Study ............................................................................................................ 6 Purpose Statement ........................................................................................................ 8 Conceptual Framework ................................................................................................ 8 Definitions.................................................................................................................... 11 Limitations ................................................................................................................... 12 Assumptions ................................................................................................................. 13 Significance of Study ................................................................................................... 13 Summary ...................................................................................................................... 14 SECTION 2 LITERATURE REVIEW .............................................................................15 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..15 School Reform ............................................................................................................. 15 Professional Learning Community (PLC'S) ................................................................ 19 Teacher Perceptions of PLCs ................................................................................. 26 Leadership .............................................................................................................. 29 Interventions .......................................................................................................... 31 Student Achievement ............................................................................................. 33 Conclusion ................................................................................................................... 36 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHOD ..............................................................................38

Introduction .................................................................................................................. 38 Methodology ................................................................................................................ 38 Case Study Approach ............................................................................................. 38 Purpose ................................................................................................................... 40 Overview ................................................................................................................ 41 Setting and Participants.......................................................................................... 43 School Districts ...................................................................................................... 44 Mayberry Middle School ....................................................................................... 44 Data Collection ...................................................................................................... 45 Interview ................................................................................................................ 46 Observations .......................................................................................................... 47 Documents ............................................................................................................. 47 Validity and Reliability ......................................................................................... 48 Data Analysis ............................................................................................................... 49 Summary ...................................................................................................................... 50

iv SECTION 4: RESULTS ...................................................................................................51 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..51 Overview of the Study………………………………………………………………..51 Data Analysis…………………………………………………………………………52 Data Organization………………………………………………………………..52 Data Classification……………………………………………………………….53 Coding the Data………………………………………………………………….54 Systems of Data………………………………………………………………………56 Observation ..…………………………………………………………………….56 Interview…………………………………………………………………………57 Documents ……………………………………………………………………..57 Participant profiles ………………………………………………………………….58 Roger …………………………………………………………………………...58 Tammy……………………………………………………………………………59 Jimmy.…………………………………………………………………………….59 Sarah……………………… ..……………………………………………………59 Cassandra…………………………………………………………………………59 Gina……………………………………………………………………………….60 Findings for Research Question 1……………………………………………………..60 Findings for Research Question 2……………………………………………………..66 Findings for Research Question 3……………………………………………………..74 Summary………………………………………………………………………………79 SECTION 5: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMENDATIONS…………..81 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………..81 Interpretation of Findings…………………………………………………………….82 Implications of Social Change………………………………………………………..93 Recommendations for Action………………………………………………………...94 Recommendations for Future Research……………………………………………....95 Reflections……………………………………………………………………………96 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………....97 References……………………………………………………………………………98

APPENDIX A: Observation Document..……………………………………………....106 APPENDIX B: Teacher Interview……………………………………………………..107 APPENDIX C: Superintendent of Schools’ Permission to Conduct Study …………...109 APPENDIX D: Principal’s Permission to Conduct Study …………………………….110 APPENDIX E: Confidentiality Agreement and Consent Form .. ……………………..111 APPENDIX F: Interview Responses for Sarah………………………………………...113 APPENDIX G: Interview Responses for Roger....……………………………………..115 APPENDIX H: Interview Responses for Cassandra…………………………………...117 APPENDIX I: Interview Responses for Jimmy………………………………………..119 APPENDIX J: Interview Responses for Tammy……………………………………….121 APPENDIX K: Interview Responses for Gina…………………………………………123 APPENDIX L:Observation Notes……………………………………………………...125

v APPENDIX M: Team Agenda…………………………………………………………143 APPENDIX N: Student Contract………………………………………………………144 APPENDIX O: Common Assessment………………………………………………….146

CURRICULUM VITA………………………………………………………………148

vi LIST OF TABLES TABLE 1. Research Question 1 Interview Themes…………………………………..61 TABLE 2. Research Question 1 Observation Themes………………………………..63 TABLE 3. Research Question 2 Interview Themes…………………………………..67 TABLE 4. Research Question 2 Observation Themes………………………………..70 TABLE 5. Research Question 3 Interview Themes…………………………………..75 TABLE 6. Research Question 3 Observations Themes………………………………77

SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY

High-stakes testing has created tougher standards for graduation. This challenge is causing more problems for educators (Resnick, 2004). Across the country, school leaders are struggling with ways to address accountability issues brought by the federal government minimizing student attrition (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). In Maryland, for example, nearly 20,000 elementary and middle school students were held back for failing an achievement test or failing multiple classes (Marchant, 2004). This causes a concern for administrators regarding students who drop out of school while struggling to meet the standards (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Estimates show that, across the United States, over 1 million students drop out every year (Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007). In the district where this qualitative case study took place, the 4-year dropout rate is 28.3% at the local high school, which is double the state average of 14.2%. This case study was conducted in a rural Oklahoma middle school where students are struggling to pass all their classes, which can lead to frustration and a negative outlook on school (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). With expectations being raised by the national government on standardized tests (No Child Left Behind, 2002) and the growing rate of dropouts within the research district, administrators and teachers are exploring strategies to help stakeholders keep students successful in school, using multiple intervention strategies to help all students reach their full potential in all their classes.

2 The accountability issue has led many districts to investigate the use of a professional learning community (Blankstien, 2004; Eaker, DuFour, & Burnette, 2002; Schmoker, 2004). In researching this process, Hord (1997) found that there was no definitive description of a professional learning community. Hord stated that a professional learning community was “a school that operates as such that it engages the entire group of professionals in coming together for learning within a supportive community” (pp. 3-4). I found one similar school district within Oklahoma that demonstrated student achievement growth through the use of a professional learning community. Data illustrated that, from 2003 to 2007, this district in Oklahoma County showed improvement on an end of instruction test (EOIs) at a district high school. The scores rose from 56% to 83% of students who were proficient in math, 71% to 78% of students who were proficient in reading, 50% to 60% of students who were proficient in science, and 76% to 83% of students who were proficient in social studies. Minority students as well as special education students showed important gains. School educators believed that certain strategies made an impact on the success of their school. These strategies include (a) monitoring student learning, (b) having a system of intervention within the school, (c) highly collaborative teams, and (d) implementing new instructional strategies (DuFour, 2008). The framework of this qualitative case study will address teacher perception of the concepts and strategies of a professional learning community within an Oklahoma middle school and how it affects teacher instructional practice.

3 Problem Statement One rural Oklahoma middle school has experienced an academic problem within the school. The specific problem is the increasing rate of failure for many of its students. In 2006-2007 alone at this rural Oklahoma middle school, 30% of the students had at least one failing grade. Because of this problem, .08% or nearly 60 students were required to attend summer school due to multiple failing grades. It is not known, however, if teacher perception toward a professional learning community can impact instructional practice. Many teachers have relied on their isolationist view toward teaching where they survive with no collaboration or communication with other teachers concerning their field of study and have tried traditional interventions such as after school tutoring (Schmoker, 2006). The issue of failing students has led leaders in this Oklahoma middle school to investigate the concept of a professional learning community. The perception of teachers toward the professional learning community may play an important role in how teachers teach thus affecti ng students and teachers alike (DuFour, 2004). Some believe that these serious issues of failure can be addressed through collaboration, assessments, and intervention among all within the school environment (Schmoker, 2006). One researcher found a professional learning community can make a difference impacting students directly by decreasing dropout rates, lowering rates of absenteeism, and also raising student achievement (Hord, 1997). Hord (1998) described one such case study in which Cottonwood Creek School reported an increase of student achievement over several years. The collaborative culture of a professional learning community has been successful in providing a foundation for students and teachers to

4 learn (DuFour, 2004). DuFour implemented this model as an administrator at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Chicago area and documented the results using action research (Schmoker, 2001). DuFour had taken over a school where 25% of the students had been delegated to remedial work and the failure rate was at 30% (Schmoker, 2001). The annual out-of-school suspension rate was close to 75% (Schmoker, 2001). This means three out of four students at some point during the year had been suspended. Ultimately, Adlai Stevenson High School became a Blue Ribbon School. A Blue Ribbon School exhibits extraordinary academic results or makes significant improvement in student achievement. A professional learning community has three main goals for school practice (Eaker et al., 2002): (a) collaboratively developed shared mission and vision statement, (b) collaborative teams working toward common goals and standards, and (c) a focus on results based on data that is working toward continued improvement (Eaker et al., 2002). This goal of establishing this collaborative culture will take time and effort by all involved. Research Questions The following research questions will guide this single case study: 1. How do teachers perceive one another within the professional learning community concerning collaboration and communication? 2. What are teacher perceptions of shared leadership within the professional learning community? 3. What are teacher perceptions of the effects of the professional learning community on instructional practices?

5 Case studies have been an effective tool for research. A case study is used when a researcher explores a program or process in depth. I used a single case study design. This design is appropriate when one wants to confirm or challenge a theory (Yin, 1994). Stake (1998) asserted the case study may be used to answer questions that might be useful in learning if teacher perceptions of a professional learning community can affect teacher practice. This case study provided valuable data that will be useful in further research of the topic. Six voluntary teacher participants were chosen as a purposeful sampling to offer different perspectives to the study. There were three teams of teachers on the sixth grade level and three teams of teachers on the seventh grade level. Each team was made up of one teacher in each of the areas of reading, English, math, social studies, and science. One representative was purposefully selected from each team to represent each core subject. A small population allowed for a deeper interpretation of the teacher participant responses. According to Hatch (2002), “qualitative researchers believe there is not a relationship between the number of participants used in the study and the quality of the study” (p.48). I used a single case study design which is appropriate when one wants to confirm or challenge a theory (Yin, 1994). I was intent on discovering if this culture of a professional learning community would benefit teachers and students alike. Teacher perceptions toward the professional learning community were discovered by interview questions and by observations by the researcher. Additional documentation, such as agendas and common assessments, were used for triangulation.

6 Nature of Study The case study was bounded by time and I used a variety of data that was collected (Stake, 1995). In this qualitative case study, I uncovered connections between the perceptions of teachers toward a professional learning community and the perceptions of instructional practice. The study provided a deeper understanding of the concepts of the professional learning community and the perceptions of teachers regarding the professional learning community. Case studies can be helpful when one evaluates programs within a school due to interventions that are too complex for surveys (Yin, 2003). I answered the research questions based on observations, interviews, and documentation. The research was triangulated (Creswell, 2003; Janesick, 2004) using one-on-one interviews, observations, and documents. Observations and documents were used to verify the participants’ responses within the interview responses. This added to the depth of the data collection and analysis. Triangulation incorporates a variety of research strategies and sources of data to provide evidence to support a study’s findings (Creswell, 1998; Merriam, 1998). As Yin (1994) described, “there are six sources of evidence in a case study: documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observations, and artifacts” (p. 79). As Yin (1994) stated, “documents could be letters, agendas, administrative documents, or any document that is important to the study” (p. 81). I chose documents to help me corroborate evidence from other sources. The third source is interviews and is one of the most important sources for qualitative studies (Creswell, 2003; Yin, 1994). I directly observed teacher participants within their own work setting (Hatch, 2002). This helped corroborate evidence from my

7 other two sources. The six teacher participants were purposefully sampled, interviewed and observed to discover detailed information determining the perception of teachers toward the professional learning community and the effect on teacher instructional practice. I used this qualitative data to analyze interview answers and observations by coding the data to identify common themes and patterns. School documentation was also used to triangulate the findings. The school district in which this case study took place is comprised of 48 buildings, including administration, maintenance, and athletic buildings, with a combined square footage of 1,035,435. Approximately 5,200 students attend 11 schools within the district, which is fully accredited by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The district has 390 teachers, 28 administrators, and 326 support personnel, a total of 744 employees of the district. Thirty-one percent of the teachers have advanced degrees and 16, or 4%, are nationally board certified. They average almost 14 years of teaching experience. The student/teacher ratio is 14 to 1. The ethnic breakdown of the district is 68.25% European American, 16.63% Native American, 7.77% Latino American, 4.83% African American, 1.76% Multiracial, 0.66% Asian American, and 0.10% Pacific Islander American. Within the district, nearly 64% of the students are on free or reduced lunch, which qualifies many schools for Title 1 status. Mayberry Middle School is a rural school that serves as the sixth and seventh grade center. Mayberry is the pseudonym for the research site and will be used throughout the study to protect the teacher participants. It has 740 students, 47% females and 53% males. The student demographics are 68% European American, 19% Native American,

8 8% Latino American, 0.04% African American, and 1% Asian American. The school employs 3 administrators, 54 full-time teachers, 11 teacher aides or assistants, 2 counselors, 1 librarian, and 4 office staff. The school has nearly 64% of its students on free or reduced lunch because of the low socioeconomic status of the students which qualifies it as a Title 1 school. Purpose Statement The purpose of this study was to discover the perceptions of teachers toward a professional learning community and teacher perceptions of instructional practices in this rural Oklahoma middle school. Because of low student performance in the classroom and on standardized tests, both teachers and administrators were compelled to seek ways to help these struggling students achieve success, resulting in promotion to the next grade. Students who experience the problem of repeated failure often find no reason to continue school; therefore, many students feel like they do not stand a chance of advancement and drop out before they reach high school (Marchant, 2004). Many low- achieving students do not qualify for special education and fall through the cracks before moving on to the next grade and, as a result, are not successful in school (Hord, 1997). Some believe it is necessary for schools to implement a culture that creates an intervention response system that is supportive and nurturing toward the students (Huffman, 2003). Conceptual Framework Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2002, the federal government has correlated test scores and school performance and has tied federal funds to test performance. Many school districts across the country are looking for the best solution to

9 meet accountability while still ensuring the best learning culture for teachers and students. The research on professional learning communities has led many to believe that proper implementation of professional learning communities can bring school improvement in instruction and performance (DuFour, 2004; DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002; Hipp, 2006; Hord, 1997; Hord, 2004; Schmoker, 2006). This study was driven by the six characteristics of a professional learning community stated by DuFour and Eaker (1998). The characteristics are shared mission, vision and values, collective inquiry toward best practice, collaboration, action orientation, a commitment to continuous improvement, and results orientation. DuFour and Eaker (1998) asserted that all schools should be able to answer two basic questions: What do educators want students to learn and what will educators do if they are not learning? A school should then center its mission and vision statement around student learning (Louise & Kruse, 1995). The mission shares the purpose of the school and includes the role of all stakeholders (Dufour & Eaker, 1998); the vision is what the school wants to become. If the school lacks this vision, this can be a detriment in improving the quality of the school (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). This shared mission and vision can help increase ownership and accountability within a staff which helps support a professional learning community (Hord, 1997). In regard to collective inquiry, teachers must continue to seek new knowledge to address the needs of all students to ensure learning (Hipp, 2001). Also, within a professional learning community, a staff must apply the best instructional practices to

10 improve student learning (Hord, 1997). Teachers cannot continue to perform the same task over and over, if it does not produce positive results. Collaboration is an essential part for success of a professional learning community. Teachers must talk with one another to find out the best ways for each student to learn. Collaboration can lead to a culture that allows children to learn and allows for teachers and principals to focus on instruction and student learning (Gitlin, 1999). Teachers truly believe that collaboration is an important characteristic for change within the culture of a school (Arter, 2001). Schools that use collaborative teams have shown gains in student achievement, confidence among staff, and the choice to try new ideas (Little, 1990, DuFour & Eaker, 1998, Hord, 1997, Schmoker, 2006). Teachers must experiment with new ideas so data can be created and the benefits accessed. Teachers within a professional learning community must continue to seek scientific research to help improve student leaning (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). School leaders must also continue to seek alternative methods to help each individual learn (Fullan, 2003). All of this will lead to school leaders seeking continuous improvement for their own culture. Members of a professional learning community will continue to review the goals and purpose of their school, explore many different strategies that affect student learning, and develop new assessments to evaluate whether or not students are learning? A school community must not become comfortable with the status quo. There must be a continued search for the best of a professional learning community (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Finally, a school must be results oriented. A professional learning community must seek continuous improvement for student learning and proper assessments must be identified

11 to reach this goal (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). In this qualitative case study, I explored how instructional practice was affected by the perceptions of teachers toward the characteristics of a professional learning community. The success of a professional learning community can be determined by data collected from interviews, observations and school documentation. Since this research was carried out within the setting of the school, the teacher participants and I were immersed within the research. Definitions Best practices: methods of teaching that are research oriented and affect student learning in a positive manner (Marzano, 2003). Title 1 School: schools that are identified as Title 1 have at least 40% of the population eligible for free and reduced meals (Marzano, 2003). Professional learning community: professional staffs who learn together to direct the efforts toward improving student learning (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Collaboration: the process between all stakeholders in which information is shared on instructional matters interdependently (Schmoker, 2004). Achievement gap: differences in measurement of academic achievement in students in the same age group and grade range (Haycock, 2001). School Culture: beliefs, expectations, and values that build school norms (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Karhanek, 2004). Pyramid of Intervention: a timely process where students are presented a system of time and support (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Manny, 2006).

12 Limitations This study focused on one Oklahoma rural middle school during the first semester of school and examined documents from the school year. This research of just one middle school is not representative of larger and like populations. Thus, results cannot be generalized to any other population and generalizability is confined to this site alone (Yin, 2003). Stake (1995) believed that “single cases are not as strong a base for generalizing to other populations, but one can learn much from a single case” (p.85). Another limitation is that I hold an administrative position within the district and had previously served as an assistant principal at the research site. I must avoid personal bias (Merriam, 1998). Because of this, I took steps to triangulate the data. The research was done at a rural middle school that was in the beginning stages of laying the foundation for a professional learning community. This Oklahoma rural middle school began with parts of the professional learning community that they felt was important so the model provided should not be represented as the guide to establish this type of culture. This is highly important because the success of a professional learning community hinges on the commitment from all stakeholders within a school setting. The researcher also acknowledges there were limitations that affected the internal and external validity of the research. Internal validity occurs when the conclusions of the study can be accurately and confidentially interpreted (Jurs & Wiersma, 2005). The case study approach compromises the validity of the results. A case study approach can simplify the results due to the ability of the researcher to choose what data is beneficial to him (Merriam, 1998).

13 There are threats to external validity as well. External validity occurs when results can be generalized to a larger group of people. These threats to the external validity include a small sample group of teachers, a study of just one rural middle school, and the bias of the researcher. Assumptions I assumed that the participants answered all questions honestly in regard to their experience as a professional learning community. Also, I assumed that all the documents were correctly reported by the school. I also assumed that all personnel were willing to adhere and follow the characteristics of a professional learning community. Last, I assumed that any changes in teachers’ perceptions toward the professional learning community were in result of the school exhibiting the characteristics of a professional learning community. Significance of Study In this case study, existing research and theories on professional learning communities were explored (DuFour, 2004; DuFour & Eaker, 1998; Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002; Hipp, 2006; Hord, 1997; Hord, 2004) to determine whether teacher perceptions toward a professional learning community can affect teacher perception toward teacher instructional practice. I described the professional learning community and attempted to determine whether or not teachers’ perceptions of the professional learning community affect instructional practice in different subject areas. This could lead to success for teachers and students alike. This research was significant because it will add to the literature that exists on professional learning communities. And, by

14 focusing on a rural middle school it addresses a population that is particularly not in the literature. Summary Students come to school wanting to be successful. However, too many struggle and fail to complete middle school or high school successfully. There are estimates that show over 1 million students dropping out of school every year in the United States (Lee, Grigg, & Donahue, 2007). The foundation for high school occurs in the middle school years so it is important to display a nurturing culture towards both teachers and students (Marchant, 2004). This case study examines if educators who work together in a professional learning community perceive how the concept affects instructional practice. Section 2 will begin with the introduction to the chapter and then will present a review of literature offering research and perspectives important to school reform, professional learning communities, perceptions of the professional learning community, leadership, interventions, and student achievement. Section 2 will end with the conclusion.

SECTION 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction The goal of a professional learning community is to improve teacher practice and student learning (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). This single site case study reviews the following: • the purpose of a professional learning community • the structure of professional learning communities, the leadership needed for increased instructional practice and student learning • the intervention process used in professional learning communities • the effectiveness of professional learning communities on student achievement. The literature review provides insight on school reform, professional learning communities, leadership, interventions, and student achievement. I started by looking at school reform and how that has impacted many decisions and policies in education. There is a review of the important characteristics of the professional learning community. Also, leadership, interventions, and student achievement are discussed. I found few peer reviewed articles regarding professional learning communities and their effectiveness in rural middle schools. School Reform The federal government has influenced school policies since the 1960s. In this decade alone, several agencies dealt only with education (Wirt & Kirst, 2001). One particular program is the National Assessment of Educational Progress. This program

16 was developed to evaluate schools’ effectiveness in student learning by sample populations. The populations included students aged of 9, 13, and 17. The data showed state levels from different student demographics. These included gender, race, community setting, and economic level. Lawmakers used these student demographics to disaggregate the data. When results showed that there were differences among the different demographic groups, many lawmakers began to discuss why the discrepancies were occurring and what could be done to improve the situation. This marked the first time that decisions were made by our national government regarding the studying of such data (Campbell, Cunningham, Nystrand, & Usdan, 1990). The Elementary and Secondary Act was passed in 1965. The federal government provided more and more resources to underachieving students, primarily those in poverty (Wirt & Kirst, 2001). This legislation was adopted to show how educational opportunities could be equal for all students. Federal policy continued in the 1970s with the passage of special education legislation. School funding came from aid such as Title I and Title II. School districts across the United States had qualified for this aid based on free and reduced lunch rates. School districts used these funds at their own discretion as long as they were directed toward these specific students. Also, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) were passed. This set forth policies and services for students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). The IDEA Act and the development of IEPs ensured the monitoring of educational services for special education students. The federal government had set an all-time high for funding education during this decade (Wirt & Hirst, 2001).

Full document contains 161 pages
Abstract: Many studies provide evidence that professional learning communities are a valid means for school reform in public education. These studies may be even more important since schools are facing more pressure than ever to meet high academic performance benchmarks. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to discover teacher perceptions toward a professional learning community and teacher perceptions of instructional practice in a middle school in a southern U.S. state. Conceptual frameworks included the works of DuFour and Eaker as well as Hord, Senge, and Schlechty that explore potential benefits of a professional learning community. In this qualitative case study, using the case study design of Yin, teacher perceptions of a professional learning community and their perceptions of instructional practice after the implementation of a learning community were explored. Six teacher participants, who were selected from a purposeful sample to represent each core subject, were observed and interviewed. Documentation was analyzed to discover emerging patterns of teacher perceptions toward the professional learning community and teacher perceptions of instructional practice. The results of this study indicated that teachers have a positive perception of learning communities, instructional practice, effective communication, collaboration, shared leadership practices, and the use of common assessments. Teachers, principals, and superintendents may use the results of this study to promote the creation of professional learning communities. The results of this study can lead to positive social change by providing an alternative school culture encouraging a positive perception among teachers that leads to improved instructional practice which can impact student learning.