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Professional learning communities and the role of enabling school structures and trust

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Julie A Gray
Abstract:
Over the last two decades many school districts have developed professional learning communities (PLCs) as a means of unifying teachers within school organizations toward common goals and collaborative efforts. This study purports that there are certain enabling school structures that influence the success or failure of PLCs implementation. Hoy and Sweetland summarize that "school structures vary along a continuum from enabling at one extreme to hindering at the other" (Hoy, 2002, p. 88). Other key aspects of PLCs relate to the role of collegial trust, teacher's collegial trust, and trust in principal. One of the assumptions underlying the theoretical framework is that trust is an essential aspect of building a PLC. While there is emerging research about trust and enabling school structures, none has been linked to PLCs. This study will examine enabling school structures, collegial trust, and trust in principal in context to professional learning communities, which are also called communities of learning, teacher communities, and communities of continuous inquiry and improvement.

CONTENTS

ABSTRACT

............................................................................... ........................ ....... ........ ...........

ii

DEDICATION

............................................................................................. ........................... ...... ii i

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND SYMBOLS

................................................. ............ ...... ......

iv

A CKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................................................................. ................

v

LIST OF TABLES

..................................................................................... ........ ............ ... ............

x

LIST OF FIGURES

............................................................................................. .............. . .........

x i

1 .

INTRODUCTION

.............................................................. ............................... ........................

1

Statement of the Research Question s

................... ....................................................... ......

2

Purpose

of the Study

........................................................ ............................. .....................

3

Sample of the Study

.............................................................................. ............................. 3

Definition of Concepts

................................................. .................................... ..................

4

Professional Learning Community

............ ............................ ............. .................. 4

Enabling School Structures

............ ........................................ ...... ....... .................. 5

Trust –

Collegial Trust and Trust in Principal

............ .......................................... 6

Theoretical Assumptions

..................................................................................... ........ .....

8

Conceptual Framework

... ................ ................................................................ .................

10

Theoretical Framework

... ................ ................................................................ ........ .........

11

Significance

of the Study

............................................................... ... ... .. .........................

1 3

Researcher Positionality ...................................... .............................. ...................... . ........ 14

Limitations

............................................................................................. ......... ................

15

Summary

............................................................................................. ..... ........................

1 5

vii

2 . REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

............................................................. ........ ...................

17

Introduction

... .. ................................................................................... ..................... .....

1 7

Organizational Learning

............................................................................................. ..... 1 7

Professional Learning Communities ............................................................. . .................

20

Defining the Concept .................................................. ........................ ........... ... . ..

20

Characteristics of PLCs ......................... ....................... ........................ ........... ..... 21

Supportive and Shared Leadership

............................................. ..... ... ..... 2 3

Collective Creativity

......... .................. ..... .. ............. .. .... .................. ...... ..

2 5

Shared Vision and Values

.............. ............... ..... .. ............. .. .... ........... .... .. 2 7

Supportive Conditions

......................... ..... .. ............. .. .... .................. ...... .. 2 8

Shared Personal Practice

..... .. ....................... ..... .. ............. .. .... .. ........ ...... .. 2 8

Historical Examples of PLCs

.................................................. ...................... . ...... 3 1

Limitations of PLCs

.................................................. ......................... ........... ...... 3 4

En abling School Structures

..... . ........................................................................................

3 5

The Role of Trust

… .. ............... ..................... ................................................. .................. 4 1

Collegial Trust

........................................................................................................... .....

4 4

Relational Trust

............... ........................................................................................ .. ..... 4 8

Trust in Principal ........................................................................................................... ..

50

Theoretical Framework

........................................................................... ............. ............ 5 2

Rationale for Hypothesis

............................................................................................. .... 5 4

3 .

METHODOLOGY

......................................................................... ...................... . .......... ....... 5 6

Research Design ......................................................................... ................... ........... ...... 5 6

Sample

and Procedures

. . ..................... ...... .................................................... .. .................

5 8

viii

Pilot Study

....... . ........ ............................................................................................ .......... 5 8

Main Study

. ............................ ........................................................ ...................... .......... 5 9

Instrumentation

. ...................................................... .................... .................. ................. 60

Professional Learning Communities Assessment –

Revised

. .. . .......... ...... ........ .. 6 1

Enabling School Structures Instrument

. ....................... ........ .................... .......... 6 2

Omnibus Trust Scale

.. . ........................... ... ................................................ .......... 6 3

Data Collection

....... .................................................................................................... .....

6 3

Data Analysis

........ . ................................................................................................... ..... 6 4

4.

FINDINGS

............... ............. .......................................................... ...................... ........... .......

6 6

Overview

........ . ............................ ....... ...................................................................... . ..... 6 6

Pilot Study

........ ............ ............... ....... ....................................................................... ..... 6 6

Main Study ........ ......................... . ....... ...................................................... ................. ..... 7 1

Descriptive Statistics ........ ............ ............... ....... .......................... ............... ............. ..... 7 2

Reliability Coefficients for Major Variables

……. . ........ .... .......... . ............... ........ ..... ..... 7 3

Bivariate Correlations for All Variables

.. .. .. . ............. ....... ....... ... .................. ............. ..... 7 4

Multiple Regression of Variables

…. .. . ............. ....... .......................... ............... ......... ..... 7 9

Summary of Hypothesized Findings

. .. .. . ............. ........ ................ ................ ............. ..... 8 2

Summary of Unhypothesized Findings ... .. ... ....... ........ ................ ................ ............. ..... 8 3

5.

SUMMARY AND DISCU SSION

......... .... ... ....... ........ ................ ................. ....... ... . ..... . .. ....... 8 5

Introduction ........ ............ ............... ..... ....................................................................... ..... 8 5

S tatement

of Findi ngs

. ........ ................. ....... . .... ........................................................ ..... 8 6

Theoretical Implications

........ ............ ............... ....... ... ... .. ......................................... ..... 8 7

Practical Impli cations

........ ............ .......... ..... ..... ....... ... ..... ......................................... ..... 9 1

ix

Recommendations for Future Research

........ ............ ............... ....... ... ........ ............... ..... 9 7

Summary

. ........ ..... ....... ............... ..... .................... .... ................................................... ..... 9 9

REFERENCES

... .. ...................................................................... ..... ....................... .. .................

101

APPEN DIXES

A . INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD LETTER OF PERMISSION

....... .. ........... 1 1 2

B. PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT

. ....... .. ...... ..........

1 1 5

C .

LETTER OF PERMISSION -

OLIVIER, HIPP & HUFFMAN

.......... ....... ....... .....

1 1 7

D.

P LCA - REVISED INSTRUMENT -

OLIVIER, HIPP & HUFFMAN

.... ... ... ......... 1 19

E. ENABLING SCHOOL STRUCTURES INSTRUMENT -

HOY

.......... ..... ............ 1 2 3

F. OMNIBUS TRUST INSTRUMENT

HOY & TSCHANNEN - MORAN

........ ..... 1 2 5

G.

QUALTRICS RESEARCH SUITE SOFTWARE DESCRIPTION

..... . ...... ........... 12 7

x

LIST OF TABLES

1

Descriptive Statistics of Professional Learning Community –

Short

........ ... . .. .... . ................

6 7

2

Variance Explained (1 st

Order Factor Analysis)

. ................ .. ... ...................... .. ...... ................

6 8

3

Structure Matrix

. ..... .......... .. ...... . .......... ......................... .. ...... ............. .......... .. ...... ............. ...

6 9

4

Reliability Coefficients: Collaborative Practices & Sup portive Structures

… .... . ...............

70

5

Variance Explained (2 nd

Order Factor Analysis)

. ............... .. ... ..................... .. ...... ................

70

6

Descriptive Statistics of All Variables

... .............. . ... .... .. ..... ...... .......................... ................

7 2

7

Descriptive Statistics of PLC –

S Subscales

. ................ ..... ... .. ................................. ...........

7 3

8

Reliability Coefficients: Teacher Responses

.............. ................ .......................... ...............

7 4

9

Reliability Coefficients: School Data

..................... ... .. ....................................... ................

7 4

10

Pearson Correlations of All

Variables

............. . ..... ............... ....................................... ........

7 5

1 1

PLCs Regressed on All

Variables

. . .......... .... ...... .... .................... .... .................... ................

7 9

1 2

PLCs Regressed –

Reliability Coeffi cients ....................... ... . . ............................. ................

80

xi

LIST OF FIGURES

1.1 Contrasting Enabling and Hindering Centralization

. .......... .............................. .. ...... .............

9

1. 2

Conceptual Diagram of Hypothesized Relationships

...... .......... ............................... ............ 1 3

2.1 Framework for School - Based Professional Community

... ............................ ........ .............. 22

2. 2

How Teachers Communities Differ in Culture

................................... ........... ........ .............. 30

2.3 A Typology of School Bureaucrac y

.............. .............. ......... .................... ..........................

3 9

2. 4

Conceptual Diagram of Hypothesized Relationships

................................. ............... ........... 5 5

4.1 Scree Plot of Factoral Analysis for Shortened PLC

............... . ................................. ........... 70

4.2 Percentage of Students Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch Services

.... . ................ ........ 7 8

4. 3

Revised Conceptual Diagram of Hypothesized Relationships

........... ....................... ...........

80

1

CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

In this age of high - stake accountability teachers are feeling pressure to increase student achievement, grow professionally, and satisfy all stakeholders with passing

test scores and annual yearly progress. The traditional role of teachers to promote and ensure student learning is being overshadowed by policies and mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act o f 2001

and other governmental agencies. Over the last two decades many school districts have developed professional learning communities (PLCs) as a means of u nifying teachers within school organizations toward common goals and collaborative efforts. Why

are some schools more effective professional learning communities than others? Which characteristics do those successful PLCs possess that others lack?

I contend that there are certain enabling school structures that i nfluence

the success or failure of

PLCs impleme ntation. Hoy and Sweetland summarize that “school structures vary along a continuum from enabling at one extreme to hindering at the other” (Hoy, 2002, p. 88). Other key aspect s of PLCs relate

to the role of collegial trust , teacher‟s colleg ial trust , and trust in principal. One of the assumptions underlying the theoretical framework is that trust is an essential aspect of building a PLC. While there is emerging research about trust and enabling school structures, none has been linked to PL Cs. I plan to

examine enabling school structures, collegial trust, and trust in principal

in context to professi onal learning communities , which are also cal led communities of learning, teacher communi ties, and communities of continuous inquiry and improv ement.

2

Professional l earning c ommunities allow principals and teachers to improve the culture and climate of the school while promoting student achievement. Although a relatively new concept, the PLCs research conducted by Hord, McLaughlin, Louis, Kruse ,

Bryk, and their colleagues demonstrates the positive influence this approach can have for teachers‟ sense of professionalism, participation in shared decision - making and vision for the sc hool, and trust

in colleagues ( Hipp & Huffman, 2010; Hord, 1997, 20 04, 2007, 2009; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001, 2006; Louis & Kruse, 1995; Kruse & Louis, 1993a, 1993b; Kruse, Louis ,

& Bryk, 1994).

Human resources –

such as openness to improvement, trust and respect, teachers having knowledge and skills, supportive leader ship, and socialization –

are more critical to the development of professional community than structural conditions . . . The need to improve the culture, climate, and interpersonal relationships in schools ha s received too little attention .

(Kruse,

Louis ,

& Bryk , 1994, p. 8)

This study

hypothesizes that there is a relationship between

enabling school structures

and professional learning communities, as well as collegial trust

and trust in principal

and PLCs.

Statement of Research Questions

The researc h question framing this quantitative study is: What are

the role s

of

enabling school structures , collegial trust, and trust in principal

in the development of professional learning communities? Furthermore I plan to address the role of collegial trust

an d trust in principal in PLCs based upon survey data from an existing database of approximately 90 schools.

More specifically, other questions will be considered in order to narrow the focus of the study and attend to relevant issues that arise during the study. Other questions

to be considered include: (a) What are the individual effects of

enabling school structure, collegial trust, trust in principal, socioeconomic status of schools, and school level in the development of professional

3

learning communit ies?; and (b) What is the collective effect of the variables in regard to the development of professional learning communities?

Purpose

of the Study

The goal of this study is to investigate the role s

of enabling school structure s

and trust in the develop ment of professional learning comm unities. The formal aspects of the school, the factors that enable school structures, and the informal aspects of the organization, collegial trust and trust in principal, need to be further examined in context to profess ional learning communities. Little is known about the interaction of these variable s , therefore

a study is needed to expand the explanation of such relationships and guide teacher and leader practice in the field.

This study plans to address a gap that exists in the literat ure about these concepts and their interactions with each other . Furthermore the theoretical knowledge base can be expanded in order to allow theory to guide classroom practice. In PLCs t eachers realize

the benefits of collective eff orts, rather than closing their doors ,

and teaching in isolation. “If our aim is to help students become lifelong learners by cultivating a spirit of inquiry and the capacity for inquiry, then we must provide th e same conditions for teachers” (Sergiovanni , 199 6 , p. 152). By researching the relationship of enabling school structures and trust among colleagues in professional learning communities, this study plans

to examine

the role of each in context to professional learning communities.

Sample of the Stu dy

For the purpose of this study, each school is viewed as a unit of analysis, so collective scores will represent the overall results for the school. This sample consists of 76

public elementary, middle or high schools in the large metropolitan area of a Southeastern city.

4

Approximately 3,700 teachers and 190 principals and other administrators were invited to participate in this study.

Definition of Concepts

Professional Learning Communities

There are many definitions of pr ofessional learning commun ities in the research, but none that is universally accepted. I selected the Hord definition as the best fit for this study as its research led to the development of the Professional Learning Communities Assessment –

Revised

(PLCA - R)

instrument, which was

implemented to gather empirical data for this project (Olivier, Hipp & Huffman, 20 03 ; See Appendix D ). A significant number of researchers have accepted Hord‟ s definition of professional learni ng communities as well .

A more detailed description of the m easure and the research of Hord will be presented in chapter two.

Hord provides the

constitutive definition for this study for

professional learning community as a collegial group of faculty and staff who are united in their commitment to student learning

(Hord, 1997) . According to Hord PLCs encompass these attributes: supportive and shared leadership, collective creativity, shared values and vision, supportive conditions, and shared personal practice ( Hord, 1997 ). Seashore and her colleagues further el aborate:

By using the term professional learning community we signify our interest not only in

discrete acts of teacher sharing, but in the establishment of a school - wide culture that

makes collaboration expected, inclusive, genuine, ongoing, and focused on critically

examining practice to improve student outcomes. ...The hypothesis is that what

teachers do together outside of the classroom can be as important as what they do

inside in affecting school restructuring, teachers‟ professional development, and

student learning.

(Seashore, Anderson, & Riedel, 2003, p. 3)

5

Operationally, professional learning community will be defined by a shortened

version of the

Professional Learning Communit y

Assessment (PLCA)

instrument which was developed by Olivier, Hipp ,

a nd Huffman in 200 3

(See Appendix B).

Other literature supports the collaborative aspects of Hord‟s definition of PLCs. McLaughlin and Talbert further explain that

“ w e use the term „teacher learning community‟ to define teachers‟ joint efforts to generate new knowledge of practice and their mutual support of each others‟ professional growth” (McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001, p. 75). “It suggests a group of people sharing and critically interrogating their practice in an ongoing, reflective, collaborative, inclu sive, learning - oriented, growth - promoting way” ( Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace ,

& Thomas, 2006 , p. 223).

Stoll and Louis further contend that:

The term „professional learning community‟ suggests that focus is not just on individual teachers‟ learning bu t on (1) professional learning; (2) within the context of a cohesive group; (3) that focuses on collective knowledge, and (4) occurs within an ethic of interpersonal caring that permeates the life of teachers, students and school leader s. (Stoll & Louis, 2007, p.3)

Enabling School Structures

An enabling school structure (ESS) describes the teachers‟ belief that the administration and rules of the school help them in their work. Organizations that are characterized as enabling structures tend to facilitat e problem solving, enable cooperation, protect participants, and encourage collaboration, flexibility, and innovation (Hoy & Sweetland, 2001). In an earlier study, Hoy and Sweetland used the term enabling bureaucracy which evolved into enabling school str uctures (Hoy & Sweetland, 2000). Hoy and Sweetland provide the

constitutive definition for enabling school structures which are “characterized by principals who are disposed

6

to help teachers solve problems, encourage open communication, and help teachers

do their jobs” ( Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 310).

Hoy describes a model for an enabling structure as “a hierarchy of authority and a system of rules and regulations that help rather than hinder the teaching learning mission of the school” (Hoy, 2002, p. 9 1). In contrast ,

a hindering school structure would be more strictly controlled or managed by the leader with a top - down approach. Operationally, enabling school structures will be defined by Enabling Schools Structures instrum ent as developed by Hoy in 200 3

(See Appendix E).

Enabling school structures tend to look beyond traditional means for solving problems, considering creative, innovation alternatives instead.

In order to sustain a professional learning community, supportive conditions must exist in

the form of administrative support, time for collaboration and planning, and open communication among all faculty members regarding instructional goals (Hord, 1997). Miskel, Fevurly, and Stewart summarized that “more effective schools, as perceived by te achers, are characterized by (a) more participative organizational processes, (b) less centralized decision making structures, (c) more formalized general rules, and (d) more complexity or high professional activity” (Miskel, Fevurly ,

& Stewart, 1979, p. 1 14).

In

other words, teachers perceive

the school to be more effective when they are

involved in collegial relationsh ips and shared decision making, rules are more formalized, and professional activity is encouraged.

Trust -

Collegial Trust and Trust in

Principal

Trust in schools has evolved from the business literature over the last sixty years. Hoy and Tschannen - Moran provide the constitutive definition for trust.

“ T rust involves taking risk and making oneself vulnerable to another with confidence t hat the other will act in ways that are

7

not detrimental to the trusting party” (Hoy & Tschannen - Moran, 2003, p. 183). They further surmise

that “benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty, and openness are all elements of trust” ( Hoy & Tschannen - Moran,

2003 , p. 183). Operationally, trust, collegial trust, and trust in principal will be defined by the Omnibus Trust instrument (Omnibus T Scale) which was developed by Hoy and Tschannen - Mo ran

in 1999 and revised

in 2003 (Hoy & Tschannen -

Moran, 1999, 2003)

(See Appendix F).

For this study, the constitutive definition for collegial trust is that “the faculty believes that teachers can depend on one another in a difficult situation; teachers can rely on the integrity of their colleagues” (Hoy, Tarter ,

& Ko ttkamp, 1991, p. 93). Those who view their colleagues as honest, open, competent, reliable, and professional have greater collegial trust. Furthermore, c ollegial trust is based upon the teacher‟s willingness to be vulnerable to his fellow teachers, while

trust in principal varies because of the power structure of the organization and the supervisory role of the principal over the teacher.

The constitutive definition for trust in principal is also based upon the research of Hoy, Tarter ,

and Kottkamp (19 91). The terms as related to faculty trust were expanded from the earlier research of Hoy and Kupersmith (1985). Faculty members who trust the principal “have confidence that the principal will keep his/her word and will act in the best interests of thei r colleagues” (Hoy

et al. , 1991, p. 93). Furthermore, “the principal who is friendly, supportive, open, and collegial in interactions with teachers is able to command respect and trust from teachers, and trust is further enhances by protecting teachers fro m unreasonable community and parental demands” (Hoy et al., 1991, p. 96).

8

Theoretical Assumptions

The factory model of the late nineteenth century that promotes top - down management, standardi z ation

of practices, and efficiency is no longer a viable appr oach to education. What we have discovered about teaching and learning has

changed over the last century. Because of school reform and restructuring, change is an ongoing aspect of

schools. Rather than accepting the status quo and adapting, schools shou ld embrace the good that comes with change. In this study I am making assumptions that professional learning communities are an effective approach to restructuring , that enabling school structures enhance PLCs,

and that trust is an integral aspect of PLCs .

Furthermore

I am assuming that the schools I am researching are seeking change through the model of PLCs and are open to the benefits of such.

Hord assert s that there are “two types of supportive conditions necessary for PLCs to function productively:

(1) logistical conditions such as physical and structural factors and resources, and (2) the capacities and relationships developed among staff members so that they may work well and productively together” (Hord, 2007, p. 3). There are circumstances whe n a school must consider resources available outside of the school environment or untapped resources within the organization. Stoll and h er

colleagues summarize that “creating and developing PLCs appears to depend on . . . focusing on learning processes; making the best of human and social resources; managing structural resources; and interacting with and drawing on exter nal agents” (Stoll et al., 2006 , p. 231).

Trust and sharing among teachers and school leaders are essential

aspects of developing a pr ofessional learning community. How can a professional learning community exist without trust

and collaboration?

If teachers are not open

to sharing best practices and examining their classroom practices , then little change can occur. When unwilling to b e vulnerable, the

9

development of a professional learning community is obstructed. “Under conditions of vulnerability, risk, and interdependence, trust can be thought of as the extent to which a trustor

(one who trusts) perceives a trustee (the trust refer ent) as trustworthy” (Forsyth, Adams ,

& Hoy, 2011, p. 18).

Hoy and Sweetland contend that “teachers need to do more than trust each other if they are to be innovative and effective; they must trust their leader” ( Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 310).

They

ass ert

that there is a reciprocal relationship between enabling bureaucracy and trust in principal

( Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 ) . “That is, enabling structure facilitates faculty trust in the principal, and conversely, faculty trust in the principal reinforces ena bling bureaucracy” ( Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 311). Covey further supports that “trust is critical for a productive environment because it enables the bureaucracy to function effectively” (Covey in Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 310).

In Figure 1.1, Hoy and

Sweetland compare the characteristics of enabling and hindering hierarchy within the structures of a school organization. This type of hierarchy encourages problem solving, collaboration, cooperation, flexibility, and innovation, and protects those wh o p articipate in each of these.

Figure 1.1 Contrasting Enabling and Hindering Centralization

Contrasting Enabling and Hindering Centralization

Characteristics of

Enabling Hierarchy

Characteristics of

Hindering Hierarchy

Facilitates problem solving

Enables

cooperation

Collaborative

Flexible

Encourages innovation

Protects participation

Frustrates problem solving

Promotes control

Autocratic

Rigid

Discourages change

Disciplines subordinates

FROM: HOY & SWEETLAND, (2007), p. 345

10

In an enabling hierarchy, th e principal is more likely to invite teachers to take part in shared decision making. Halpin describes such enabling behavior of the principal as “open . . . low hindrance” (Halpin, 1966, p. 175). Teachers and principals working together in an open clima te tend to be more cooperative (Halpin, 1966). In contrast, a hindering hierarchy prevents change and problem solving from occurring and controls the organization in an unyielding, autocratic approach that discourages participation of its members.

When

a principal does not encourage teacher input in the decision making process, then teachers perceive that they have no say in decisions made. Moreover, “trust is a key aspect of organizational life; it enables a leader to innovate and deal with resultant confusion that often accompanies change” (B ennis & Nanus in Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 310). It is important that teachers trust each other and their principal. Hoy and Sweetland summarize that “enabling schools encourage trusting relationships between te achers and between teachers and the principal” ( Hoy & Sweetland, 2001 , p. 314).

Conceptual Framework

The development of a PLC takes years of effort, planning, and focus on the part of the members of the organization. Change for the sake of change can c reate additional problems for a school to overcome. Hord elaborates “changing schools is highly challeng ing, complex, and messy work -

and change is rarely welcomed” (Hord, 2004, p. 3). In her research, she found that many schools considered the model of

PLCs because of demands from outside forces to make improvements and immediate changes. Often schools were considered failing because of high student dropout rates, low scores on standardized testing, low teacher morale or a combination of all three. Th e high level of accountability that accompanies the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and other governmental interventions raised the level of stress and pressure in many school

11

districts. Schools were given the directive to improve or else. When

did our focus change from student learning to student mastery of standardized tests?

“It is also generally agreed that effective professional learning communities have the capacity to promote and sustain learning of professional in a school with the collective pu rpose of enhancing student learning” ( Louis & Kruse, 1995 ; Bo lam et al., 2005) . The purpose of every teacher should be to improve student achievement and learning, which is more likely to occur in PLCs. There are many questions that accompany the challen ges that face schools and those developing PLCs. “Assuming we find the means to nurture democracies in schools [in the form of PLCs], how do we train and retrain principals, superintendents, and other district personnel to let go of the reins and allow th ese democracies t o flourish?” (Hord, 2004, p. 4) Bolam and his colleagues summarize that “p rofessional learning communities are created, managed and sustained through four key processes: optimizing resources and structures; promoting individual and colle ctive professional learning; . . . and leadership and management supporting PLC development” (Bolam, Stoll ,

Full document contains 140 pages
Abstract: Over the last two decades many school districts have developed professional learning communities (PLCs) as a means of unifying teachers within school organizations toward common goals and collaborative efforts. This study purports that there are certain enabling school structures that influence the success or failure of PLCs implementation. Hoy and Sweetland summarize that "school structures vary along a continuum from enabling at one extreme to hindering at the other" (Hoy, 2002, p. 88). Other key aspects of PLCs relate to the role of collegial trust, teacher's collegial trust, and trust in principal. One of the assumptions underlying the theoretical framework is that trust is an essential aspect of building a PLC. While there is emerging research about trust and enabling school structures, none has been linked to PLCs. This study will examine enabling school structures, collegial trust, and trust in principal in context to professional learning communities, which are also called communities of learning, teacher communities, and communities of continuous inquiry and improvement.