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Abstract Much has been researched and written concerning the structure, attributes, and benefits of the professional learning community (PLC), yet many have found that this highly collaborative model is difficult to implement. One reason for this was that conflict among team members often limited communication and therefore halted collaboration. In an attempt to overcome conflict, the researcher introduced an intervention to five grade-level teaching teams at a suburban elementary school where staff had been struggling to develop teams into PLCs. The intervention consisted of training participants in the use of collaborative norms, and then tracking the use of these norms during team meetings, as well as gathering the teachers' perceptions on how their team was being affected by the use of the norms. Seven training sessions were conducted, each devoted to an individual norm such as pausing, putting ideas on the table, or presuming the positive, and so on. A mixed-methods action research model was utilized in gathering and analyzing the data in this study. Qualitative measures included reflection journals completed by the teachers, open-ended survey questions, and written responses in which the teachers described prior to the intervention and again after the intervention how their team: 1. Is like a PLC, 2. Is not like a PLC, and 3. Is becoming like a PLC. Quantitative measures included a survey of team communication that used questions regarding efficacy, conflict, and candor/trust. Quantitative measures also included an instrument developed as part of the System for Multi-Level Observation of Groups (SYMLOG) which is used for recording evidences of values observed in team members. Results demonstrated increases in teachers' perceptions of friendliness among their colleagues, ability to deal with conflict amicably and constructively, and in teachers' perception that they were now being listened to and understood more than they had been previously. Teachers also reported that they came to think of their team as a PLC, and began to perceive that there were benefits with respect to student achievement because they were becoming a PLC. Discussion focused on lessons learned, implications for practice, and implications for research.
As higher education embraces innovative educational models, support for the faculty members who must carry them out remains a vital ingredient for success. Despite this need, many institutions adopt innovations such as blended learning for all of the benefits afforded, with minimal consideration to meaningfully equip professors teaching these courses. “Faculty Learning Communities” (FLC’s) provide a powerful model of supporting and equipping faculty in their teaching practice. Nevertheless, ongoing and collaborative faculty development was historically unavailable to professors teaching undergraduate blended courses at Lancaster Bible College. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative action research study was to examine the ways that faculty perceived an FLC during the design and facilitation of a blended course. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework guided the design and facilitation of the FLC in fall 2018, as well as providing insight into measuring how learning communities formed during the FLC and while participants taught their courses. This FLC model blended learning for participants by occurring four times on campus, with online sessions following each in-person meeting. The faculty developer provided resources and support as faculty collaborated in designing their blended courses for the spring 2019 semester. Faculty perceptions of support were gathered in a focus group at the end of fall semester. During the spring 2019 semester, the faculty developer observed both on-campus and online sessions of the blended courses and led a second focus group about faculty perceptions of effectiveness and support. Qualitative data sets included video recordings of the FLC, focus groups, and class observations, field notes, and screenshots of online environments during the FLC and courses. Findings demonstrated substantial evidence of CoI measures of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence were present in both the FLC and participants’ courses. These results affirmed the CoI framework provided a meaningful platform for faculty development. Additionally, participants perceived the FLC as supportive for their blended teaching practices, making direct mentions of support and indicating belief that broader institutional change be implemented toward this end to enhance faculty development opportunities. Limitations and implications of the study, as well as desired future research were explored.