Teach what? Test what?: practices of a newly formed collaborative team working in a professional learning community
This study was designed to capture the conversations and practices of seven educators who navigate teaching and learning decisions in their Title 1 elementary school. This case study was conducted to answer the research question, "What are the behaviors and practices of a newly formed collaborative team of educators working within a professional learning community (PLC)?" In order to understand how this collaborative team worked together, data was collected through a survey, interviews, focus group discussion and questionnaire, observations of collaborative team meetings and artifacts generated from the team's work. The findings revealed that (1) participants spent the majority of their collaborative team time focusing on how to best prepare students for district and state standardized assessments; (2) teachers described themselves as learners who look to their colleagues to enhance their knowledge and skills; (3) members of PLCs need dedicated collaborative time to ensure all students and adults in the organization learn at high levels; (4) discussing and using student learning data can be difficult; (5) educators gravitate to colleagues who have similar philosophies and beliefs and (6) PLCs need supportive district, school and teacher leadership to accomplish their goals. This research study provides validation that the PLC process is a complex process of professional development designed to support school reform in an era of increased school accountability. The recommendations for school leaders are to create supportive leadership structures that allow all students opportunities to learn, build trusting environments, and provide clarity and focus of the vision for all stakeholders. District leadership needs to establish a priority for PLC work by embedding the processes in the vision, mission and goals of the district, examine policies to ensure they support the concepts of PLCs, provide access to resources and create a forum for critical conversations about teaching and learning. Policy makers need to ask the right questions so that they can design appropriate accountability systems that encourage collaboration.