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Acquisition, Articulation, and Transferring of Knowledge in Professional Learning Communities (PLC)

  • Author(s): Vargas, Patricio
  • Advisor(s): Becker, Natalie
  • et al.

One of the recurring themes in K-12 public education in the United States is the long-standing debate about teachers' professional competency. Many of the restructuring models of the last two decades have stressed the need to increase teacher professional expertise as a means of fostering student achievement. One of these models, professional learning communities, proposes a redefinition of the role of teachers through collaborative practices. This research highlights the most salient characteristics of professional learning communities (PLCs) as practiced in a newly restructured public elementary school and considers its impact on the creation of shared technical expertise. It explores how two teams of teachers involved in PLCs acquire and articulate technical knowledge together and the nature of this knowledge. This study used an interpretative approach concerned with the specifics of meaning and action in the interaction of teachers in PLCs. This research defines the specific structure of teacher collaboration and the meaning-perspectives of the participants as they developed this shared learning system of interaction. The investigation highlights the central importance of the allocation and use of non-instructional time for the purpose of collaboration as a precursor to the production of both teacher technical expertise and organic teacher accountability systems. Two main themes developed: first, the highly local nature of the technical knowledge about teaching and learning that is produced through effective teacher collaboration; and, second, the evolving state of accountability within PLC within which formal and informal systems develop that hold members accountable to the group and students. Last, this study discusses the fundamental role that relationships play in fostering dialectic practices about student learning and strengthening collective agreements within collaborative endeavors in the teaching profession. The findings offer insights into the evolving state of teachers as professionals and how PLCs are affecting the way schools view teaching and learning.

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