Theses Doctoral

Professional Learning Communities and their Facilitation for Advancing Ambitious Teaching Practices

Russell, John Lawson

Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for K-12 Science Education encourage teachers to not only change the content of their teaching, but also the way that they deliver it. In order to promote these modern teaching practices, professional development (PD) experiences for teachers need to develop new approaches that enhance the transfer of the PD context into the teachers’ classroom practice. In this research study, professional learning communities (PLCs), defined as collaborative groups of teachers who make their practice visible within their professional learning, are analyzed in a formally instituted series of teacher professional education offerings. Moreover, the setting included a professional learning community composed of teacher-facilitators who were actively engaged as facilitators of other PLCs. The goal of this design experiment was to both explore PLCs as PD models within science education as well as to begin to develop tools for PD that allow teachers to work from within the context of their own classroom. The sources of evidence used in this study included teacher and student produced artifacts and interviews, and written transcripts of the sessions were also examined. All data were primarily explored using methodology taken from grounded theory. This approach facilitated identification of emergent themes that particularly addressed some of the ways that researchers and teacher leaders can work together in the future to make certain that PD and the teachers’ classroom practices are more coherently connected. The following themes were identified: refining the focus of professional learning communities to allow for investigations of student learning in the classroom, especially with an eye towards supporting transparency of practice through artifacts, and the usefulness of cycles of inquiry as a construct for planning professional learning communities. Furthermore, it became clear that there is a need for explicit norms to frame the classroom around what constitutes acceptable explanations and justifications for productive classroom experiences. Among other findings, it is recommended that borrowing from and adapting the work of scholars in sociomathematical norms around the use of explanations can be the basis for a possible framework for improving future studies of teacher professional practice.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Thesis Advisors
Anderson, O. Roger
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018