Efficacy of professional learning communities and their impact upon student academic outcomes as perceived by local school administrators and teachers

Shandra M. Yarbrough, Clark Atlanta University


There are many problems in current school reform efforts, and more specifically the problem is that clear guidelines have not been provided in regards to the most effective method of school reform. Professional learning communities (PLCs) have been identified as a vehicle for bringing about school reform, but again clear guidelines have not been provided in establishing these communities, nor does the research identify the extent to which PLCs actually affect teachers’ instructional practices. This not only poses a problem for the teachers, but for the students that they are serving. This mixed methods study examined the perceptions of administrators and teachers in a medium sized school district in the state of Georgia, and more specifically at Henry Elementary School. Forty-five administrators and teachers were surveyed using Hord’s School Staff a Professional Learning Community Questionnaire to determine perceptions about the effectiveness of their PLC, with descriptive statistical analysis. Nine administrators and six teachers were interviewed to obtain specific suggestions about effective PLC practices; open coding and subsequent refinement of coding revealed emerging themes. The study showed that administrators and teachers had positive perceptions about PLCs and felt PLCs did impact instructional practices in the classroom, with a positive effect on student academic outcomes. Administrators and teachers recommended that types of PLC meetings vary to include small group, large group, and voluntary meetings. They also recommended PLC meetings have pre-established agendas and that minutes be shared with other teacher groups. Finally, they recommended that administrators provided training and release time to learn more about how to effectively manage PLCs and for follow-up meetings. This study has implications for positive social change because it provides information for school leaders who wish to begin or are already implementing PLCs. It has further implications for positive social change because the study results provide specific suggestions for improving PLCs in an effort to increase student academic outcomes.