Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

Abstract

This study examined the experiences and perspectives of twelve urban public middle school teachers and one focused instructional coach in one district in a New England state involved in a district-mandated change to professional learning communities as their form of teacher collaboration. It explored teachers’ reasons for engaging in collaboration, their understanding of the administration’s expectations for their collaboration, the factors and conditions that influenced their collaborative work, and the perceived effects of collaboration on their teaching practices and professional identity. This qualitative phenomenological study employed a purposeful sampling strategy and both interviews and field observations to uncover teachers’ perceptions of collaboration. The professional learning community meetings of one team (five teachers and the focused instructional coach at the same school) were observed five times and these six individuals were interviewed twice each. The remaining seven teachers, assigned to collaborative teams at other middle schools in the same district, were each interviewed once. The study found that teachers’ reasons for participating in collaboration vary and are based on both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. According to participants, they are more receptive to administrative expectations for teacher collaboration that are perceived to be from their principal rather than from the district administration. The study found that although teachers see the good intentions for collaboration to benefit the school community, there are instances of certainty and uncertainty about their own agency in achieving the intended outcomes. The study also found that although some factors and conditions that influence teacher collaboration occur across many school settings, fostering teacher collaboration requires close attention to each school’s particular context, including the presence of a unifying school culture. Lastly, the study found that teachers that value collaboration recognize that it has a positive effect on the development of their teaching practices, professional identity, and sense of collective responsibility. The implications of this study for principals involve the need to structure professional learning communities to emphasize their importance to teachers and the need to discover conditions that enable collaborative team members to develop trust in one another. The implications for teachers include the importance of exercising their own judgement about the topics to investigate in their professional learning communities so that the work that they do is meaningful to them. Additional questions about teachers’ perceptions of expectations from the principal as compared to expectations from the district administration as well as the possible connection between a unifying school culture and the effectiveness of teacher collaboration must still be explored.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Language

English

Number of Pages

252

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