Professional Development

Report: High-Functioning Professional Learning Communities Support Student Achievement

Participation in high functioning professional learning communities (PLCs) improves teacher morale, and higher levels of teacher morale are "significantly correlated with practices that drive student achievement," according to a new report from a Learning Sciences International (LSI) research team.

The report, "Did You Know? Your School's PLCs Have a Major Impact," examines the relationships between PLC effectiveness, teacher morale and student achievement. The team of researchers, led by Lindsey Devers Basileo, a senior research analyst for LSI, surveyed 2,854 educators from 60 schools in six United States school districts. More than half of respondents worked at high schools, 78 percent were classroom teachers and 92 percent said they attend PLC meetings.

The researchers asked survey participants how much time their PLCs spend discussing various practices and how those discussions affected their morale as teachers. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents said that participation in their PLC results in a high level of teacher morale. The researchers then correlated the PLC practices with teacher morale.

PLC practices that had a positive correlation with a high level of teacher morale include:

  • Examining student work;
  • Analyzing student achievement data;
  • Developing standards-based lessons;
  • Developing common standards-based scales; and
  • Creating common assessments.

PLC practices that had a negative correlation with high levels of teacher morale include:

  • Discussing building issues;
  • Addressing student behavior; and
  • Organizing grade-level or subject area events.

The report references a 2011 study from the University of Pittsburgh, which found "a significant correlation between student learning growth and school environments where positive teacher collaborations flourished."

Based on LSI's findings about PLCs and teacher morale, the report concluded that "higher levels of teacher morale significantly correlated with practices that drive student achievement," and it recommends that administrators "give teachers the tools and support they need to ensure that they are focused on the right work: work that will both boost morale and create the highest levels of social and human capital in their school environments."

The full report is available as a free, downloadable PDF from Learning Sciences International's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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