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The perceptions of teachers and administrators in relation to the implementation of professional learning communities

Jenny Chan-Remka, Johnson & Wales University


Professional learning communities have become one of the most talked about ideas in the current movement of education reform and school improvement. Many public schools are working to become professional learning communities in the hope that student learning will improve when adults commit themselves to working collaboratively around teaching and learning and then take action that will improve student learning and achievement. As DuFour and Eaker (1998) state "The most promising strategy for sustained, substantive school improvement is developing the ability of school personnel to function as professional learning communities" (p.xi). In spite of the benefits of establishing professional learning communities, problems may persist in sustaining schools as learning communities that are founded on the notion of professional interaction (Voulalas & Sharpe, 2004). The purpose of this research study was to explore the key factors that contribute to the creation, implementation, and sustainment of effective professional learning communities. A mixed-method case study methodology was used to assess both teachers' and the principal's perceptions regarding the impact of professional learning communities in a single middle school located in an urban RI school district. Surveys and personal interviews were used to collect data. Research subjects were teachers (N = 62), and the school principal (N = 1). The study explored the extent to which teachers and administrators understood the professional learning community's impact on teaching and learning in their school. Data collected from the surveys and interviews identify the perceptions of teachers and the principal. Descriptive statistics (frequencies, percents, means, and standard deviations) were used to analyze survey data, and thematic analysis was used to examine data collected from the interviews with teachers and the principal. The concept of a learning community implies an organization characterized by trust, mutual interdependence, and permanent personal investment, affiliation, and caring that promotes continuity and stability (Leithwood & Louis, 1998). The additional components of collegiality, common purpose, and commitment transform a learning organization into a learning community (Sergiovanni, 2004). The results of the analysis of the five dimensions of a professional learning community indicated that overall the respondents of the school do not perceive their school to operate as a true professional learning community. The lack of supportive leadership has tremendous negative effects on this particular school site. This study showed that a professional learning community cannot come into existence without strong support and convictions from the principal. This study gives further impetus to examine how the transformation of a leadership that mobilizes teacher participation and share decision-making sustains professional learning communities in their schools and districts.

Subject Area

School administration|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Chan-Remka, Jenny, "The perceptions of teachers and administrators in relation to the implementation of professional learning communities" (2007). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3270294.