On becoming a professional: The experience of novice teachers in professional learning communities

Michael Dennis Carrigan, Fordham University


Attempting to develop a consensus about what teachers need to know and be able to do has been a contentious process. How teachers are prepared, inducted, and sustained in the teaching profession has been the focus of scrutiny over the past decade. Voices within the academic community, as well as commissions and governmental agencies, have questioned fundamental assumptions that have driven teacher training and on-going professional learning. Professional learning communities, in which teachers collaborate to examine the needs of their students, share ideas about teaching and learning, and inquire together about dilemmas arising in their practice, have been increasingly touted as structures to nurture and sustain teachers in their growth as professionals. Further, the use of intentional conversational strategies, often called protocols, has been suggested as a means to transform the conversational practices of teachers to support their working together. This case study examined the work of a group of teachers who share common planning time in a large comprehensive high school in a Northeastern United States city. The researcher focused on the novice teachers in the group and attempted to understand the impact of the professional learning community process, particularly the use of protocols, upon their experience as new teachers. Using a phenomenological analytical framework, the study suggested two hypotheses: (1) Professional learning communities can support novice teachers in their induction process: (a) when the members of the community can communicate in ways that demonstrate to the novice teachers that they are valued; and (b) where a spirit of open-ended inquiry exists. (2) Protocols support the development of a more level playing field between veteran and novice teachers so that the flow of conversation moves in two directions. Achieving this kind of conversation enhances the willingness of the novice teachers to engage in the work of the community.

Subject Area

School administration|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Carrigan, Michael Dennis, "On becoming a professional: The experience of novice teachers in professional learning communities" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3312046.