Impact of participation in a professional learning community on the professional life of a teacher

Ronni Tobman Michelen, Fordham University


A professional learning community can sustain school improvement and, thus, positively affect faculty and students. It can also increase student achievement as teachers collaborate and learn together as they take on leadership roles. It can create an environment where new ideas and strategies emerge, cultiivating a collective commitment by the school community to the school's success. This study explored the formulation of a professional learning community and its impact on the educators' professional lives, on students, and on school culture. In this research, a qualitative research approach was used to study a small urban high school in the first year of implementing a professional learning community. Interview data were collected from 3 assistant principals and 11 teachers, all of whom represented a range of experience, age, grade level, and subjects taught at the school. Observations and documents were also used. Several key findings emerged. Most important, the principal's role was essentail to the success in the first year of a professional learning community. His ability to gain the trust of the faculty, create a supportive environment, play the role of negotiator, and honor the vloices of faculty was critical. Skillful facilitation by assistant principals was also shown to enhance the learning community's implementation and growth. Most professional learning community participants agreed that their particpation established new professional relationships with colleagues and reduced feelings of isolation. Student professional learning community participants performed more successfully and also benefited. The results suggest that before schools implement a professional learning community, they should invest in training and supporting designated facilitators, especially in the early stages. A coach/consultant experienced with professional learning communities to support and guide the facilitators during the implementation process, is important for success. Results also indicated that inter-visitations—where teachers visited each other's classrooms—have the potential to improve practice. Before initiating a professional learning community, the school's needs must be identified and implementers must be well informed about this practice. More research is needed on the implementation of professional learning communities and their impact on students. Additional case studies of schools that have implemented learning communities are needed.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Michelen, Ronni Tobman, "Impact of participation in a professional learning community on the professional life of a teacher" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3465673.