ERIC Number: EJ1026545
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Sep
Using Common Planning Time to Foster Professional Learning
Dever, Robin; Lash, Martha J.
Middle School Journal (J3), v45 n1 p12-17 Sep 2013
Increased emphasis on meeting state standards, more stringent requirements for designation as highly qualified, and intensified accountability for student performance have foisted new expectations upon teachers and stimulated changes in professional development models in which the greater urgency is clearly to attend to the teacher's role as learner. Consequently, professional development must become more meaningful, effective, and applicable to daily practice; it must address the specific needs of each school, classroom, and teacher. A promising reform model, the professional learning community (PLC) is a means to change the paradigm of professional development. Implement PLCs in middle grades schools, using common planning time (CPT) during both interdisciplinary and content area team meetings has been proposed. Incorporating professional development into an already-established domain of a middle grades school allows teacher learning to take on a new form in an established framework and points to the focus of the study described in this article: What does an embedded professional development model look like for both interdisciplinary and content teams using professional learning communities in one middle grades school? To study the role of CPT and PLCs in professional development, an in-depth, observational case study of one middle school, purposefully chosen in light of its professional development initiative, was the focus of this study. Observations of teachers in collaborative meetings served as the primary data source; 16 observations of the CPT team (interdisciplinary team) and 27 observations of PLCs (content area teams) as well as one inservice were documented. This study focused on one eighth grade interdisciplinary team (CPT team); its five members had been together three years, meeting twice per week during their common planning time for the purpose of designing interdisciplinary units, discussing student affairs, engaging in professional development, and discussing any day-to-day issues. Observation of interdisciplinary CPT teams showed that their focus veered from academic issues to the social and behavioral issues associated with the students. During interdisciplinary common planning time over the course of the year, teachers typically discussed the following topics: students' academic issues, assessments, behavioral issues, parent issues, school events, team events, nonacademic issues, organizing working lunches, and other concerns. In contrast to the CPT teams, themes emerging from the PLCs related to their productivity. The original intent of this study was to focus on the interdisciplinary team and its professional growth, in particular, its common planning time, by observing teachers in their content area professional learning communities (PLCs). Early in the study, however, the anticipated professional learning taking place during CPT team meetings proved to be less than the strong professional growth observed in the CPT team members' content-specific PLCs. These findings are substantiated and shared along with themes of collaboration, resistance, and teacher-led initiatives.
Descriptors: Teacher Collaboration, Cooperative Planning, Faculty Development, Middle School Teachers, Interdisciplinary Approach, Teamwork, Meetings, Case Studies, Observation, Grade 8, Group Discussion, Socialization, Student Behavior
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Middle Schools; Grade 8
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A