Stories from a professional learning community of teachers: PLC as thirdspace to generate ways of learning and being

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University of Alabama Libraries

In this narrative inquiry, stories were collected from a small group of science teachers collaborating as members of a professional learning community (PLC) in a local high school. This is qualitative research with a postmodern approach, a place-based micro-ethnography of particular teachers in a specific time. The purpose was to gain insights into how these teachers view their experiences as members of a PLC, specifically with regard to teacher agency, and perceptions of success teaching persistently low performing students in standard level science courses. This work is an arts-informed inquiry, using narratives and digital photographs--as well as reflections of themes revealed--collected as a gallery of portraiture walls giving voice to teachers. This study posits that PLCs can be constructed as thirdspaces, informed by Foucault's notion of heterotopias--places both real and imagined--to generate new ways of learning and being. Conceptions of space are a major focus throughout this research. Third space is approached through a lens of sociocritical literacy as hybrid space where traditional power dichotomies and assumptions of privileged forms of knowledge are re-negotiated. The findings suggest that professional learning communities hold powerful possibilities for increased teacher agency and improved student learning, especially with groups of underserved, marginalized students in classes where challenges are often ignored and silenced. It is strongly suggested that PLCs should not be mandated or forcibly implemented through administrative policies; in contrast, PLCs of particular groups of teachers sharing a common vision should be nurtured, encouraged, and supported with time and resources. Further holistic research is called for to reveal short- and long-term impacts of PLCs with teachers and students in the authentic context of learning to live well in a place. Implications for teacher retention, professional development, and teacher education are discussed.

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Education, Secondary education, Science education