Creating Foundations for Collaboration in Schools: Utilizing Professional Learning Communities to Support Teacher Candidate Learning and Visions of Teaching

Sep. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 28, No. 7, p. 979-989, (October, 2012)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to examine ways that the unique model involving nested collaborative professional learning communities (PLCs) within a teacher education program led to
a) learning for the members school/university partnership and
b) refined visions of what it means to be a teacher.

The article addressed to these research questions:
How does participation in a collaborative professional teacher education model influence teacher candidates’ perceptions of their learning?
How does collaboration affect their vision of what it means to be a teacher?

The participants were 23 teacher candidates, who enrolled in a large public urban university’s one-year intensive graduate-level teacher licensure program.
Also included were sixteen mentor teachers, eight site and university supervisors, and the principals in two urban public K-8 schools.

Data sources include teacher candidates’ individual written reflections; focus group interviews with teacher candidates and mentor teachers at both schools; and observations of interactions within the various PLCs.


The findings indicated that teacher candidates came away from the experience seeing teaching as a collaborative endeavor.
The ongoing feedback from both their mentor teacher and cohort colleague was critical to their learning to teach process.
The teacher candidates also reported increased confidence due to the support of their cohort colleague, which resulted in their willingness to try-on practices.

Furthermore, teacher candidates possessed a deep level of trust and safety with one another that enabled them to take risks, express their individuality, and recognize that there is more than one approach to reaching students.
The teacher candidates engaged in structured observations focused on student thinking.
The collaborative work accelerated their opportunities to learn as they learned from both their successes and mistakes along with their partner’s successes and mistakes.

The cohort structure led teacher candidates to bond and this bond was even stronger due to the proximity of their classroom-based work.
The bond was not limited to commonalities and friendship alone it extended into collaboratively learning to teach.

The authors argue that teacher candidates stated that collaboration was central to their learning. Teacher candidates finished the program with a strong commitment to teach each student for understanding.
They envision building strong relationships and learning communities with students and with colleagues e seeing this as part of what teachers do.

Finally, the teacher candidates found value in the ongoing examination of their practice, both individually and with others, enough so that at the end of the program they looked for teaching positions where they might have the opportunity to collaborate with a common focus on student learning.
Most importantly, they build a support system in which we can feel safe to take risks, to learn from both our successes and our failures.

In conclusion, the authors propose a shift in teacher education toward collaborative inquiry about teaching and learning within school/ university partnerships.

Updated: Nov. 18, 2014