01 SES 07 A, Collaboration and Professional Development Communities
In recent decades, a shift has been observed from a view of schools as bureaucratic organizations to one of schools as professional learning communities (PLCs: Williams et al. 2008 and references therein). Research has shown that PLCs can positively influence teachers and their teaching methods, with these in turn leading to improved pupil performance (Bond, 2013; Linder, Post, & Calabrese, 2012; McIntosh & White, 2006). Given that the term PLC has been used 'to describe every imaginable combination of individuals with an interest in education….[and] has been used so ubiquitously that it is in danger of losing all meaning' (Dufour 2004, p. 6), we use the more-specific term 'professional development community' (PDC) for PLCs that focus on teachers' professional development.
The Israeli Ministry of Education has begun to adopt a PDC-based model of professional development to replace the existing framework for teachers' professional development based on seminars and lectures. The model, which was initially called Morim Movilim (i.e., Teacher-Leaders) and later renamed Hashkafa (i.e., Viewpoint) (Peretz & Shulman, 2014), was developed for use in Israel's 'state' schools (which provide instruction in Hebrew or Arabic) and 'state religious' schools (which provide instruction in Hebrew). Initially, the Ministry of Education encouraged schools, as a whole, to function as PDCs under the leadership of the principal (Schechter, 2012). Subsequently, the Ministry of Education began promoting more-focused teacher-led PDCs.
The Hashkafa programme has three components. (1) The Ministry of Education appoints teacher-leaders, being interested teachers who possess the ability to lead their own self-learning and educate others, with the aim of leveraging their abilities to guide the learning processes of their colleagues (Aubusson, Steele, Dinham, & Brady, 2007; Calvert, 2016; Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009). (2) Each teacher-leader creates and leads a PDC to provide continuing education to teachers within his or her school throughout the school year. A PDC may focus on any topic related to improving teachers' teaching practices and students' learning processes, with the identity of its members accordingly ranging from all homeroom teachers from a certain grade level, to all those teaching a certain subject, to teachers from a variety of disciplines convening around a multidisciplinary issue. (3) The teacher-leaders themselves receive support from a Hashkafa programme support group comprising all the teacher-leaders in their educational district, which is convened and led by throughout the school year by a Ministry-appointed programme coordinator.
While Hashkafa places a strong emphasis on identifying and developing teacher leadership, the principal plays a critical role in its success. The educational reforms encourage the autonomous self-management of schools under the principal's leadership and principals are formally responsible for the professional development of their staff, with the success of teacher-led PDCs being a primary means through which principals discharge that responsibility.
PDCs are also viewed as influencing school culture (Mullen & Schunk, 2010; Yaakob & Yunus, 2016) and one of the hopes for the Hashkafa programme is that it will induce positive change in school culture. Gray et al. (2017) found that an enabling school structure had a significant effect on the development of PDCs.
The Israeli research setting offers the opportunity to examine both how principals position themselves with respect to teacher-led PDCs and whether and how they perceive PDCs as influencing their school's culture. Consequently, the current proposal sought to examine the following research questions:
(RQ1) How do principals consider PDCs to influence teachers and teacher learning?
(RQ2) How do principals consider PDCs to influence their school's organizational culture?
(RQ3) How involved are principals with the PDCs operating in their schools?
These questions were examined through a naturalistic qualitative study undertaken within the interpretive paradigm, which seeks to examine social phenomena in their natural settings in an attempt to derive meaning or interpret phenomena in terms that the people involved bring to them (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Creswell, 1998; Patton, 1990). Specifically, it sought to understand various aspects of the Hashkafa professional development programme as they are perceived, described, and explained to the researchers by the participants (Frey, Botan, & Kreps, 1999). The study focussed on principals of schools located in educational districts participating in the Hashkafa pilot and in which the pilot rollout had proceeded on-time, namely, principals of schools in the Northern, Haifa, and Central districts. Interviews were conducted with the principals of 17 schools (size range, 350–600 pupils) in the Northern district (n=4 principals), Haifa (n=4 principals), and the large Central district (n=9 principals) out of a total population of 97 schools participating in the pilot (i.e., nearly 20% of the total population). With one exception, all the principals were women. No recent data are available, but a 1999/2000 survey found that the percentages of women principals of high schools were 61.7% (Jewish state schools), 63.9% (Jewish state religious schools), and 5.1% (Arab state schools) (Addi-Raccah, 2006), with higher percentages found in elementary schools. Thus, the male to female ratio among study participants was consistent with their ratio in schools. The research tool was a semi-structured interview conducted according to an interview guide written for the current research. Most principals (n=13) were interviewed one-on-one, whereas the remained (n=5, one of whom had already been interviewed one-on-one; all women and all from the central region) were interviewed as a group. The principals headed elementary schools (n=14; 12 Grade 1–6 schools, one Grade 1–8 school, and one Grade K–6 school). Consistently with the pilot's focus on elementary schools, few (n=3) post-primary principals participated: a middle school (Grades 7–9), a high school (Grades 10–12), and a combined middle and high school (Grades 7–12). One principal served in a state Arabic-language school, whereas all the other principals headed Hebrew-language state (n=12) or state-religious (n=4) schools. The research was undertaken during the second year of the pilot programme, which was the second year of participation in Hashkafa for most participants (n=9). The other principals (n=5) headed schools that were participating in Hashkafa for the first time.
Most of the principals interviewed considered PDCs to have a strong influence, not only on the teacher-leader, but also on PDC members and other teaching staff and processes (n=10). Bolam et al., (2006) found face validity for their notion that PDCs go through three developmental stages—starter, developer, and mature—depending on the percentage of staff involvement in the PDC. The current research suggests that another important consideration may be PDC influence, which appears to begin to be felt very rapidly, given that the principals interviewed were discussing PDCs in their first and second years of operation. Principals consider PDCs to positively influence their schools' pedagogical (n=11) and structural (n=4) cultures towards the future creation of a developing, learning staff room and teachers who function as change agents within the school. PDCs are also seen as enabling the school to align with its vision (n=11) Most principals are very involved (n=7) or even full partners (n=4) in teacher-led PDCs. This is interesting given the international trend toward self-managed schools. Self-management can be understood as placing the principal in the role of a school manger tasked with delegating tasks and responsibility to subordinates. However, principal responsibility for staff development potentially places the principal in the role of a change leader tasked with overall responsibility for developing the school's teaching practices and culture. The current findings suggest that most principals choose to actively involve themselves in the PDCs and their success. The twin findings that principals participated as PDC members and that they considered PDCs to have a strong influence on pedagogical culture suggests that principal leadership plays a crucial role in the success of a PDC, as suggested previously (Cormier and Olivier, 2009; Kilbane, 2009; Hord et al., 2010; Chen and Mitchell, 2015; Leithwood and Azah, 2016; Mitchell and Sackney, 2016).
Addi-Raccah, A. (2006). Women in the Israeli educational system. In I. Oplatka & R. Hertz Lazarowitz (Eds.), Women principals in a multicultural society: New insights into feminist educational leadership (pp. 49–68). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2007). Qualitative research for education: An introduction to theories and methods (5th ed.). Pearson. Retrieved from https://www.pearson.com/us/higher-education/program/Bogdan-Qualitative-Research-for-Education-An-Introduction-to-Theories-and-Methods-5th-Edition/PGM125872.html Bolam, R., Mcmahon, A., Stoll, L., Thomas, S., Wallace, M., Greenwood, A., … Smith, M. (2006). Creating and sustaining effective professional learning communities. Bristol. Retrieved from http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5622/1/RR637.pdf Chen, Y., & Mitchell, C. (2015). Interactions between professional learning communities and the educational culture where they are employed: Comparative research across Beijing and Ontario schools. International Studies in Educational Administration, 43(2), 39–52. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=13241702&AN=114122440&h=BAT24tpqOBw2Tiqwkn6IOaBYptS4nXhfclnxqm6er529flrhryOE3dB8o4fpK24YtkhmRbsY3MuP%2BAxs8g6GvQ%3D%3D&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=E Cormier, R., & Olivier, D. F. (2009). Professional learning committees: Characteristics, principals, and teachers. Lafayette, Louisiana. Retrieved from http://ullresearch.pbworks.com/f/Cormier_ULL_PLC_Characteristics_Principals_Teachers.pdf Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. London: Sage. Frey, L., Botan, C., & Kreps, G. (1999). Investigating communication: An introduction to research methods (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Hord, S. M., Abrego, J., Moller, G., Olivier, D. F., Pankake, A. M., & Roundtree, L. (2010). Final reflections: Moving schools forward. In K. K. Hipp & J. B. Huffman (Eds.), Demystifying Professional Learning Communities: School Leadership at Its Best (pp. 133–144). R & L Education. Kilbane, J. F. (2009). Factors in sustaining professional learning community. NASSP Bulletin, 93(3), 184–205. http://doi.org/10.1177/0192636509358923 Leithwood, K., & Azah, V. N. (2016). Characteristics of effective leadership networks. Journal of Educational Administration, 54(4), 409–433. http://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-08-2015-0068 Mitchell, C., & Sackney, L. (2016). School improvement in high-capacity schools: Educational leadership and living-systems ontology. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(5), 853–868. http://doi.org/10.1177/1741143214564772 Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.
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