A comparative case study of 21st century focused professional development (PD) embedded within biology professional learning communities (PLCs) among 3 high schools in a single school district

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As the implementation of professional learning communities (PLCs) becomes more common across our school, it is important to understand how they fit with the development and personal growth of our teachers. Teachers, especially teachers of science, are expected to stay abreast of best practices in enhancing science education while implementing campus and district initiatives with fidelity and ensure student mastery on state assessments and accountability systems. Typically, the expectation is that science teachers attend conferences and workshops independently to learn new pedagogies, however, that provides them little or no time to practice or perfect the strategies before implementing in their classes. However, district-led professional development (PD), through PLCs built into the school day, may provide teachers robust opportunities to work collaboratively with peers to learn and implement novel research-based strategies, with their district’s guidance and support.
A comparative, multiple case study researched three biology PLCs in a single school district, that implemented district-led PD embedded within their PLCs for 21st century skill development. This intentional focus of PD was to promote student development of the 4Cs in collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity, which are important non-cognitive skills for students’ future successes in the sciences. Data was collected throughout the year to understand to what extent the participating teachers conceptualized and enacted their PD on 21st century skills through individual interviews, classroom observations, lesson plans, as well as PLC agendas, PLC observations, and PLC meeting minutes. Findings for this study suggest that PLCs were an effective means to embed information and support or changes in their classroom practices. The PD opportunities for teachers not only helped to build upon teachers’ prior knowledge and skills (in content and 21st century skills), but also focused on enhancing student success. The results showed the teachers were able to implement the strategies in their classroom and change their practices through the PLC process.

Professional learning communities (PLC), Professional development (PD), 21st century skills, Science education