The impact of professional learning communities on teaching practices and student outcomes: A comparative case study of two Chinese middle schools



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Inquiry-based teaching is seen central to developing students’ physics knowledge and skills, improving their process and methods, and nurturing their values and attitude. Ever since issuing new physics curriculum standards in 2011, China has been pushing teachers to reform their physics classrooms from traditional didactic teaching methods to inquiry-based teaching. The professional learning community is assumed useful to help teacher transfer their teaching. Teaching research groups in China can be regarded as a professional learning community as it shares many characteristics of a professional learning community. This study explored the relationships between physics teaching research group activities and teachers’ teaching practices and between the teaching practices shaped by the teaching research group and three-dimensional student outcomes in two Chinese middle schools. It analyzed the interview, observation, and document data from six physics teachers and the assessments from 860 students and revealed two findings. Teachers were more likely to develop inquiry-based teaching when their teaching research group focused more on reformed teaching, became more familiar with its pedagogies, and interacted more with experts and teachers from outside the school who are specialized in reformed teaching. The extent to which these teachers reformed their teaching was insignificantly related to the student outcomes.



Professional learning community, Inquiry-based teaching, Student outcomes