When professional learning communities (PLCs) meet frequently to examine and analyze student work and data, higher levels of teacher morale emerge, according to a new report from the Learning Sciences International (LSI) research team.
The report, Did You Know? Your School’s PLCs Have a Major Impact, expands on existing research about the role that human and social capital, collaboration, and knowledge sharing all play in education. Researchers looked at teacher morale and student achievement as they relate to PLCs.
Looking specifically at the impact of PLCs on teacher morale, the research team, led by LSI senior research analyst Lindsey Devers Basileo, Ph.D., asked educators about the amount of time their PLCs spent discussing various practices, as well as their feelings about how PLC meetings impacted their own morale.
The researchers compared educator responses and found that, in line with other studies, higher teacher morale and PLC practices that aim to improve and deepen student learning had a positive and significant relationship. In turn, lower teacher morale correlated with discussions about student behavior, building issues, and organizational activities–practices that aren’t as likely to drive achievement.
“Where PLCs collaborate on student work and achievement data, teachers are more likely to be satisfied and, therefore, effective,” says Basileo. “Administrators will do well to give teachers the tools and support they need to ensure that they are focused on work that will both boost morale and create the highest levels of social capital in their school environments.”
Ninety percent of schools surveyed by LSI said their PLCs meet regularly–once per week, on average, though the PLCs vary in structure and focus. High-functioning PLCs, the report explains, generate human capital and social capital. Human capital equates to accumulated knowledge and experience, while social capital is “the fluency with which teachers share and exchange their accumulated knowledge.”
The researchers found that if a teacher’s social capital was one standard deviation higher than average, students’ math scores increased by 5.7 percent.
The team’s research on teacher morale levels indicates that when PLCs collaborate on student work and achievement data, teachers are more likely to be satisfied, and therefore effective.
The report recommends that administrators listen to teachers and equip them with the tools needed to have productive PLCs, which in turn can boost teacher morale and student achievement.