Storied research into the adoption of professional learning communities in rural schools
University of New Brunswick
This dissertation is organized into four articles, a prologue and an epilogue. The prologue provides a brief overview and statement of the problem, definitions of terms, and a discussion of the methodology, as well as identification of the research questions. The first article traces my transition into the world of a doctoral student and how it parallels my recent immigration into rural New Brunswick. The border-crossing model (Giroux, 1992) provides the framework to examine the dynamics of transition as I explore my border-crossings into these two communities, in which I have recently been both thrust and openly embraced, using self-study autobiography to interpret and connect my own shifts in consciousness. Crossing into both communities, I bump up against unfamiliar norms and standards. Research communities of practice and collaborative study with seasoned researchers are potential solutions. This article provides the reader some understanding of my personal motivations to believe that the PLCs have the potential to foster teacher professional growth. The second article contains a review of related literature including information on rural education, professional learning communities, foundational principles of a professional learning community and the impact of professional learning communities on student and teacher learning. This review provided the opportunity to look at a possible model for adopting PLCs in rural schools. In the third article I present the narrative inquiry which focuses on the experiences of teachers in rural New Brunswick schools to reveal how a PLC model for professional development was adopted at their schools and whether this implementation had an effect on their practice. Three teachers’ stories reveal their PLCs provided limited professional growth, the teachers having turned to other sources of professional development and provide feedback to policymakers to enhance the implementation of PLCs in rural schools. The fourth article captures the impact and implications of various educational reforms on communities. It reveals the imposition of these reforms from without the community rather than the organic development from within as well as the detrimental effects that an economic perspective of the reform of rural schools has had on rural communities. What results is a clear connection between government policymakers’ economic perspectives to the reform of rural schools and the outmigration of youth from their rural communities. With a locally influenced curriculum linking the classroom and cultural politics, students can learn to develop their deliberative powers to remain and address community issues. By drawing on my analyses of rural education I make recommendations for education reform that more closely meet the needs of rural communities. Finally, the epilogue ties together the four articles by recognizing the common threads. At the interface of these articles lies the theme of the vitality of community in policymaking. My focus develops from myself as an individual learning to adjust to rural life as a graduate researcher, to the voices of the teachers who were involved in their local PLCs, to the local community and its need to develop deliberative powers, and finally to the wider awareness of the policymakers who try to implement educational reforms. At the heart of each paper lies the role of the community as it adjusts to the challenges of change.