The challenges and complexities of initiating a professional learning community of teachers
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This is a case study of the challenges and complexities of initiating a professional learning community of teachers. Situated in a school in the British West Indies, this study draws on the experiences of seven teachers initiating a professional learning community (PLC) over a 12-week term in 2007. Individual interviews, group meetings, journal entries, and exit comments were analyzed to construct five main themes: Initiating a PLC, Features of a PLC, Challenges of a PLC, Benefits of a PLC, and the Future of the PLC. These teachers recognized the need for this community because of challenges and problems they faced. Many features reported in the literature on PLCs were present in this nascent PLC of teachers. The teachers created their own shared vision and provided evidence of collective learning in the weekly meetings. Participants developed trust and shared many personal practices and experiences of teaching. Challenges to initiating a professional learning community included finding time to meet, a weak school culture, and barriers associated with immigration status. Despite the challenges, there were many perceived benefits, including saving time through subject integration, personalizing professional development, and increasing socialization to reduce teachers' sense of professional isolation. The teachers also displayed changes in attitudes towards teaching and how they approached teaching their classes. Classes became more student-centred as teachers tried to meet the diverse needs of their students. The promise of increased collaboration and membership at the conclusion of data collection failed to materialize when a new leader did not come forward.