Date

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Educational Leadership

First Adviser

Sperandio, Jill

Other advisers/committee members

Beachum, Floyd; Donohue, Louise; Orsini, Alfonso

Abstract

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are a way of organizing the educational staff so that they can engage in purposeful, collegial learning with the aim of improving staff effectiveness so that all students learn successfully to high standards (Hord, 2008). The effectiveness of PLCs depends on the ability of educators to collaborate. At many international schools, teachers are recruited from various countries therefore bringing diversity to the school’s teaching teams. Though studies of PLCs and collaboration exist, this qualitative collective case study was unique as it examined how teachers with such diverse backgrounds overcome the normal and intensified challenges to collaboration encountered in what I call an intercultural PLC context comprised of teachers of different nationalities and having different cultural backgrounds, educational and teaching experiences, and proficiencies with English at a private, international school in China. Multiple data collection methods were used in order to gain an understanding of the challenges to collaboration these teachers face, and the conditions that foster or hinder collaboration in this context. The major themes from this study were, communication, learning, and working together. Communication had both a positive and a negative relationship with collaboration within an intercultural team. Learning was a major theme as teachers learned about themselves and their colleagues. The most common major theme, working together, was seen as an advantage to being on an intercultural team by enriching the education for children but was also seen as a disadvantage due to difficulties working with colleagues from different cultures. The findings of this study suggest that though there were advantages and disadvantages to working collaboratively, and there were successes and challenges with communication, this intercultural PLC provided many opportunities for teachers to learn. Working together meant sharing responsibilities while working through the difficulties experienced working with colleagues who held opposing culturally-based attitudes and beliefs. There were different expectations, different opinions, colleagues presented different motivations and skills, and all the while PLCs were restricted by the constraints of time. The findings also suggest the level of collaboration within this intercultural PLC was dependent on the teachers understanding the importance of, and efforts to move closer towards, several shared goals. Teachers should take the time to develop professional and personal relationships facilitated through honest and respectful communication and built on a foundation of trust. Teachers need to keep an open mind and accept differences as they learn about other cultures, teaching styles, and perspectives. As teachers work together, they need to find a way to share the responsibilities and make agreements on the expectations. Expectations regarding the roles and responsibilities of intercultural PLC members need to be agreed upon and documented. The provision of dedicated time for collaborative meetings had the greatest impact on supporting collaboration. For this intercultural PLC to be successful, a respectful school culture should continue to nurture professional, personal, and collaborative relationships.

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