More Information Needed

Wildenger, K., & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.

Transitioning from preschool to kindergarten has been regarded as a “sensitive period” for children (Rimm-Kaufmann and Pianta, 2000).   Recent research findings have concluded that early childhood transition experiences may impact later academic and social outcomes (Eckert et al. 2008). Recently, there has been a growing number of research studies in the area of kindergarten transition experiences and effects, but few studies have addressed the parent or guardian perspective in the area (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

Wildenger and McIntyre’s (2010) study on parent concerns and involvement during the transition period between home and kindergarten or preschool and kindergarten aimed to exam transition experiences from the lens of the parents or guardians. They looked at parent concerns during transition, perceived needs during transition, and parent involvement during kindergarten preparation activities.

Results regarding family concerns showed that most parents and guardians had few concerns about their child transitioning to kindergarten (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Where there were concerns, they mostly had to do with sociobehavioral concerns, such as following directions and getting along well with others.   The issues of least concern to parents were communicating needs, toileting issues, and the ability to get along with the new teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010).

In the area of the perception of needs, there was a significant area of need identified by parents and guardians concerning what families could be doing at home to help their have a successful transition experience into formalized schooling.   Parents and guardians also listed information on the specifics of the kindergarten program and information about their child’s kindergarten teacher as an area of need (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Although these needs were based on a large number of the participant’s feedback, there was still about one-quarter of the participants that felt they did not have any needs in this area.

The last area that was looked at was the level and type of involvement the parents and guardians had in the areas of formal and informal transition activities that the schools offered. The transition activities offered by the schools ranged in format and in nature. Some examples of the activities included visiting the child’s kindergarten classroom, attending a kindergarten meet the teacher or orientation night, receiving information in the mail about the kindergarten program, receiving a phone call from the kindergarten teacher, and receiving a home visit from the kindergarten teacher (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). The researchers found that the most utilized transition activities for the parents were attending a kindergarten open house or orientation and receiving written communication from the kindergarten teacher about the program (Wildenger and McIntyre, 2010). Conversely, parents were least likely to receive a home visit or phone call during the summer transition months.

When looking at the differences in participation in transition activities and socio-economic status, Wildenger and McIntyre (2010), found that total transition involvement was significantly less than for lower socioeconomic groups.

The strengths of this study appear to be the strong focus on parent perspective. It seems that although a significant portion of parent participants reported having needs in the area of information obtainment for transition tips and program details, there were also a significant number of parents that said they did not have any concerns. This indicates to me that in the very least, schools should offer a formalized transition informational event, such as an open house, to be sure that information about program details are communicated. I can also see the value of conducting a home visit during the summer months by the kindergarten teacher. Conducting a home visit would give parents and their child the opportunity to meet and get to know their teacher and also the opportunity to address individual questions or concerns about program details or transition tips. Perhaps for the parents that stated they did not have any concerns about the transition process, a home visit may alert them to some things that they should look out for when they are helping their young one transition into formal schooling. I see this as an educational component about the importance of successful early childhood experiences and some key findings that have proven to be helpful during the transition period. Another argument for making a home visit would be the ability to work around the parents’ schedules and take out transportation and child care as an inhibiting factor.

The issues that I can see arising is that many teachers are not employed in the summer months and even if they are, most teachers do not receive their class rosters for the next school year until just before the school year begins. This has been the case in the school districts that I have worked in. Home visits, just as open houses are, should be a part of the kindergarten teachers back to school contracted hours or it can even be imbedded into a summer transition program that has been created and funded by the school.


Ecker, T. L., McIntyre, L. L., DiGennaro, F. D., Arbolino, L., Begeny, J., & Perry, L.J., (2008). Researching the transition to kindergarten for typically developing children: A literature review of current processes, practices and programs. In D. H. Molina (Ed.), School psychology: 21st century issues and challenges (pp. 235-252. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Rimm-Kaufman S., & Pianta R. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21(5), 491-511.

Wildenger, K. & McIntyre, L. (2010). Family concerns and involvement during kindergarten transition. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20(3), 387-396.


To Compete or Collaborate – Status in group

Spataro, S. E., Pettit, N. C., Sauer, S. J., & Lount, R. B. (2014). Interactions Among Same-Status Peers: Effects of Behavioral Style and Status Level. Small Group Research, 45(3), 314–336. doi:10.1177/1046496414532532



Looking at group development and collaboration it is important understand how titles, status, and implied hierarchy of organizations have an effect on the desired outcomes set forth by the group.  Spataro, Pettit, Sauer, & Lount (2014) set out to determine what the effects are on group dynamics and willingness to collaborate in and within status groups.

Through the research Spataro et al., took a group of 61 university students, had them complete a general knowledge quiz, and a NASA survival quiz.  Once finished, participants were given a status of “high”, “middle”, or “low”.  These status’ were not based on any results of their test, but rather as an imposed control to make sure that at least one member of each status was represented in a small group.  They were then given “feedback” on their quizzes from other members; the feedback was manipulated so that it was either seen as competitive, or collaborative in nature, and from what “status”.  For this test the competitive feedback was more direct and accusatory of why answers were chosen, and the collaborative was more exploratory and asking how answers were chosen and that a discussion of rationale would be sought after.

After the feedback was given, participants were asked to how likely they would be to work with each member based on the feedback given. The researchers found that there was a higher level of willingness to work together in a collaborative manor among the “high” status members.  The “low” and “middle” status members were willing to work in a collaborative manor at higher rates than competitive.  However, those in “low” status were just as likely to work in a competitive group.

Overall, Spataro et al., state that the perceptions of status and the implied hierarchy that comes with titles have an effect on members willingness to collaborate over compete, as the lower statuses have a desire to stand out as an individual to gain higher status.  Where as those in a higher status find greater benefits from learning from others and sharing with those in similar titles.  They did state that the lower and middle status will work with higher status in collaborative levels.

Personal Application:

Looking at the results and background of this study, I see this play out in my own work.  Competition being set forth by the structure of title and rank, as it relates to advancement of position, rather than knowledge base and skills brought forward.  When thinking about areas of intervention I would like to implement, I have to wonder if having a group representing multiple departments, with individuals of varying “status” at the same table, will there be a natural divide in the group when goals and initiatives are set forth to accomplish.

Even though we should all be working on the same goal of student retention, regardless of college affiliation, as that is the common charge of departments.  I still have concerns that there may be some that the connection to individual departmental goals will supersede the desire to work as a collective. Furthermore I am worried that status of individuals in the group will overshadow or deter some from working in a collaborative group effort to assist all students.

Limitations in my practice:

I see the limitations coming out in who will be the participants, and I also have to consider that this study was done with a group of relative strangers.  The group that I will be working with has preexisting working relationships in other areas, or have personal relationships outside of their titled positions.

As stated in the report, this does not take into consideration “control over resources” (Spataro et al., 2014,  p. 328), as I know some of the more established colleges have more financial, and personnel resources.  I need to get an understanding of what personal characteristics someone might be looking for in those one collaborates with.

Final thoughts:

I found this article helpful in framing out a reason as to why or why not groups working together are successful or not, more so if they are as successful as they could be due to individuals perception of status in the group, where they stand, and what can be obtained from standing out or working together.   If through working with groups I can identify if someone is being more competitive and intentional holding back, or stunting somebody else’s opportunity to contribute perhaps I can get help that individual see the benefits of a more collaborative approach, as in what can be learned from the group and the ease at which outcomes can be achieved.


Spataro, S. E., Pettit, N. C., Sauer, S. J., & Lount, R. B. (2014). Interactions Among Same-Status Peers: Effects of Behavioral Style and Status Level. Small Group Research, 45(3), 314–336. doi:10.1177/1046496414532532

The Uncertainty of a New Environment

As I read Michelle E. Jordan and Reuben R. McDaniel, Jr.’s (2014) article, “Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams:  The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, I began to reflect on how I have dealt with uncertainty from kindergarten until now, a current doctoral student.  Jordan and McDaniel (2014) define uncertainty as “an individual’s subjective experience of doubting, being unsure, or wondering about how the future will unfold, what the present means, or how to interpret the past.”

All of this brought me back to the 5th grade, when I had attended 5 different elementary schools!  Yes, FIVE!  Two in Houston and 3 in Phoenix.  I spent kindergarten through 4th grade in the same school so making the transition to a new school, in a new state, terrified me.  But, because I did not have a say in the matter, I walked into my new 5th grade class.  It was definitely a culture shock.  I thought there was no way for sure that I would ever fit in…we were so different.  Jordan and McDaniel (2014) stated, “social interaction is a primary means of expressing uncertainty and can also be a source of uncertainty.”

I remember all of the students listening to my every word.  I did not understand why, but they just kept asking me question after question about where I came from.  But, then a boy asked me, “why do you talk so funny?”  Me?  I talked funny?  Are you kidding me?  Have you heard what YOU sound like?  And, that is the first time I remember feeling out of place.

From there, it just got worse.  My neighbor downstairs asked me if I wanted to go play with her in the bayou and catch crawdads.  I didn’t know what a bayou or a crawdad was…but, I didn’t say that I didn’t know.  I just said, “sure.”  As Jordan and McDaniel (2014) would say, my uncertainty stemmed from my “partial knowledge and understanding” (I knew that it was going to involve “playing”) and “the negotiation of social roles” (I just wanted to make a new friend).  When we got to the bayou, I was confused.  Then, my neighbor skidded down the side of it and began running her hands through the water.  She picked up some creature and popped it into a jar.  Yep, that was the crawdad.  Talk about weird!  But, you know what?  After a few weeks of refusing to step foot in that bayou and try and catch crawdads it became my new favorite thing to do!  Go figure!  After reading Jordan and McDaniel (2014), it appears that I had received some support from my peer and was able to learn from her that it was the “cool” thing to do.

Then came the biggest culture shock of them all…line dancing!  I didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was and this was actually a part of our school day.  I remember watching from the sidelines and I did not have the slightest idea what they were doing.  I even asked my teacher if I had to learn how to line dance.  And, I got a very firm, “yes.”  I stumbled my way through line dancing and, eventually, I actually became good at it.

And, then, WHAM!, I was hit with another foreign task…SQUARE dancing!  Except this was different…I had to dance with someone else…a boy!  Not only was I faced with “content uncertainty,” but “relational uncertainty” as well (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014).  Like line dancing, I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was, and I remember wondering why would anyone want to dance in a square?  On top of that, I had never danced with anyone before.  I tried to avoid participating for a couple of days and asked if I could just watch.  Once I understood the lingo, I was able to start to make a connection with the content.  I practiced what I remembered at home.  But, once I began participating, it was clear that I had no idea what I was doing.  I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I remember some kids making fun of me because the girl from Arizona didn’t know how to square dance.  I remember some of the boys saying that they didn’t want to be my partner because I couldn’t dance.  The unsupportive responses (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014).  But, I also remember the boys and girls who volunteered to be my partner.  I remember them walking me through every move of every song until I got the hang of it.  The supportive responses (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014).  And, eventually, I did, but it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.

Later that year, we finally moved back to Arizona because my mom couldn’t take being in Texas anymore.  Thank goodness!  Looking back on it now, while I was back in familiar territory, I ended up attending three different schools in two very different areas of town.  I wish I remembered more about what I experienced in those schools, but it was one crazy school year and everything is a bit hazy.  But, I will never forget learning about bayous, crawdads, line dancing and square dancing!

Jordan, M.E. and R.R. McDaniel, Jr.  (2014).  Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams:  The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity.  The Journal of the Learning Sciences.  (00)0, p. 1-47.

The Power of Verbal and Non-Verbal Behavior

In the article Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams: The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, Jordan and McDaniel (in press) explore how peer interaction influence the ways in which students manage uncertainty. The authors explain how “communication is the primary means by which individuals cope with uncertainty.” (Jordan & McDaniel, in press)

The study on managing uncertainty was conducted with 24 fifth graders who represented the demographics of the school. The research involved three collaborative robotics-engineering projects throughout the school year. The researchers chose to focus on robotics and engineering because “learning to participate in engineering practices is one context in which uncertainty is particularly relevant.” (Jordan & McDaniel, in press, p. 4)

This year, I had the opportunity to participate in a professional development with pre-service teachers to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the classroom. During this professional development we collaboratively engaged in an ill-structured engineering project that focused on building wind turbines. My group consisted of three teachers and one pre-service teacher. I experienced uncertainty during this group project. I was unfamiliar with the tools we were using along with the math and science concepts needed to develop the wind turbine. Reflecting back on the project and the interactions of our small group, the pre-service teacher was willing to take the most risks in communicating strategies to manage uncertainty, which positively supported the development of our wind turbine and our new learning during the professional development. Jordan and McDaniel remind us that “involving students in active struggle can be productive for learning.” (in press)

The authors used a variety of methods to collect data on uncertainty and uncertainty management. They thoroughly explain how they collected data and how they refined their collection of data from Project A to Project C. As a future researcher, I really appreciated the deep insight into what methods the authors used to collect the data and why they chose those methods. I was especially interested in the transcript examples throughout the article and how the authors paid special attention to verbal and non-verbal behavior in both the transcripts and the video. The authors also explained how the data sources were not used in silos. They describe how analysis of one source of data would lead them to go back and analyze another data source. The data collection section of this article was beneficial because the authors listed questions they asked themselves during the data collection process and described how they networked with other experts in the field.

Through the analysis of data, Jordan and McDaniel found that “students’ success at managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving was dependent on the willingness and ability of their peer collaborators to respond supportively.” (in press, p. 26) The authors also developed an easy to read flow chart to support their findings visually. (Jordan and McDaniel, in press, p. 33) As a doctoral student, I feel that I can learn a lot from these findings. I am constantly in a state of uncertainty in exploring new content and unfamiliar tasks. I believe as a doctoral cohort, we have already started taking risks within our community in managing uncertainty and responding respectfully and supportively. This article reaffirms the influence of our verbal and non-verbal communication within our communities of practice and I want to be mindful that my words and non-verbal behavior are supportive and productive.



Jordan, M. E. & McDaniel, R. (in press). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. Journal of the Learning Sciences. doi:10.1080/10508406.2014.896254

The Puzzle of Group Work


Four people completing round puzzle


Learning is social; group work is social.  But, is group work learning?  Teachers think collaboration will enhance their students’ social skills, complex problem-solving skills, and content exploration.  Group work begins as early as first grade, because students will need to work in groups in upper grades.  In upper grades, students work in groups to prepare for college work.  In college, students need to train for “real life,” so group work is essential.  I question how much truly collaborative group work actually takes place in “real life.”

Everyone has been in a group where one person did all the work (as doctoral students, we were probably that student) as others sat back, relaxed and got a good grade.  A college chemistry student was put in a lab group, where collaboration meant assigning sections of the work to individual members.  Every week, as the deadline drew near, the others had not completed the work, so this student would do it.  The next day, a team member quasi-complained that she had done all the work, and he wanted to pull his weight on the team.  He gave her a Starbucks gift card for helping complete the assignment.  After that, he rarely did any work, knowing that if he waited long enough, she would do it.

Teachers want to avoid this scenario, and often tell students to report others in their group who are not fully participating.  However, we teachers need to learn better ways to facilitate groups and teach students how to collaborate.  Too often, the teacher assigns a group task and expects the group-learning to happen independent of any guidance or instruction.  Or, at best, the teacher assigns each student a role, such as discussion leader, secretary, summarizer, questioner, etc.  This gives the group some structure, but still doesn’t teach students the interpersonal skills necessary for real collaboration.

New Research

Into this fray comes new research from Jordan and McDaniel (2010) which, in my opinion, illuminates the need to teach students how to work in groups.  While working on science/engineering projects, groups of 5th grade teams interacted about problem-solving and negotiating uncertain territory.  The researchers closely watched and later dissected the recorded interactions between group members.  They found that group members could give supportive feedback to help solve uncertainties.  This feedback would then lead students to further discussion, brainstorming, and new ideas to try.  On the other hand, students who received unsupportive feedback, such as chastisement or being ignored, either continued with their original strategy, asked repeatedly about their point of uncertainty, or cognitively removed themselves from the task.  I think this clearly points to the need for teachers to instruct students and monitor the way they interact in small groups.  Students must learn and master these essential skills, as their implementation can distinguish between collaboration being a successful learning experience or a failure.

For the girls

A warning to teachers comes in the example of Isabella, who is the only girl in a group of boys.  In her group, Isabella was largely ignored when she first tried to address uncertainties.  She persisted and forced the group to address her uncertainties, but was later described by the boys as “bossy” (Jordan & McDaniel, 2010, p. 27).  Another boy stated that her uncertainty, which was actually reasonable, was because “she just didn’t get it” (Jordan & McDaniel, 2010, p. 23).  Jordan and McDaniel note that “such negative interpretations of female students’ uncertainty are not uncommon for male classmates engaged in science learning” (Jordan & McDaniel, 2010, p. 27).  I have seen this same dynamic play out in a high school physics class, leading the girl to doubt her abilities and to make a career choice away from science and engineering.  Teachers need to be cognizant of this dynamic, and perhaps create single-sex groups in STEM classes or, at the very least, carefully monitor interactions in mixed-sex groups to make sure that this does not happen.

Implications for diversity            

As a teacher in a university-preparation English language program for international students, I will be making practical use of this research.  Many international students have not had experience with working in teams, and it is something that I focus on in my classes.  This gives me a new way to address their work—both how to express uncertainties and how to address the uncertainties of others.  This is essential for these students, because they will surely have many uncertainties with a new language and new subject-area content.

Jordan, M. E., & Mcdaniel, R. R. (2010). Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams : The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, 00(2002).

ACT Policy Report – A Guide for Practitioneers

Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. ACT Policy Report, (September 12, 2007), 1–31.

As a practitioner in the field of higher education I am always excited to find innovative theories or programs in practice that will assist me in my work.  I particularly like to find those articles that provide a theoretical background that parallels some of the work that I am already doing.  While this report is at this time a decade old, the concepts and suggestions for implementation are more prevalent to me now in my career, due to my role, spheres of influence and community of practice that I am a part of.


ACT has put together a policy report that highlights some of the critical issues retaining to retention and academic performance of college students.  The focus of this particular reports focuses on the roles in which both the academic and non-academic attributes of the university experience have on college students.  The report utilized data that came through the use of 109 different studies that met three criteria.  Studies must: examine relationship between academic and non-academic factors, focus on full-time students at four-year institutions, and utilized standard measures while reporting pertinent information.

The report results breakdown the two focus areas of academic and non-academic into defining factors as follows.


  • High school grade point average – HSGPA
  • ACT assessment scores – ACT
  • Socioeconomic status- SES


  • Academic-related skills
  • Achievement motivation
  • Academic self-confidence
  • Academic goals
  • Institutional commitment
  • Social support
  • Contextual influences
  • Social involvement
  • General self-concept

Throughout the report there are varying combinations of the academic and non-academic findings that yield stronger relationships and higher success rates than the others.  What I find important is that there is a strong correlation between the joint program development between academic and non-academic parties to have the greatest chance of creating or improving student retention and success at the university.

Personal Application:

The areas of implementation in which I can utilize this research are in my roles within Orientation and Housing, as well as in the Dean of Students Office.  The researchers propose to start the non-academic areas of achievement motivation and institutional commitment during early start programs.  I see that I have the opportunity to change our practice in orientation of making it more of an opportunity for starting to develop connections and skills for the incoming students, rather than the transaction model that I feel we have now, where students hear some presentations, register for classes and depart until their return in the Fall.

Within the housing area, I would like to see more investment by our hall staff, including student staff, in a mentoring role, emphasizing the social support aspect, during the early start programs. Particularly there would need to be more intentionality from staff to expand their knowledge and relationships with support staff that are here for the summer.  By making the connections with student and support staff we can provide students with an extended period of time getting acclimated and focused on finding academic support.

The final area that I would like to apply the concepts suggested by the article would be within the Residential College Advisory Board that I chair.  We will need to make a focus change from what the original group was formed to do, that of providing program support and a consistency of student expectations across the colleges.  I think this is the area that is most likely to implement something new, using the resources of the faculty, advisors, and student affairs professionals to develop early warning systems, providing more individual attention to students, development of more consistent outreach to students.  This community of practice is one that I have been a part of for 5 years and have developed strong relationships with several of the longstanding members.

Limitations in my practice:

It has been my experience that change comes with resistance, even if there is empirical support to justify said change.  I do not say this to be negative, but as a realist.  The issues can arise when existing programs are producing positive results, but have been at the same level for some time.  Can the results be better?

As I think of implementation with summer programs, I see a struggle in the opposite of my above statement.  There has been no consistency in the early start programs; goals and target demographics have changed year to year, multiple programs have been created from both academic and non-academic areas that are competing for the same students, resulting in some programs not fully functioning because they cannot hit a critical mass to be effective.

Final thoughts:

I will be looking into an update on this report and the test used within the study.  There is an area that I am particularly interested in, the socioeconomic status portion as it relates to the recruitment and success.  I want to see if there have been new discussions about the admitting, or not admitting, students that are pre-identified as having low SES resulting in high need, and the retention rates as it relates to the investment in those students success.

My favorite parts of this report, as a practitioner, are twofold: 1. the inferred practice of collaboration and working inside and outside known work groups. 2. The steps to development provided.  While I will not list them all, I will highlight one that I feel is most important.  “Widely disseminating results from the program evaluation” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, pg21).  From other discussions on communities of practice and roles we play as researchers, sometimes I feel as practitioners we do not share information that can be a benefit to others…just something to consider.


Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The Role of Academic and Non-Academic Factors in Improving College Retention. ACT Policy Report, (September 12, 2007), 1–31.







Hand in Hand, We all Learn

  “Ultimately, there are two kinds of schools; learning enriched schools and learning impoverished schools.  I have yet to see a school where the learning curves of the adults were steep upward and those of the students were not.  Teachers and students go hand and hand as learners…or they don’t go at all.”

                                                                                  (Barth, 2001)

Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems, by EtienneWenger (2000), Wenger argues that the success of organizations depends on their ability to design themselves as social learning systems.  We all are participants in social learning systems as we have developed our knowledge through experiences and interactions within our world (Wenger, 2000).

One facet or social learning systems are Communities of Practice.  In a Community of Practice, groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger, 2000).  Members of a community practice share information and best practices in their area of expertise or focus.  In order for a Community of Practice to be effective over the long term, three elements must exist.  The three elements include enterprise, mutuality, and repertoire.  Without them, the Community of Practice risks the potential for stagnation and unproductivity (Wenger, 2000).    When considering enterprise in this context, a Community of Practice must show leadership in pushing learning and development further along.    There must also be a sense of mutuality and trust within the community.  This trust should be on a personal level but also at a professional level where the members trust that their information sharing will be reciprocated with the members of the group and also trust in the members’ ability to contribute to the community in a valuable way.  The last element is repertoire which is a certain level of self awareness to know where the community stands and a sense of where it is heading (Wenger, 2000).

During the last three years, Mesa Public Schools has dedicated a lot of funds in the area of training teachers in Communities of Practice.  Teachers are trained by their administration staff and some teachers even got to attend a professional three day training conducted by Solution Tree to receive formal training in this area Professional Learning Communities (PLC).   Some of the trainers included many researchers in educations such as, Rebecca Dufour, Richard Dufour, EdD, Robert Eaker, EdD, Robert Marzano, PhD, and Anthony Muhammad, PhD.  Information regarding educational Communities of Practice and the Solution Tree program can be found at

Creators of the PLC Community of Practice argue that it is an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators (Dufour, Dufour, Eaker, 2012).

As a teacher in Mesa Public Schools, I participate in a Community of Practice called Professional Learning Communities (PLC).  I meet with my team members (the other kindergarten teachers at my school) once a week for about an hour and a half formally but also informally as needed.  Four questions guide each formal PLC.  They are:

  1.  What is it that we expect the students to learn?
  2. How will we know when they have learned it?
  3. How will we respond when they don’t learn?
  4. How will we respond when they already know it?

(Dufour et al., 2012)

During a PLC, our team work collaboratively to examine all teaching practices and study their impact on learning.  Team members share ideas and discuss progress of their students.  In a PLC, the students are not just the responsibility of their classroom teacher, but the responsibility of the whole team.  Expertise from each teacher on the team is utilized in an effort to help all children be successful across the grade level.

One of the most important aspects of a PLC is that the time is protected.  If the discussion does not relate to the four guiding questions listed above then it cannot be discussed at that during a PLC.  There is a lot of value that comes from having a protected time to meet in a Community of Practice.  It assures that knowledge and information is being shared in a regular basis and that each child is being monitored by the entire team of teachers so that they can receive the best education possible.  It also provides teachers a time without other sidebars or distractions where student achievement is the only focus.


Barth, R. (2001). Learning by heart. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass

Dufour, R., Dufour, R., Eaker, R. (2012). Proceedings from Solution Tree Summit 2012: PLC at Work. New Insights for Improving Schools. AZ: Phoenix.

Wenger, E.  (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246.