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Opening the Classroom Door: Professional Learning Communities In the Math and Science Partnership Program


"Students come marching into the classroom and take their seats ... the bell rings ... the teacher closes the door and thinks, "This is my time with the kids. I have a lesson plan that I prepared, and they'll learn what I have to offer." The teacher never talks to other teachers about what to teach or how to teach, and the only time that anyone visits the classroom is when an administrator comes to evaluate the teacher once a year.

Although such a reality typified many classrooms in the 20th century, in the 1990s and the first decade of this 21st century, a new exemplar of teacher professional development has evolved--the professional learning community (PLC). This paper looks at how PLCs have become an operational approach for professional development with potential to de-isolate the teaching experience in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We offer a short synopsis of the intellectual origins of PLCs, provide multiple examples of PLCs employed in projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, and consider benefits for varied aspects of the teaching and learning environment."