The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Educational Administration and Leadership, K-12: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. John Eller

Second Advisor

Dr. Janine Dahms-Walker

Third Advisor

Dr. Kay Worner

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Roger Worner

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Education, Professional Learning Communities, Professional Development



In 1985, professional learning community (PLC) pioneers, Shirley Hord, Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker undertook an exploration of the concept of teachers working in small groups or learning communities. Participants in these initial learning communities shared common experiences, ideas, practices, and developed strategies to address issues they faced in their work with students (Hord 1997; DuFour & Eaker 1998). This concept was supported by McLaughlin and Talbert (1993) when they suggested that, given the opportunity for collaborative inquiry, veteran teachers will share the wisdom they have gained through experience in a way that allows improved teaching practices for all involved.

In 2000, Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton and Kleiner, reported that the, “learning organization approach to education” needs to be more than just talking and working in groups. It needs to involve everyone “…in expressing their aspirations, building their awareness and developing their capabilities together” (Senge et al., 2000, p. 5). Over time this learning community concept became known as the professional learning community, or PLC (Hord, 1997). DuFour & Eaker (1998), Lieberman and Pointer-Mace (2009), Darling-Hammond (1996) and Bryk and Schneider (2003), all contended that these professional learning communities have the capacity to transcend reform movements and result in continuous improvement in schools.

Over time, many school districts and their leaders have modified the professional learning community concept. They have done so to such a degree that they may no longer achieve, fully, their originally desired or anticipated results. In July 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed House File No. 26 (HF 26), a revision of the statewide teacher evaluation system. This legislation brought about numerous changes to Minnesota Statute 122A.40, subd. 8. One of these changes was the promotion of PLCs in public schools.

Even though much has been written about PLCs and their intended uses, limited research was found regarding whether or not PLCs are being implemented consistent with best practice, as identified in research, in the public schools of Minnesota. This study will examine the level to which the key characteristics of PLCs, as identified by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker and Many (2010) are being implemented in Minnesota public schools. It also identifies the barriers encountered by public school districts in implementing PLCs. The conceptual framework for this study was derived from the work of DuFour et al. (2010), in their book, Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work (2nd Ed).

The purpose of the study is to examine professional learning communities in public schools in Minnesota using the characteristics identified by DuFour et al. (2010). While PLCs are now recommended in all public schools by Minnesota State Statute, there are no studies which examine whether or not these PLCs are being implemented effectively based on best practices described in research. This study attempts to determine if PLCs are in fact being implemented effectively, based on best practices described in research, by: describing and contrasting the characteristics of PLCs employed in public school districts in Minnesota, the districts’ duration of use of PLCs, and district barriers teachers and administrators have encountered when implementing PLCs.



The process of completing a doctoral degree is the most rewarding personal experience I have had as a professional. The cohort model allowed the development of strong professional relationships which led to a level of trust and understanding among the group that encouraged deep discussion around significant topics in education. My experience with the members of Cohort V has made me stronger as leader in education. Of this group, I must recognize Trish Perry, my writing partner. We worked together to keep one another on track toward our goal.

A special thank you to my professors and especially to my committee at St. Cloud State University. Dr. John Eller, Dr. Janine Dahms-Walker, Dr. Kay Worner, and Dr. Roger Worner. Your time, guidance and support are greatly appreciated.

To my colleagues and school board members of the Monticello School District, who encouraged and supported me through the process

To my parents, Ken and Mary Ann Johnson, who lived a life that modeled hard work and perseverance. They raised five children in a home that valued education and they taught us that with hard work, all things are possible.

To my four children, Zach, Calab, Kate and Bri, you are truly my inspiration to be a life-long learner.

Finally, I want to thank my wife, Teri. Your support showed in numerous ways, from being the initial editor of my work to providing support when the process became a struggle. Your encouragement and your belief in me were critical in my completion of this process.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.