Why are professional learning communities deemed necessary

Professional learning communities and improving teaching in school. On the role of communication between teachers

Table of Contents

List of tables

List of figures

List of abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Concepts and models
2.1 Modeling to the professional learning communities
2.2 Modeling for communication in work teams
2.3 The reflective dialogue

3 Methodology of the literature analysis
3.1 Objective
3.2 Problem formulation
3.3 Searching for and collecting data

4 Results of the systematic literature analysis
4.1 Frequency of lesson-related communication in PLG
4.2 Quality of communication in PLG
4.3 Potential of communication in PLG for lesson development

5 Discussion of the results

6 Summary and Outlook
6.1 Conclusion
6.2 Limitations and Implications

7 Bibliography


List of tables

Table 1: Conversation maxim

Table 2. Properties of a review

List of figures

Figure 1: Input-process-output model of team quality

Figure 2: Model of the professional development of teachers

Figure 3: Impact model of teacher development

List of abbreviations

Figure not included in this excerpt

1 Introduction

At the latest from the so-called Hattie study it is known that the teachers and their lessons contribute significantly to the performance of the pupils1 contribute (Hattie, 2009). While the teachers have little influence on the personal requirements of their students, their lessons can be designed and changed through concrete measures (Lotz & Lipowsky, 2016, p.101). The willingness to develop one's own skills is a decisive criterion for the professionalism of a teacher (Terhart, 2011, p.216). The constant further development of one's own teaching should result from the professional self-image of the teachers (Terhart, 2001, p.134; Buhren & Rolff, 2002, p.13; DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p.208). Teaching methods and didactic concepts have to be regularly evaluated for their effectiveness and, if necessary, adapted (Helmke, 2007, p.14). One strategy for promoting professionalization processes with regard to a change in one's own practice among teachers is the cooperation of teachers (Berkemeyer, Järvinen, Otto & Bos, 2011, p.227). It can make it possible to lead teachers out of the isolation, individualism and insecurities that characterize their daily work (Lortie, 1975). Teacher cooperation is considered to be one of the most important processes at school level and a component of organizational quality with which teaching, teaching and learning culture and the learning outcomes of students can be improved (Steinert et al., 2006, p.188; Massenkeil & Rothland , 2016, p.87). In the course of this, it is emphasized that school and teaching development is a joint task and can only be mastered in cooperative cooperation (Bastian & Seydel, 2007, p. 6; Bonsen, 2011, p. 102).

In the past, results of school effectiveness research have shown that successful schools are characterized by a high degree of cooperation and cohesion in the teaching staff (Terhart & Klime, 2006, p. 163). A multitude of research results suggest that effective teacher cooperation has a positive influence on the attitudes of teachers towards students and themselves (Hord, 1997; Morrissey, 2000; Timperley & Earl, 2011). Occasionally it has been shown that student performance can be increased through cooperative forms of work (Gräsel & Parchmann, 2004). Even if the cooperation should not be regarded as good 'per se' (Bauer, 2008, p.851; Tarnoczi, 2006), the current state of research on teacher cooperation speaks for a positive effect on the school organization and the school actors (Bondorf, 2013 , P.31).

In contrast to these opportunities are the sobering findings on the realization of the cooperation. Work formats that indicate cooperation between teachers are relatively rare in German schools (Gräsel, Fussangel & Pröbstel, 2006b; Steinert et al., 2006). Rather, it seems as if the teaching profession, in contrast to the teamwork that has become common in business, is still exercised as a lone warrior (Lortie, 1972, p.37; Terhart & Klieme, 2006, p.163). Many empirical studies confirm the subordinate importance of cooperation between teachers in colleges; In summary, a trend towards “more cooperation” cannot be identified (Gräsel et al., 2006b, p.205). The lived experience in schools, the internal reports from the school administration as well as earlier and current empirical studies make it clear that, in addition to the small extent, cooperation does not take place in an effective form (ibid.). It turns out that the more demanding the forms of collegial cooperation, the less frequently they are practiced in everyday professional life (Gräsel et al., 2006b; Steinert et al., 2006; Kullmann, 2010; Soltau, 2011).

A demanding form of cooperation was developed with the concept of professional learning communities (PLG). This type of cooperation attempts to encourage teachers to work in cooperation forms and structures that are clearly aimed at lesson development, which is intended to promote school effectiveness (Bonsen, Hübner-Schwartz, Mitas, 2013, p.109). Characteristic for these communities is the changed focus from mere teaching to effective learning by the students (DuFour, 2004, p.7). The cooperation in a PLG stands out from a pure division of labor in the college and starts at the level of co-construction (Maag Merki, Werner & Ehlert, 2013, p.20). On the one hand, PLG combine teacher learning with student learning and personnel development with teaching development (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.167). A PLG that fulfills the characteristics that define it achieves a coherence that leads to effective lesson development (Rolff, 2015, p.565). The so-called cellular structure of the teaching profession and of the entire school (Rolff, 1993; Lortie, 1975) makes it difficult for teachers to cooperate (Massenkeil & Rothland, 2016, p.106). Since the concept of the PLG seeks to dissolve these structures, it offers opportunities for improvement for existing lessons and ultimately for student learning. As each teacher contributes their skills to the team, their own teaching work can be improved through mutual suggestions and joint reflection (Maag Merki et al., 2013, p.20). The empirical results currently available suggest that PLG can be effective in many ways, but the empirical evidence is still limited (Bonsen et al., 2013, p. 118). From a theoretical point of view, teacher cooperations at the level of co-construction seem to offer the potential to promote the teacher's skills in relation to lesson development (Maag Merki et al., 2013, p.20). The empirical results, which show that PLG have a positive influence on teacher and pupil learning as well as on teaching, give rise to hope that it is actually a “royal road” (Rolff, 2015, p.564) of practical relevance for work in Schools, and specifically for teaching development, can have. For these reasons, the form of cooperation of the PLG should play a central role in this work.

In teaching teams and especially in PLG, the main medium of interaction is communication. It is constitutive for cooperation, since joint action is preceded by a communicative negotiation process and the cooperation itself is always accompanied by communication (Heeg & Sperga, 1999, p. 19) . Communication between teachers is an important condition for professional learning by teachers (Doğan, Yurtseven & Tatık, 2018, p.3). The intention when founding a PLG is to offer teachers a communication structure that allows them to experience critical analysis of their own teaching (Gräsel, Fussangel & Parchmann, 2006a, p.549). For a PLG to work effectively, it is also pointed out that sufficient time must be planned for discussions and that the communication structures must first be developed (Kruse, Louis & Bryk, 1995, p.34). The overall professional knowledge available within the colleges is made accessible to every teacher through the communication processes (Carle, 1997, p.27; Hiebert, Gallimore & Stigler, 2002, p.7). In PLG, a so-called reflective dialogue takes place on a regular basis, which leads to intensive and sustained discussions between teachers about teaching content, lessons and student progress (Louis, Marks & Kruse, 1996, p.761).

The importance of communication for the effectiveness of teamwork is well known from organizational research. Inadequate performance by employees, wrong decisions or demotivation can result from communication problems so that they have direct economic consequences (Schneider & Retzbach, 2012, p. 3). The opportunities offered by teamwork can only be implemented through successful communication behavior (Regnet, 2007, p. 19). Entire projects of organizations can fail purely because of unsuccessful communication (Marek & Enzweiler, 2016, p. 285). Conversational research reveals that workgroup interlocutors themselves are often unaware of many of the subtle cues and patterns of communication that are critical to a successful team (Sawyer, 2001). Teachers in particular are assumed to lack a style of communication that allows for collaborative work (Bondorf, 2013, p.193). Although communication is rated as very important in teacher cooperation, comparatively little is known about the processes by which teaching teams identify and solve problems that arise (Scribner, Sawyer, Watson & Myers, 2007, p.73). As a consequence, the possibilities of increasing the effectiveness of cooperation between teaching teams with regard to improving schools can only be limited (ibid.). A weak PLG is characterized by an absence of conversation about class (McLaughin & Talbert, 2006, p. 19). As a result, a lack of communication makes joint lesson development impossible. However, the level of cooperation and communication is also decisive, since the frequency of the discussions alone cannot be decisive for the effectiveness of the cooperation (Terhart & Klieme, 2006, p. 163). In PLG, where members meet regularly to discuss different views and reflect on their own teaching (Louis et al., 1996, pp. 4-5; Hord, 1997, p. 20), communication appears to be stronger More attention than in other forms of teacher cooperation.

It can be stated that the concept of a PLG creates opportunities for lesson development and ultimately for the learning success of the students. For this reason, the PLG was chosen as the form of cooperation in this work. It was also shown that successful cooperation between teachers depends on how they communicate with one another. The quality of collaboration in collaborative work formats has been rarely considered in previous research. Differences between schools regarding the extent of cooperation and the existence of PLGs were increasingly found (e.g. Bonsen, 2005; Gräsel et al., 2006b). In particular, the quantity and quality of teacher communication seem to have only been considered by a few studies, despite the relevance described. Research also focuses on the influence of the various forms of cooperation on the professional development of teachers. Because of the connection between previous lessons and successful student learning, the focus of the present work should be directed at the joint lesson development in PLG. The aim of this thesis is to examine the cooperation of PLG in terms of the quantity and quality of their internal team communication and the potential of this communication for the development of lessons. There are therefore three research questions for the present analysis:

1. How often do teachers in professional learning communities communicate with each other?
2. What quality in terms of content and teaching can be seen within teacher communication in professional learning communities?
3. What potential does communication in professional learning communities offer for lesson development?

The answer to the question is based on an evaluation of the relevant literature. This is done with the help of a systematic literature analysis, which provides for a critical examination of existing material (Sturma, Ritschl, Dennhardt & Stamm, 2016, p.208). Such a literature review pursues the goal of describing, summarizing, evaluating, explaining and / or integrating the contents of the specialist literature that has already been published (Cooper, 1988, p.107). A systematic literature analysis is useful for answering the chosen question for the reason that relevant literature is to be found with the help of an explicit research methodology, which is not only listed, but can also be used to generate additional knowledge.

A discussion of the relevance and presentation of the problem has already taken place in this chapter. In addition, the aim of this work was presented and the research methodology was justified (Chapter 1). Since the question with the PLG and the communication contains two concepts, these should be presented in the descriptive part of this work in order to create a theoretical foundation (Chapter 2). The research questions should be answered comprehensibly and repeatably with the help of a systematic literature analysis, which is why the methodological procedure is also explained and presented (Chapter 3). Then the results of the literature research are presented in detail (Chapter 4). The critical discussion and contextualization of the results then takes place (Chapter 5), before the research questions are answered in the last chapter and the work is summarized (Chapter 6).

2 Concepts and models

In this chapter, the conceptual fundamentals are presented, which are necessary for a further understanding of the work. A literature review should always be carried out concept-centered, which means that the research area should first be explained using theories and concepts (Webster & Watson, 2002, S.xiv-xv). In order to classify the results of the literature analysis and thus answer the research questions posed, the theoretical approaches and models, both for the concept of the PLG (Chapter 2.1) and that of communication (Chapter 2.2), are presented. Because of its special position, reflective dialogue is presented in a separate part of this chapter (Chapter 2.3).

2.1 Modeling to the professional learning communities

As mentioned in the introductory chapter of this thesis, numerous studies indicate that PLGs can be particularly effective for student learning as well as for personnel and teaching development. In the past, the term PLG was used to describe very different groups in schools, which is why some authors warn against the threat of the term diffusing (Rolff, 2016, p.564; Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.168). Since the concept of the PLG has existed for several decades, albeit in different terms, the main development of the research area should first be shown (Chapter 2.1.1). In order to better understand the practical approach of a PLG, definition approaches and characteristics that a group of teachers have in order to be considered a PLG are also presented (Chapter 2.1.2). This is followed by a theoretical presentation of why the concept is being discussed so controversially by showing the attribution of importance to the PLG with regard to various output variables (Section 2.1.3). Then individual models are considered which have received a high response in the literature and which can explain various aspects of PLG (Section 2.1.4). Since the third research question is aimed at the effect of the PLG on lesson development, the lesson development must also be presented theoretically. This subchapter therefore closes with a chain of PLG and lesson development (Chapter 2.1.5).

2.1.1 Origin of the discussion on the PLG

If the development of the PLG is considered, it is noticeable that approaches that concern cooperating work formats have not only been found in the last few years. In particular, the demand for more cooperation among teachers has a long tradition (Terhart & Klieme, 2006, p.163). The loneliness in the classroom was criticized as early as 1972 by Lortie, who by one self-contained classroom speaks (Lortie, 1972, p.42).He explains that an autonomy parity pattern (APM) is developing among teachers, which among other things leads to teachers claiming autonomy for their professional activity and rejecting interference from outsiders (ibid., P.47). As a result, teachers tend to act autonomously in the course of their teaching activities and decide on their approach independently of other people (Fussangel, 2008, p.57). As a result, there is little exchange with colleagues and the lessons remain a private matter (Gräsel et al., 2006b, pp.208-209).

Cooperation research in recent years has mainly dealt with new forms of cooperation and especially with the PLG (Idel & Ulrich, 2013, p.57). The origin of the concept is, however, already in the eighties of the last century in school research projects in the USA (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.167). Significant for much later work was the publication of Schön (1987), who advocated his notion of teachers as reflective practitioner demonstrated the need for increased adaptability on the part of a professional teacher. The initial definition phase of the PLG concept2 was characterized by the delimitation and conceptualization of the theory (Lomos, 2009, p.10). Various research approaches focused on expanding teacher cooperation as part of the school reform. It can be assumed that the work of Rosenholtz (1991) forms the starting point for the further discussion about PLG, even if the term PLG does not yet explicitly appear there. The author explains the central importance of teachers who work together and learn from one another for the further development of schools. In her work, she was able to show that schools with teachers who continuously train and learn from one another could achieve higher student performance than schools in which this was possible is not the case. Another important point that was taken up in later studies concerns the role of school organization. Rosenholtz (1991) found that a culture of support and mutual help is necessary in schools that have achieved higher student achievement. Practical advice was later added to the existing theory on how teachers in PLG should ideally talk to their colleagues about their teaching, observe each other's teaching practices and give each other valuable feedback (Lomos, 2009, p.10). The term PLG was first introduced by Bryk, Camburn and Louis (1999), the one Professional Community as a kind of key capacity on the organizational level and as a necessary condition for successful personnel and teaching development (p.756). In this phase, it was also started to develop the characteristics typical for a PLG (see chapter 2.1.2). In addition to the terminology of the PLG, approaches that are very related in terms of content were created. For example, Lave and Wenger (1991) used the Community of Practice (COP) introduced a PLG-like concept that describes a community of people who are experts in a certain area of ​​knowledge and who learn from each other (p.42).

The period from 1995-2004 following the definition phase can be classified as operationalization and measurement Phase in which the main aim was to be able to measure and operationalize the concept of the PLG (Lomos, 2009, p.11). Many studies have been published dealing with the relationship between PLG and student learning (e.g. Bryk, Camburn & Louis, 1999; Louis & Kruse, 1995; Louis & Marks, 1998). With the help of developed scales, the incidence of PLG in schools could be measured (Louis & Marks, 1998; Lee & Smith, 1996). The studies also dealt with the question of how PLG can be effectively formed and maintained in different contexts (Lomos, 2009, p. 80). In many places, attempts have repeatedly been made to manifest a definition of the PLG. Hord (1997) presented the most important scientific findings for practitioners. During this period DuFour (2004) also summed up his vision of a PLG in which he wrote that the goal of a PLG “is not simply to ensure that students are taught but to ensure that they learn. This simple shift - from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning - has profound implications ”(p.5).

The third research period began around 2005, when the studies increasingly focused on the organizational structure in schools and the dissemination of successful PLGs (e.g. Hargreaves, 2007; Kruse & Louis, 2007; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006). The measured variables used were adapted to the different organizational forms and stages of development of a PLG (Lomos, 2009, p.81). In addition, more and more reviews of the PLG were published, which attempted to order the available theoretical and empirical research results regarding the PLG concept (e.g. Vescio, Ross & Adams, 2008; Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas, 2006).

Research work on teacher cooperation began in the German-speaking countries in the nineties (Idel, Ullrich & Baum, 2012, p.10). In this country, too, a greater willingness to cooperate was demanded due to the loneliness in the teaching profession (e.g. Weick, 1982; Gräsel et al., 2006a). Since 2006 the topic has been through the thematic part Cooperation in the teaching profession in the Journal of Education increasingly picked up. In addition to articles on teacher cooperation and its design in general (e.g. Steinert et al., 2006; Gräsel et al., 2006b), the contribution Professional learning communities of teachers (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006) explicitly discussed the research area of ​​the PLG. The increasing interest in this form of cooperation in Germany can partly be explained by the first positive results from the USA (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.167). The publication of the above-mentioned article by Bonsen and Rolff (2006) led many local scientists to embrace the PLG concept and take it up in their studies (e.g. Bondorf, 2013; Fussangel & Gräsel, 2009; Bloh & Bloh, 2016; Kunz Heim & Rindlisbacher, 2009; Berkemeyer et al., 2011).

2.1.2 Definition and characteristics of PLG

Before the definitions and characteristics of a professional learning community are outlined, the concept can first be approximated literally. PLG are consciously not understood as learning groups or teams, but as Communities (Rolff, 2015, p.564). A group is understood to be a limited number of people who have been in relatively frequent, direct interaction with one another over a longer period of time, who are characterized by role differentiation and common norms and who are united by a sense of togetherness (Schulte-Zurhausen 2010, p.185). It can be assumed that the knowledge and competencies of a group are usually greater than the sum of the actual individual talents and abilities (Senge 1996, p.6-7), which reveals the advantages of a group. It is person-centered and satisfies human needs such as trust, care, concern, concern as well as attachment, obligation and commitment (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p. 169). These aspects also apply to a community, but this differs from a group in that it is communitarian (ibid.). It characterizes a group of people with shared interests (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p.7). A community can be seen as the basis for mutual cooperation and mutual support, especially for emotional support (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p.9).

The concept of professionalism and in particular its development and importance for the teaching profession has been discussed in many ways (Terhart, 2011; Altrichter, Posch & Spann, 2018). Professionalism is characterized in members of a profession by the fact that they have profession-specific knowledge acquired in the context of intensive special training, professional ethical orientations and a relative independence in the performance of their activities from persons and bodies outside the profession (Wittmann, 2007, p. 2). Professionalism means qualified training and orientation towards high standards of professional practice as well as an interest in further qualification (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.169). Difficult, complex, risky tasks and problems can only be mastered on the basis of a knowledge base acquired in demanding training and careful professional socialization as well as corresponding attitudes, abilities and skills (Terhart, 2011, p. 202). The more competent the teacher is in fulfilling their professional tasks, the more professional they are (ibid.). Since these are changing ever faster, the willingness to develop one's own skills is a decisive criterion for understanding professionalism (ibid., P.203). In a PLG, therefore, specialists are referred to as professionals who, on the one hand, have expertise in their respective field and, on the other hand, are ready to keep themselves up to date on current developments in their profession (Bonsen, 2005, p.183).

What that Learn in a learning community, the concept of the PLG is associated with all authors with the idea of ​​teachers as learners who learn with and from each other (Bondorf, 2013, p.27). Since a completed degree cannot guarantee that teachers have up-to-date and comprehensive professional knowledge in the long term, lifelong learning is essential (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.168). In a PLG, (further) learning and constant practice as well as systematic reflection are considered as the basis for continuous improvement work (ibid.). In particular, the attitude to view mistakes as an opportunity to learn is constitutive for the work of a PLG (ibid., P. 169).

In order to understand the concept of a PLG, it is helpful to consider the historically established features that characterize a PLG. Newman (1994) and Kruse et al. (1995) established five PLG criteria, which are described below:

- reflective dialogue
- De-privatization of teaching
- shared focus on student learning / shared responsibility for all teachers to learn for all students
- Cooperation
- common norms and values

The authors are of the opinion that PLGs are strong when they display these five characteristics (Kruse et al., 1995, p.4). In order to be considered a PLG, it is not enough to only meet the majority of these criteria; rather, all criteria must be observed (Rolff, 2015, p.566). These five characteristics of a PLG have been adopted for the German-speaking area (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006; Bonsen, 2016). Some of the features are not intuitively understandable, but require a brief explanation. Kruse et al. (1995) explain the criterion of the reflective dialogue so that the members of the PLG speak about their situation and the specific challenges they face. In this way they develop a set of shared norms and values, which in turn form the basis for further action. The discussions can be used critically, for example to relate them to the needs of the students, the development of teaching strategies or the learning success of the students. The reflective dialogue is dealt with in a separate chapter due to its special position for the present work (Chapter 2.3). With the feature De-privatization of teaching it means that teachers share, observe and discuss their teaching methods and beliefs with one another. By making their lessons public, teachers learn new ways to speak about what they are doing, and these discussions create new relationships between those involved. As a third feature, the authors make it clear that in PLG a shared focus on student learning is placed. The teachers assume that all students can learn at the same high level and that they support them in doing so. In a strong PLG, this focus is not enforced through rules, but through joint assumption of responsibility. In addition, in a strong PLG collaboration not only stimulated to develop a shared understanding of students, curriculum or educational methodology, but also to develop common material or activities that improve teaching, curriculum and assessment for students, and to develop new, different approaches to operational Develop the teachers themselves. Through their language and their actions, teachers reinforce theirs common values regarding critical educational issues and regarding the common focus on student learning. These values ​​can appeal to students and their ability to learn.

Typical activities of cooperating teachers in a PLG could, due to the characteristics described, be, for example, the planning, preparation and evaluation of lessons, mutual class visits, a reflective dialogue about lessons or mentoring, i.e. accompanying new teachers (Bryk et al., 1999, P.772).

Hord (1997) also distinguishes five criteria that characterize and identify PLG. The author names the following characteristics of a PLG:

- supportive and shared leadership,
- joint learning and application of what has been learned
- shared values ​​and vision
- supporting framework conditions
- shared practice.

These criteria can be viewed as correspondingly congruent with the elements that school impact research has identified as criteria for good schools (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.170). Hord (1997) names one as the first characteristic supportive and shared leadership. In a PLG, school principals work who are on a similar hierarchical level with the teachers, support their staff and enable shared decision-making. These school organizational factors, which make the concept of the PLG possible in the first place, are also mentioned by other authors. In this context, for example, the size of the school, the management style of the school management and the trust of all those involved can be listed (Bryk et al., 1999, pp.756-757). According to Hord (1997), this is also joint learning and application of what has been learned constituent for PLG, which is determined by the fact that several people from different areas work together and continuously at all levels. Furthermore, a PLG defines that the parties involved shared values ​​and visions exhibit. Teachers should be encouraged not only to develop a shared vision, but also to use that vision as a guide in making decisions about teaching and learning in school. The common values ​​were also used in the criteria of Kruse et al. (1995) already mentioned. Those described by Hord (1997) supportive framework determine when, where and how the teachers come together regularly in a unit and learn together, make decisions, solve problems and work creatively. The last feature mentioned by the author, the shared practiceis made possible by the mutual respect and trustworthiness of colleagues. A shared practice is carried out by teachers who regularly observe each other's lessons, take notes, and discuss their observations with one another.

Due to the complexity of the PLG concept, there are other features in the literature that have been developed by various authors and in some cases those of Newman (1994) or Kruse et al. (1995) were added. These include, for example, collective team practices (Supovitz, 2002), leadership (Visscher & Witziers, 2004) or control of the teacher (Lee & Smith, 1996). Overall, however, it can be stated that the newman (1994) and Kruse et al. (1995) are the characteristics of a PLG most frequently reproduced in the literature and used for studies.

The features described provide important information on what exactly is meant by the concept of a PLG. The search for a uniform definition of a PLG is proving to be difficult, however. Lomos (2012)) was able to empirically confirm on the basis of a meta-analysis that many authors agree with the view that there is no universal definition of a PLG (pp. 39-40). Therefore, the most important and most frequently mentioned approaches for a definition should be presented at this point. Hord (1997) describes a PLG as a community of continuous inquiry and improvement (P.2). She describes a school as a PLG, in which the teachers and the school management are continuously looking for learning opportunities to increase teaching effectiveness, share what they have learned with colleagues and actually apply what they have learned in their lessons (ibid., P.6). Bolam et al. (2005) define a PLG as a community in which the learning of all teachers is promoted and strengthened with regard to the common purpose of improving student learning (p.145). Bryk et al. (1999) refer to schools where teacher interaction takes place regularly and where actions are shaped by shared norms that focus on teaching and improving teaching and learning (p.753).As already explained, the concept of the PLG is linked to the idea of ​​teachers as learners who learn with and from one another (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.169). In addition, PLGs embody the joint assumption of responsibility for the achievement of the jointly developed pedagogical goals and goal-related cooperation in the teaching staff (Holtappels, 2013, p.42). It is important, however, that the work of a PLG cannot simply be equated with teacher cooperation. Cooperation is only the technical prerequisite for learning from teachers, whereas a PLG includes additional emotional and reflection-related components (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.197).

Specialist conferences, class teams or other institutionalized teacher groups at a school can be understood as PLG, which are to be located as "intermediate structures" (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.182) between the individual school as an organization and the autonomous teacher (Bondorf, 2013, p. 27 ). In the Anglo-American area, the entire college is often referred to as a PLG (e.g. Bryk et al., 1999; DuFour, 2004; Hord, 1997). In Germany, on the other hand, a group size of three to twelve teachers is considered ideal (Rolff, 2001, p.3). The whole college seems too big for a PLG in this country, as it cannot guarantee the transparency and trust required for a PLG (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.181).

2.1.3 Assigning the meaning of the PLG

The PLG is credited with having an impact on various areas in schools. The effect of collegial cooperation in general was broken down by Massenkeil and Rothland (2016) on the basis of three aspects. The school is named as the first impact segment, the teacher himself as the second, and the teaching as the third. This means that research approaches in school pedagogical discourse and in research on collegial cooperation in the teaching profession can be divided into these three areas of activity. With the concept of the PLG, the hope was awakened to be able to show the ideal way to improve the quality of schools and teaching (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.167). Attempts are made to encourage teachers to work in forms and structures of cooperation that are clearly aimed at lesson development, which is intended to promote school effectiveness (Bonsen et al., 2013, p.109). According to some authors, like no other approach, the PLG combine teacher learning with student learning or personnel development with teaching development (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.167). This assessment underlines the versatility in the potential attribution of meaning to the PLG.

As early as 1997, Hord (1997, pp. 33-34) showed a summary of the effectiveness of PLG, which is based on previous empirical studies. In schools that can be described as PLG, the teaching staff is able to successfully learn new teaching techniques and expand professional knowledge. It also increases the likelihood that teachers will be informed about current technical innovations and develop a deeper understanding of their subject matter. Great importance is also assigned to the PLG with regard to the teacher-student relationship, since the teachers perceive their own role in supporting and promoting the students as more important. Furthermore, the first results show that teachers in a PLG show a higher capacity to adapt to the special needs of the learners and to adapt their lessons accordingly. The work in PLG also has a positive effect on the job satisfaction of the teachers and on the reduction of absent days, as well as on their motivation to participate in sustainable and systematic changes themselves.

Lomos, Hofman and Bosker (2011) also found out in a meta-analysis that the PLG can have a positive effect on student performance. This is the conclusion reached by Newman (1994) who, as an explanation for this effect, points to the more widely accessible resources of a teacher through cooperation (p.1). Especially in so-called low-performing schools the PLG could be assigned a central role in the improvement of these schools (Newman, 1996; Rayes, Scribner & Paredes Scribner, 1999). In Germany, too, a positive influence on teaching, especially through collegial reflection, could be demonstrated (Gräsel & Parchmann, 2004; Fussangel & Gräsel, 2009). There was also a greater willingness to innovate among teachers working in a PLG (Gräsel, Jäger & Willke, 2006c). What the influence of work in PLG means for the teachers themselves, it was found that teachers perceive the workload to be reduced (Fussangel, 2008), are less likely to suffer from burnout (Johnson & Johnson, 2003) and have a higher level of job satisfaction (Körner, 2003; Halbheer & Kunz, 2011).

In addition to the numerous positive effects, some critical aspects of the PLG concept were also discussed. BlohundBloh (2016) identify various points of criticism that relate to the imprecise use of the term, the level of collectivity, the narrowness of the construct and the lack of a learning-theoretical foundation (p.212). Over ten years ago, DuFour (2004) drew attention to the danger that the term PLG could be used in an inflationary way. He therefore suggests to reflect on the three main ideas of the concept (ensuring student learning, focus on results and culture of collaboration) (pp.6-10). It has also been found that PLGs can also fail if they focus too much on details and lack time, cooperation and support, leading to inefficiency of cooperation (Sims & Penny, 2015).

Overall, there is still no uniform picture of the effect of PLG. If positive effects were found by the PLG, for example on the learning success of the students, this is often only a small, positive correlation (Lomos, 2009, p.19). It can be stated that PLG research mainly concentrates on three large areas in the outcome of this form of cooperation: on the learning success of the students, on the personal / professional development of the teachers and lastly on the development of lessons. Due to the chosen question of this work, this is explicitly discussed in Chapter 2.1.5.

2.1.4 Selected models for the PLG

In order to be able to comprehensively understand the concept of the PLG, selected models should be presented that can make different contributions to the explanation, effect or conception of PLG. The models by the following authors are presented in this sub-chapter: Steinert & Klieme (2003), Bonsen, Hübner-Schwartz & Mitas (2013) and Little (1990).

SteinertundKlieme (2003) have developed a model for teacher cooperation with increasing levels of competence. With their model, the authors show that cooperation can be described using continuous levels of competence. The methodologically verified four levels are called differentiation, coordination, interaction and integration. A school college cooperates at the appropriate level if at least half of the teachers state that they have fulfilled the easiest item of a level to achieve. Another lowest level of teacher cooperation is mentioned, the Fragmentationwhich, however, is only defined negatively and characterizes schools in which no teacher cooperation whatsoever is realized in the teaching staff. Minimum standards of information and communication are not adhered to and there is only selective cooperation. The first stage at which one can speak of cooperation is that of differentiation. Schools at this level have a global target concept, formal work processes and forms of communication. Cooperation usually takes place within the boundaries of the subject and year. These requirements for teacher cooperation can be interpreted as minimum standards for an orderly school operation. SteinertundKlieme calls the next higher form of cooperation coordination designated. The model is generally designed in such a way that the higher level includes the information from the level below, so that in this case the cooperation level also covers the characteristics of differentiation. This second level is characterized by comprehensive information on the distribution of tasks, work processes and work results. There are also approaches to resource and task coordination. At the third level interactionwhich goes beyond the division-specific division of labor, the teachers work together across disciplines and grades and exchange ideas about school and lessons and use external assessments for personnel and teaching development. This level is also characterized by an improvement in individual teacher action through mutual adaptivity and transparency in the planning, implementation and review of the teaching work. The last level, the integration, is characterized by a systematically coordinated, profession-specific and cross-departmental cooperation. Observations take place and there are references to each other in the classroom so that the teaching staff is used as a social resource. This level is most likely to apply to the work of PLG, as it is characterized by the de-privatization of teaching, shared values ​​and norms, and shared responsibility for student learning.

Bonsen, Hübner-SchwartzundMitas (2013) have developed an input-output model for team quality with reference to the PLG concept. The model is based on the General Model of Group Behavior by Gladstein (1984), which is based on the assumption that the team process significantly influences the effectiveness of a team (Bonsen et al., 2013, p.111). The team effectiveness is influenced in this basic model as output by the factors of the input and process levels. The objective of the further developed model by Bonsen et al. (2013) is to obtain information on the extent to which the PLG appears suitable for establishing team quality in schools and which information can be derived for the design of the practice. The input-output model is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure not included in this excerpt

Figure 1: Input-process-output model of team quality

Source: Bonsen et al., 2013, p.112.

The Input quality can be divided into the two levels of team and organizational level. To Team level include the team composition and the team structure. The team composition regulates who belongs to the team, how heterogeneous the members are, what skills they have and over what period of time they work together. The authors emphasize that experiences and practical advice on the design of PLGs given in the literature indicate that the composition of a PLG is not arbitrary. Another factor in team quality is the individual skills available in the group. Since the concept of the PLG focuses on the joint learning of teachers and the exchange of knowledge, non-subject teachers are just as possible in subject-related teams as less profiled teachers. The team structure includes characteristics such as the control of the fulfillment of tasks, the roles in the team, the team size and leadership, the clarity of goals and tasks and common norms. In this model, the team structure has a direct as well as an indirect influence on team effectiveness. According to the authors, teams with clear goals communicate more effectively and more openly than teams with unclear goals. The second input level, the organizational level, can be divided into the two areas of resources on the one hand and organizational structure on the other. Above all, the availability of resources means that teaching teams are ideally trained together in order to train technical and interdisciplinary skills (e.g. with regard to moderation techniques, feedback and counseling discussions, or conflict management). Another important resource for teamwork is seen by the authors in the acceptance and support from the school inspectorate, the school administration and the parents. The other level of the organizational level, the organizational structure, includes the incentive structure within the school, the motivation for (additional) commitment in the team, as well as the expectations and control within the organization.

In the area of Process quality the focus is on team processes and the behavior of team members. Behaviors of team members, such as communication behavior, dealing with conflicts or mutual support, have a decisive influence on team effectiveness in this model. The quality features include open communication, mutual support, dealing with conflicts, joint development of strategies as well as appropriate consideration of individual contributions and the demarcation of the team from the outside world. The authors affirm that the concept of the PLG requires precisely these quality features, since the teachers within a PLG cooperate with one another, communicate openly and maintain a reflective dialogue. The extent to which the team process also leads to effectiveness also depends on the task to be processed. Teamwork can only be effective if the task is complex and there is a positive dependency between team members in completing the task. In the model, team effectiveness is determined by the satisfaction of the members, the consistency of the team and the team performance. When transferring team performance to the PLG, it must relate to the improvements in student learning. The input-output model for team quality is useful for naming factors of the effectiveness of teaching teams beyond the programmatic requirements of the PLG.

Little (1990) uses a heuristic model to theoretically differentiate between different levels of cooperation. Four forms of cooperation are described, which differ in terms of the degree of independence or interdependence of the teachers. The lowest form of cooperation, Storytelling and Scanning for Ideas, corresponds to an informal form of exchange in which general experiences are merely discussed “between the door and the hinge”. The second stage, Aid and Assistance, responds to mutual help from teachers. However, with this form of cooperation, help is only given if it has been expressly requested beforehand and the autonomy of the other is preserved. At the stage Sharing colleagues get an insight into each other's work and exchange materials, methods and opinions with one another. The most intensive form of cooperation, joint work, takes place when the work of the teachers is characterized by interdependencies, it takes place largely in public and takes place on a common basis. At this stage, the entire staff feels responsible for the development of the students.

In this sub-chapter, three models were presented that show a relationship to the PLG. The competence level model according to Steinert and Klieme (2003) is a helpful model for classifying the extent of teacher cooperation based on the various items. The last level, the interaction, is particularly important for PLG. The items selected there correspond in many ways to the characteristics of a PLG, so that the items at this level can be used to identify a PLG in a school. The model has been very positively received in research because the authors have managed to present and classify the teacher cooperation on the basis of continuous levels of competence "in a methodically highly demanding manner" (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006, p.171). The authors were able to show that the highest level of cooperation with only three or 2% is practiced very little in German schools, which goes hand in hand with other research results on the frequency of PLG. However, the model only records the extent of the cooperation in schools and assigns the cooperation to the levels. What is ignored is how exactly the cooperation and interaction between the teachers takes place. The second model shown, the input-output model according to Bonsen et al. (2013), rather serves to understand the actual cooperation work of the teachers. By looking at the various influencing factors in a variety of ways, it is possible to find tips in practice as to where the work in a PLG can be improved. It also became clear that the team result or the team effectiveness depends not only on the input but also on the entire team process, which also includes open communication, and on the task to be processed. Little's (1990) cooperation levels are very practical and describe the actions and direct cooperation of colleagues. The highest level of the cooperation she portrays, joint work, corresponds most closely to the concept of the PLG, since there are approaches of the characteristics of a PLG. The levels shown are not empirically proven, but theoretically seem to appropriately describe the cooperation and practical action of teachers.

2.1.5 PLG and lesson development

Since the last research question of the present work aims to establish a connection between the PLG and the development of lessons, the development of lessons should be considered as a separate concept at this point. It is therefore shown why lesson development is relevant, what is meant by lesson development and what connection can be made to the PLG.

Improving and changing the quality of teaching is one of the greatest challenges and fields of action of a school (Mitas, 2017, p.14). The focus of these efforts is on improving student performance (ibid.). The need for lesson development is justified by the professional self-image of the teachers (Berkemeyer, Bos, Manitius & Müthing, 2008, p.19). Anyone who encounters changed learning requirements of the students and has new and possibly more effective ways of designing learning processes should adapt their lessons to these circumstances (ibid.). In combination with the fact that the results of the inspection visits in the various federal states unanimously criticized a quality deficit in the teaching provided, it must be a goal of the schools to continuously develop their teaching (ibid.). The relevance of the lesson development for the learning success of the pupils in connection with the PLG can also be established on the basis of the first empirical results. Supovitz and Christman (2003) as well as Supovitz (2002) found that a measurable increase in student performance was only found in the PLG, in which the focus was on changing the teaching practice of the teachers.

Lesson development is to be seen as the core of the entire school development (Bastian & Combe, 1998, p.10; Staub, 2001, p.175). In this context, Rolff (2010) names the "triad of school development" (p.29), which he uses to describe the systemic networking of lesson development, personnel development and organizational development. In the recent past, the importance of the individual school for the development of teaching has become apparent in Germany (Rolff, 2007, p.12; Wenzel, 2008, p. 425), which is why more attention is paid to the inner-school actors. Similar to the PLG, there is no uniform definition of lesson development. The concept was occupied by many researchers with different focuses, but some overlaps can be found. HorsterundRolff (2006) define lesson development as:

“The totality of systematic efforts aimed at optimizing teaching practice in the sense of meaningful and efficient learning, which alternates between guided and independent work, often dealing with open and authentic problems. Development work to optimize teaching practice links individual and organizational learning, and affects both the educational content and the school structures. It synchronizes central official requirements and local school development projects. School management and staff are equally challenged here - as 'reflective practitioners' ”(p. 68).

Horster and Rolff (2006) include the following among the basic processes of teaching development: (1) Survey of the mental models of the teaching staff, (2) Evaluation of the teaching process and its results, (3) Joint planning and implementation of teaching projects, (4) Review and Expansion of the method and content repetition and (5) development of a common understanding (p. 73). For Bastian (2007), lesson development encompasses “all systematic and joint efforts of those involved in lessons that contribute to improving teaching and learning and its internal conditions” (p. 29). He lists the following characteristics of teaching development: (1) Targeted qualification of all those involved through in-house training, (2) consistent work in teams with teachers and students, (3) continuous training and 'maintenance' of the necessary skills, (4) linking a basic learning culture with a specific learning culture in the subject, (5) development of school-internal curricula based on all dimensions of an expanded concept of learning, (6) regular review of the goals and effects of the teaching work and (7) support for all developments through trained development management (ibid.). Meyer (2015) defines classroom development as the process and the results of individual and joint efforts by teachers and students to improve learning and working conditions in class (p. 6). Helmke (2015) summarizes under lesson development all activities and initiatives that relate to improving one's own teaching and the professional knowledge and skills required for it (p. 308). Helmke thus assumes a broader understanding of lesson development than Meyer (2015) or Bastian (2007).

It is important for the work of teachers what practical effects the goal of lesson development has on them. Because although all actors involved in the classroom are taken into account and addressed, the main responsibility for the lesson development rests with the teachers because they are responsible for the specific design of the lesson (Helmke, 2015, p.309; Bastian, 2007, p.30). However, constant reflection and research-based further development of one's own teaching quickly leads to the limits of what an individual teacher can achieve in addition to their other activities (Berkemeyer et al., 2008, p.19). Feedback from performance surveys, feedback from colleagues, attending training courses or forms of collegial case counseling could therefore serve as support (ibid.). Concrete development potentials in teaching relate, for example, to the design of the lesson, for example with regard to teaching methods or the promotion of individuals (Wurster, Richter & Lenski, 2017, p.630). The repertoire of methods and contents should be regularly checked for effectiveness (Horster & Rolff, 2006, p.67). Through further training, teachers can expand their didactic and technical skills and thus also contribute to the development of lessons. It is also important to plan, conduct and then evaluate lessons together (ibid.). In addition to cooperation and communication within the teaching staff, binding resolutions, such as the school's internal curriculum, play an important role (Wurster et al., 2017, p.630).

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Figure 2: Model of the professional development of teachers

What these definitions of lesson development have in common is that they address the entirety of the processes that are necessary to develop the lesson. It became clear that the development of lessons affects all processes that are important for the successful optimization of lessons (Wurster et al., 2017, p.628). The relationships between personnel development, lesson development and improved student learning are shown in the models by Desimone (2009) and Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002), which are shown in Figures 2 and 3 on the right. These mostly implicit models give a causal sequence starting with the teachers' increase in knowledge - which results, for example, as a result of working in cooperative learning formats - through a change in practice in the classroom, which ultimately leads to improved student learning. This makes it clear that even if the focus of the present analysis is placed on lesson development, the professional development of the teachers is the prerequisite for changes in the lesson and thus for successful student learning. Because it can be assumed that teacher cooperation promotes teacher learning, which in turn improves teaching (Goddard, Goddard & Tschannen-Moran, 2007, p.892).

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Figure 3: Impact model of teacher development

In the approaches to lesson development described, the collegial preparation of lessons was also emphasized. Lesson development should not only start from the individual, but rather encompass the entire staff and be understood as a goal-oriented, complex reform process (Bonsen, 2008, p.236). The collegial lesson development is an important characteristic of a PLG. Members of a PLG not only occasionally exchange their teaching materials, but they also design and implement teaching units collaboratively, creating a growing repertoire of shared teaching practices and methods. In particular, through the reflective dialogue, lesson-related topics are discussed and reflected upon in PLG (see Chapter 2.3).

2.2 Modeling for communication in work teams

Since the role of communication in PLG is to be examined in the present work, it seems sensible to deal with theoretical approaches to communication as well. Communication is presented in the following in addition to a pedagogical-psychological perspective and organizational psychology, because the present work is about communication within learning communities goes. In organizations, similar to teaching teams, it is about understanding the internal communication acts of individuals in order to make this knowledge applicable in the sense of the organization and ultimately to improve the effectiveness of teamwork (Nerdinger, 2019, p.60). First, it should be clarified what is to be understood by communication in general (Chapter 2.2.1), before the conditions of successful communication and problems that can arise during communication are dealt with (Chapter 2.2.2). Afterwards, different types of interpersonal communication and, in particular, the forms that occur in teaching teams are presented (Chapter 2.2.3).

2.2.1 Communication as a basis for information exchange

The term communication comes from the Latin word communicatio back, which means something like communication or conversation (Röhner & Schütz, 2012, p.2). Communication refers to the exchange of information between people (Rahn, 2015, p.28) or the process between at least two participants, in which actors interact with each other through symbols or signs directly or indirectly through the media (Six, Gleich & Gimmler, 2007, p . 21), understood. From this it can be deduced that different elements are necessary for an act of communication, such as a sender and a receiver. It is also about information that is mutually exchanged (Junge, 2009, p. 28). Thus, the components of communication are the sender or communicator, the recipient or recipient and the message itself (Six et al., 2007, p. 21; Watzlawick, Beavin & Jackson, 2017, p. 58). As a source of information, the transmitter is the starting point of the communication process, which selects a message and transmits it in the form of signals with the help of an encoder (Shannon & Weaver, 1949, quoted from Röhner & Schütz, 2012, p.17). The signals are transmitted in a specific channel and recorded and decrypted by the receiver using a decoder (ibid.).

As the interaction between teachers has already been mentioned a lot in the present work, it should be pointed out that communication is only part of the interaction. If every act of communication leads to an influence on the other person, communication can be viewed as a subset of an interaction (Nerdinger, 2019, p.56-57). However, if the interaction lacks the intention or the knowledge about the influencing, then an interaction is not necessarily also communication (ibid.). In order to better understand the concept of communication, Six et al. (2007, p.21-22) set up six characteristics: On the one hand, communication corresponds to one process between at least two participants, in which the people involved relate to one another by exchanging signs and symbols. These signs and symbols represent the message, another feature of communication, which are decoded by the sending person and decoded by the receiving person. In order to be able to send and receive messages, certain Means and modalities provided. Furthermore, communication always takes place in a particular one context instead of. The respective communication climate can, along with other factors, such as the prevailing communication rules, determine the entire communication process and its results. The participating people are by no means passive. However, not every activity is directly observable. Interlocutors perform visible activities, such as a gesture, and invisible activities, such as walking. B. Forming an impression of the other person. Communication also has one interactive process character, is therefore characterized by mutual influence. Communication must last not always fully awarebut can also be done unconsciously.


1 For reasons of better readability, the simultaneous use of male and female language forms will not be used in the following course of the thesis. All personal names apply equally to all genders.

2 In the English-speaking world, the name Professional learning community (PLC) established. Since this concept largely corresponds to the German counterpart of the Professional Learning Community (PLG), the German term will be used in the following course of this work.

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