School management and the development of professional learning communities : a comparative case study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study compares the management practices at two primary schools with a similar socio-economic background but vastly differing academic results. I identify the extent to which these practices nurture the development of a Professional Learning Community. The data were collected mainly by using semi-formal open-ended interviews and surveys. The Grade 3 and Grade 6 Literacy and Numeracy tests results of the Western Cape Education Department were used as a benchmark to compare the achievement of the learners at the two schools. I chose a comparative case study approach which lends itself to an in-depth analysis of practices in two contexts. My study found substantial differences between the management and leadership practices at the two schools. The following practices appear to be associated with the school producing better results: (1) They had systems and practices to support collaborative work, (2) they ensured that monitoring and moderation of planned and assessed work occurred, (3) they focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning, (4) they adapted practices in order to improve learner achievement, (5) there was evidence of mutual care, respect, and collective responsibility, (6) they visited schools producing better results to inform their practices, (7) they operated within a cluster of schools formed with the aim of improving teaching and learning, (8) problems were addressed and resolved as soon as they became apparent, and, (9) the School Management Team operated collaboratively. These practices created platforms for collaboration and nurtured a positive morale. In general, these practices were not present or well-developed in the school where learners achieved poorer results. Consequently, the potential positive contributions of staff were not utilised. There was limited collaboration and high levels of frustration were present.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 84-86).