By Cassandra McCallum

The School of Education invites you to attend a doctoral dissertation defense by Maggie Espinola on “Teacher Dialogue within Professional Learning Communities: A Conversation with a Center or Sides?”

Date: March 30, 2023
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: This will be a virtual dissertation defense via Zoom. Those interested in attending should contact jack_schneider@uml.edu to request access to the Zoom link.

Dissertation Chair: Jack Schneider, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Dissertation Committee:

  • Hilary Lustick, PhD., Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Jim Nehring, Ed.D., Professor, School of Education, University of Massachusetts Lowell


Previous scholarship finds that effective Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) have increased student achievement and advanced teacher pedagogy. As a result, PLCs have become increasingly prevalent in school reform efforts to remediate professional development. Dialogue is considered an essential component of effective PLC practice needed to transform the process of teacher learning and improve instruction. Despite this knowledge, scholars have noted the challenges PLCs face when attempting to engage in productive dialogue intended to impact their professional practice. To better understand this process, this study draws upon Adam Lefstein’s (2020) framework of pedagogically productive dialogue to categorize factors that inhibit or support authentic discourse. Through 15 semi-structured teacher interviews and seven observations of PLC meetings at three high schools in Massachusetts, results indicate several components that increase meaningful dialogue in PLCs. Findings suggest that the degree of teacher pedagogical dialogue improved when a) specific tools structured conversation, b) discourse was intentionally connected to classroom practice, c) trained facilitators led meetings, d) scheduled PLC time claimed priority over other initiatives, and e) school leadership was engaged in the instructional development of their staff. This study concludes with recommendations for PLCs aiming to increase their instructional focus in teacher teams through dialogue.