Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Ronald D. Valenti

Second Supervisor

Jerry Willis

Abstract

The traditional organizational structure of large comprehensive high schools: departmental divisions, teacher isolation, fragmented subcultures, student alienation, and competing group interests have undermined student and adult learning and have thwarted attempts at school reform. Professional learning communities (PLCs) are a promising strategy for advancing student achievement and school reform. Schools with strong PLCs foster a collaborative culture, focus on learning, promote shared responsibility, and pursue results-oriented goals and assessments to ensure student academic gains. The study investigated the use of learning teams as a preliminary strategy for PLC and to inform school-wide PLC implementation in a restructuring high school. Wenger’s communities of practice theory and Dufour’s professional learning community framework provided the paradigmatic perspectives underlying this research study. This mixed methods case study was conducted in one urban-suburban high school over a four-month period from March through the first week of June 2011. An eightteacher purposive sample from social studies and science comprised the learning teams. Multiple sources of qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed. The study was enacted both as an action research pilot for the learning teams and as a case study examining the teachers’ readiness to engage in PLC. Factors that supported and constrained the teachers’ participation on the learning teams were identified, described, and analyzed. Study findings provided recommendations for school-wide PLC implementation. Overall study findings suggest that the use of learning teams offers a promising preliminary strategy for promoting secondary teachers’ transition to and engaging in a professional learning community.

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