Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ed.D.

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Bobbie Greenlee

Keywords

principal leadership, professional learning communities, social capital, teacher empowerment

Abstract

The purpose of study was twofold. The primary purpose was to describe and explain the perceptions and lived experiences of high school teachers through their involvement in a Professional Learning Community, as defined by Hord (1997). Teachers' experiences within a Professional Learning Community were examined for patterns of cultivated leadership and social capital. The second purpose of the study was to identify the influencing variables connected with how the participants viewed themselves as leaders as a result of their participation in a professional learning community. One influencing variable in particular that was examined was the influence of social capital in professional learning communities. Hord's explanation of a professional learning community was the conceptual framework for this study, which states that such communities are made up of five essential dimensions: (1) Shared and supportive leadership, (2) Shared values and vision, (3) Collective learning and its application, (4) Shared personal practice, and (5) Supportive conditions. Online survey research method was used in order to investigate teacher leadership in Professional Learning Communities and the underlying variables associated with participation in such communities.

The findings of this study indicated that teachers have varying perceptions of their work with professional learning communities. Overall, the data suggested that teachers' experiences and perceptions negatively correlated with their development as a teacher leader. Although most teachers in this study did not experience empowerment as a teacher leader, most gained some sense of social capital through their collaborative efforts within their learning communities. The data reflected that most teachers felt connected to the colleagues within their communities. School leadership is vital to the sustainability of professional learning communities and towards the professional growth of teacher leaders. Consequently, this study suggests that future research is conducted to examine the influence of school leaders on teacher leadership development and the impact that professional learning communities have on such development for teachers.

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