The Impact of a Professional Development School on Professional Development in the Partner School District: A Case Study

Open Access
Grove, Doris Ann
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 15, 2016
Committee Members:
  • James F. Nolan, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • James F. Nolan, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Bernard J. Badiali, Committee Member
  • Roger Shouse, Committee Member
  • P. Karen Murphy, Outside Member
  • professional development
  • partnerships
  • teacher leadership
  • school renewal
  • school reform
ABSTRACT Over the last several decades, those engaged in enhancing educational quality have recognized the increasing importance of the role of professional development in enhancing educator performance and student learning. During that same time period, professional development school partnerships between school districts and institutions of higher learning have been seen as a vehicle for transforming or renewing both basic and higher education. It is reasonable to expect that the establishment of a professional development school partnership would exert a significant impact on the professional development program of the district. However, this may not be the case. In fact, Levine (1997) argued, “school districts, with some important exceptions, continue to ignore the potential impact that professional development schools can have in terms of professional development, recruitment, and new teacher induction” (p.6). The purpose of this study was to address empirically the question of the impact of a PDS partnership on a district’s professional development program. The central research question framing this study was: What has been the impact of an elementary professional development school partnership on the professional development program of the school district at the elementary level? In order to answer this central research question, the following sub-questions guided the study: 1) As individuals in a variety of roles and contexts perceive it—has the elementary professional development program in the school district changed as a result of the PDS partnership? 2) If changes in professional development have occurred at the elementary level, in what areas have the changes occurred? a) Assumptions underlying professional development b) Goals for professional development c) Delivery of professional development d) Role of the teacher in professional development e) Outcomes of professional development 3) What factors explain the changes that have occurred? The study employed a qualitative case study approach. In-depth interviews using an interview protocol adapted from Seidman were conducted with 25 participants from three distinct categories: 1) central office administrators including curriculum coordinators; 2) principals, and 3) teachers using Seidman’s interview protocol. Data were analyzed using the constant-comparative method (Glasser & Strauss, 1967). As revealed from the data collected during this study, all of the participant groups with the exception of the low involvement teacher participants, perceived that the professional development school partnership offered and supported multiple opportunities for professional development including enhanced teacher leadership possibilities, generating a culture of inquiry, and empowerment through teacher-generated and teacher-led professional development. The findings of the study indicate multiple opportunities for future research studies in regards to professional development, school-university partnerships, and teacher leadership and principal leadership in a PDS partnership.