Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Emily Klein

Committee Member

Jeremy Price

Committee Member

Monica Taylor


Recent studies on effective professional development in schools have paid attention to the concept of learning done in professional communities, but ignore teacher recommendations and voices. This case study focused on the meaning teachers made from participation in a community of practice in a school implementing reforms.

Founded in Wenger and Lave’s concept of the community of practice, defined as groups of people who come together routinely and who learn to do things better as a result, this study follows a community of practice in the face of a significant school reform where very little other professional development had been done to prepare teachers for the change. Using focus group sessions and one-on-one interviews, I gathered information from the teachers themselves in order to discover what meaning they made from the experience, what changes in practice the group precipitated, and what qualities of the community of practice helped foster those changes.

Findings from this study include:

1. Teachers appreciated the safe space afforded by the community, as well as the collegiality and congeniality the group fostered.

2. Teachers found motivation for professional growth fostered by the community.

3. Teachers valued the relevance to practice and immediate applicability of the learning that the meetings centered on.

4. Teachers welcomed the freedom that the open-agenda approach gave them in designing their own learning experiences.

Implications include the need for administrators and policy makers to end the mandates requiring teachers to join learning communities, and instead to foster the conditions and learning environments in schools that encourage teachers to create these unique experiences for themselves.