Date of Award

12-18-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. William Curlette

Second Advisor

Dr. Jami Berry

Third Advisor

Dr. Randall F. Dobbs

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Hayward Richardson

Abstract

This study examined one particular type of Professional Learning Community (PLC) called a Critical Friends Group (CFG). School improvement experts strongly encourage educational leaders to cultivate Professional Learning Communities in schools; however, the problem arises in the assumption many school leaders hold that adults know how to learn together and how to effectively collaborate. Training for Critical Friends Groups is specifically designed to address this assumption as well as reveal to participants what the characteristics of a Professional Learning Community are and moreover what it requires to cultivate a true learning community. Therefore, the researcher examined how participants experienced a professional development program called a Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Institute. The purpose of the study was to understand the types of circumstances that lead to transformational learning for CFG participants and how participation in a CFG contributed to professionally significant, pivotal moments. The methodology for this study was qualitative inquiry using a case study approach. The researcher utilized a variety of qualitative data collection strategies including participant observations, participant questionnaires, participant interviews, and document analysis during a five day professional development training program called a Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Institute. The results of this study indicate that participation in a Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Institute provides educators with professionally significant transformational moments that work together to teach educators the skills and dispositions needed to be effective members of a PLC and contributing members to a collaborative culture. Moreover, the results of the study indicate that participation in a Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Institute reveals to participants what the characteristics of a Professional Learning Community are and what changes in their own educational practice and in their own school community need to take place in order to effectively build community in schools.

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