Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




MaryFriend Shepard


Virtual communities of practice have been used to improve teachers' instructional practice; yet, many of these communities do not take into account the effect of teachers' personal learning and collegial collaboration beliefs on engagement within this model. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine if teaching was enhanced through participation in virtual communities of practice and determine if teachers' personal beliefs prior to entering these communities influenced their engagement. Wenger's social learning theory served as the conceptual framework. The research questions asked how teachers' beliefs on personal learning and their beliefs on collaboration influenced their engagement in virtual communities of practice and how personal learning networks facilitated extended technology-based learning in the classroom. Data were collected through 2 semi structured interviews with 9 teacher participants and analysis of digital records from the Classroom 2.0 and Flat Connections Nings. Manual, open-coding of the data revealed themes which explained the use of personalized learning networks for instructional growth and social networking for collaborative practice. Findings indicated that while teachers' previously held ideas were not significantly altered, the social, supportive environments created through virtual learning communities made a suitable setting for professional development. These findings may effect positive social change as virtual communities of practice for teachers evolve into professional development environments that challenge teacher beliefs, use progressive technologies, and engage teachers in collaborative activities.