Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Sharon Canipe


An educational problem facing high schools in 2 Midwestern school districts is that few local contextual experiences exist for developing professional learning communities that contain research-based characteristics. Identifying such experiences is important to school leaders and teachers. The purpose of this study was to examine 2 local high school professional learning communities to identify research-based characteristics such as practice-based discussions and a focus on learning and results. Constructivism and social change theory provided the theoretical foundation. A single research question sought the presence of research-based characteristics. The characteristics formed the conceptual framework and emerged from many voices in the field. Qualitative case study research methods guided the study; each high school served as a case. Interviews with 10 educators, observations of 4 team meetings, and examination of artifacts from the sites were conducted to collect data. Data analysis included coding information from interviews, meetings, and artifacts; developing individual case narratives; and constructing a cross-case analysis. A key finding was that all research-based characteristics were present in each school. One conclusion reached was that strong administrative leadership contributed positively to the presence of characteristics. Another was that operating from a learning model (e.g., AIW [Authentic Intellectual Work] or DuFour) contributed positively as well. Several recommendations are included and focus on following a model under strong administrative leadership. Given the findings, positive implications for social change include more effective teaching, more authentic collaboration in schools, and a culture of teacher excellence.