Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Cathryn White


AbstractIn a southern U.S. suburban middle school, officials required the implementation of professional learning communities (PLCs) to improve student achievement in math. Despite PLC implementation, math student achievement did not improve over 4 years since implementation in the fall of 2014. The problem was that middle school math teachers and educational personnel struggled to implement the innovation of a PLC at the target school. The purpose of this exploratory case study was to examine teachers’ and school officials’ perceptions of the math PLC process using Rogers’s diffusion of innovation (DOI) framework and archival documents to determine reasons for the challenges with PLC implementation. The research questions focused on PLC teachers’ and school officials’ perceptions of the relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability of the math PLC as well as analysis of archived documents. Using exploratory case study design, data were collected through semistructured interviews with eight educators who met the criteria of being a current or previous math teacher or school official involved in PLC training and implementation. Inductive and thematic analysis yielded emergent themes: (a) relative advantage of the PLC as an innovation, (b) compatibility, (c) cohesive understanding, (d) time and complexity, (e) positive effects of trialability, (f) influence on instructional practices, and (g) collaboration. Findings indicated educators would benefit from a deeper understanding of PLC implementation using the DOI framework. The 3-day professional development project may strengthen the implementation of PLCs and may promote social change by serving as a model to other districts working to increase student achievement and informing leaders of any organization of the importance of considering DOI perceptions.