Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs

Publication Date



Educational leaders are increasingly facing low student achievement and engagement, low teacher morale, and more rigorous standards that require greater teacher preparation and professional development. There is overwhelming evidence from the literature on successful school systems that restructuring schools to make time for job-embedded professional learning (JEPL) with a relentless focus on continuous improvement will not only improve student learning and achievement but also improve school professional culture. Despite such near-universal agreement among educational scholars and practitioners alike, we see very little professional learning in U.S. schools. The absence of professional learning in schools provides a compelling need to understand more thoroughly the change process that embodies the structural and cultural shift necessary to create the conditions essential for teachers to engage in professional learning, and particularly, the role leadership must play to create the conditions for successful implementation. This study answers two questions: how do job-embedded professional learning and leadership influence school professional culture? And, what are the implications for leadership? Face-to-face interviews of teachers and principals at six school sites and annual evaluation reports from the Math and Science Academy for three consecutive years were utilized to collect data for this study. There is strong evidence that restructuring schools to provide the time for teams of teachers to engage in structured collaboration and the continuous improvement model is a powerful mechanism to improve both teaching and learning in a school as well as school professional culture. Committed teachers working together in meaningful professional learning with clear goals tend to be more motivated and engaged. Additionally, teachers who engage in JEPL tend to make progress in their work—a significant driver of a positive inner work life and school professional culture. However, the right conditions must be in place for the collaboration and professional learning to yield results. Making JEPL work for all teachers requires a school leader who deeply understands the steps for transformational change. The study includes a conceptual model—A Leadership Model for Maximizing Teacher Engagement and Effectiveness—that leaders can use to guide decision-making as they seek to create and sustain transformational change.


Job-embedded professional learning, Teacher collaboration, Continuous improvement, Leadership, School professional culture

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Committee Member (Chair)

Arlie Woodrum

Second Committee Member

Allison M. Borden

Third Committee Member

David Bower

Fourth Committee Member

Shawn Secatero