Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs


Happy Miller

Publication Date



Research has shown that few educational reform efforts have achieved significant, long-lasting improvement in student achievement. In order to accelerate growth in student achievement, many researchers have advocated the development of cultures of evaluative inquiry. In a culture of evaluative inquiry, teachers use data to identify instructional areas in which their students struggled, collaboratively reflect on their instructional practice in those areas, and experiment with new practices related to those areas. Through an iterative process of collaboratively framing the problem and exploring possible solutions, team members not only arrive at a defensible solution to test through active experimentation, but they also develop their own mental models. Observations, interviews, and document reviews were utilized to answer the central question of this study: How do staff members of a public elementary school develop a culture of evaluative inquiry? This case study documented the actions the Instructional Leadership Team, four grade level teams, and the bilingual program team took to develop a culture of evaluative inquiry from July of 2008 through May of 2010 at North Mesa Elementary School and profiled the perceptions of staff members towards this initiative. The results indicated that instances of significant learning and changes of practice were evident but the staff was not successful in fully developing and sustaining a culture of evaluative inquiry. While explicit Evaluation Capacity Building activities faltered, staff members did acquire some evaluative inquiry skills through engaging in the process. A number of challenges were encountered including a lack of shared sense of urgency, a lack of shared vision, a lack of psychological safety within some teams, insufficient communication, and incomplete implementation of standards-based instruction. The study concluded that a shared vision, a focus on standards, learning and results, a collaborative culture, aligned systems and structures, and a knowledge management system are essential components of a culture of evaluative inquiry. Furthermore, a five-stage iterative problem solving process is prescribed with the goal of both providing professional development for teachers and improving student achievement. Finally, the district and school leadership need to create a system of defined autonomy which balances the need for alignment across the system with teacher empowerment.

Degree Name

Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Advisor

Boverie, Patricia

First Committee Member (Chair)

Gunawardena, Charlotte

Second Committee Member

Salisbury, Mark

Third Committee Member

Woodrum, Arlie




Organizational learning, Educational evaluation

Document Type