Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Summers, Kelly

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)


Introduction: Supportive principals are essential to the successful development of professional learning communities in schools, and student achievement is also significantly impacted by school leadership. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to examine principals’ actions, beliefs, and perspectives related to the development of professional learning communities in a suburban school district north of Chicago.Methods: Research participants included nine building principals from the target school district. Each principal was interviewed individually for approximately eighty minutes. An open coding method was used to flexibly identify common themes or concepts. Multiple coding cycles were used to further refine patterns and improve objectivity. Results: The principals’ insights and reflections around purpose or intended outcomes, lessons learned from past experiences, development steps and strategies, the role and needs of the principal, and how success is measured with regard to the development of a professional learning community were all carefully examined. Six themes emerged from an analysis of the data. These themes included the purpose, past experiences, starting at the beginning, the role of the principal, principals’ needs, and ways for measuring success. Discussion: The results were used to inform considerations and next steps to further develop professional learning communities within the district’s schools. Key ideas included the significance of a universal understanding and authentic belief in the purpose of professional learning communities; essential steps in building professional learning communities; as well as the need for intentional focus, professional development, and a professional learning community specifically for principals. Further exploration is needed around the impact of outside educational consultants; emphasis placed on the role of district level leaders rather than school administrators; clarity for the role of principal in developing professional learning communities; and how to best measure success.


137 pages




Northern Illinois University

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