Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Blake, Sally

Second Advisor

Elish-Piper, Laurie

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


A growing population of English Learners (ELs) have unique challenges when navigating the American educational system. In fact, there is an achievement gap such that EL students lag behind their native English peers in school outcomes. Accordingly, there is increased demand for professional development (PD) lead by principals to address the needs of the changing population of ELs. To support effective PD aimed at improved achievement for ELs, principals need embrace transformative thinking in their work. Although PD has the potential to be the driving force of change, traditional approaches to PD have limited impact on academic success of ELs. To meet societal demands, PD content needs to drive instructional practices and school norms to support ELs. However, principals often have limited training and are underprepared to most effectively impact change for ELs. The purpose of this descriptive case study was to examine principals’ perceptions of implementing EL focused PD and establishing a caring community for ELs after intentional training through a grant-funded PD focused on ELs. The current study investigated the following two research questions:

1. What are principals’ perceptions of the challenges associated with implementing PD focused on English Learners in their school communities after participation in a professional development on English Learners?, and

2. What are the perceived challenges for principals in developing a caring community for ELs to support academic and career success in school settings?

Data were gathered throughout a one-year period after principal participants had attended a one-week Summer Academy where were they were introduced to laws, policies, pedagogical implications, and other relevant topics regarding K-12 English Learners. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven principal participants who were intentionally selected from the pool of principals who participated in the Summer Academy. Constant comparative analysis was conducted on a total of ten interviews from seven principal participants. Analysis revealed emergent themes regarding principals’ perceptions of challenges associated with implementing EL focused PD and creating caring a community for ELs. These themes included the following challenges associated with implementing EL focused PD: access paradox (despite increased need for EL focused PD, principals rarely had access to it), conflicting priorities (principals had many and varied responsibilities), shifting paradigms (considering PD to be empowering rather than rote), and budget demands (challenges in allocating limited budgets). Further, themes regarding creating caring communities for ELs included: communities within communities (challenges for fostering multiple communities), student cluster facets (decisions on how to group students into communities), scattered focus (too many demands on principals’ time), social-emotional dimensions (need to address social-emotional dimensions of community), budget allocations (limited funding to develop communities), and authentic application (disconnect between PD and practical applications). Each of these themes are discussed in depth and the study concludes with implications and suggestions for future research. Principals’ perceived challenges emphasize the complex nature of facilitating educational experiences for ELs and suggest that it is imperative to provide continued and varied support over time for principals and teachers alike.


173 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type