Title page for ETD etd-03302006-145845

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Vavasseur, Cynthia Beatty
Author's Email Address cvavas@lsu.edu
URN etd-03302006-145845
Title How Principal Participation in an Online Community of Practice Impacts the Professional Development Experience of Middle School Teachers
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Educational Leadership, Research & Counseling
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
S. Kim MacGregor Committee Chair
David Kirshner Committee Member
Eugene Kennedy Committee Member
Janice Hinson Committee Member
Robert Justis Committee Member
  • online professional development
  • professional development
  • principal leadership
  • community of practice
Date of Defense 2006-03-23
Availability unrestricted
This study provided insights about incorporating an online community of practice into a professional development program designed to facilitate the instructional implementation of technology. Two middle schools in a southern state served as a comparative case study where this model of professional development was implemented. The primary goal of this research was to gain understanding of how principals interact with teachers and the roles principals assume during these interactions. A second goal was to determine how teachers perceived principal participation and how their levels of competence and efficacy were influenced by this experience. During four weeks of implementation principals participated with their teachers as members of the online community. Qualitative data were collected from the online threaded discussions, focus group interviews with teachers, individual principal interviews, and periodic teacher self-reports. Quantitative data from a Likert-scale survey and unit plans scored with a numeric rubric were collected. Results showed that principal contributions to the online community fell into two categories: emotional support and professional support. In addition, principals noted that the any time, any place aspect of the online community of practice was beneficial and allowed them to increase communication with their teachers. Through their participation principals gained insight about their teachersí beliefs about technology integration, their reactions to professional development, their varying levels of competence with technology, and their motivation to use technology. Challenges identified by principals included their limited technology proficiency, difficulties facilitating full participation by faculty, and time constraints. This experience also allowed teachers to gain insights about their principalsí priorities and their values and beliefs about learning. Findings revealed differences in the support and pressure strategies utilized by these principals which reflected varying leadership styles. These differences impacted teachersí perceptions of the experience and the quality of the culminating activity. Techniques used to provide support, such as showing humor, encouraging competition, encouraging peer relationships and making suggestions had a positive impact on perceptions, whereas pressure had a positive impact on task performance. Implications of principal leadership style as exemplified through their participation in an online community of practice are discussed.
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