Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Bobbie Greenlee, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Darlene Bruner, Ed.D.

Committee Member

H. Roy Kaplan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Zorka Karanxha, Ed.D.


communication protocols, distributed leadership, social constructivist learning, teaching capacity, critical incident technique


The purpose of this study was to discover, document, and describe the salient actions, events, beliefs, attitudes, social structures and processes related to professional learning conversations from the perspective of nine assistant principals (APs). The participants were elementary, middle and high school APs, three at each level. Using a modified critical incident technique through participant written response and two in depth interviews with each respondent, this study investigated the lived experiences of these APs related to the practice of professional learning conversations in their schools. The research questions focused on: (1) the participants' beliefs and attitudes about professional learning conversations, (2) their roles in facilitating these conversations, (3) their ability to identify elements of trust within the groups of teachers with whom they work and (4) their roles in building trust.

The research literature is clear that teacher collaboration is a key factor in professional growth and self-efficacy, yet often the structure of the school day, a negative emotional environment, and a culture of teacher isolation prohibit meaningful teacher collaboration. Although faced with many obligations and directives, school administrators have considerable influence over the organizational structure within their individual schools. Furthermore, assistant principals often become the face of administration within their schools as they directly supervise teachers and APs are less studied than students, teacher or principals. How these individuals perceive and value professional learning conversations will likely impact the level of collaboration at their individual schools.

The findings of this study indicate that professional learning conversations for teacher growth were more prevalent at the elementary school level, that trust may be more difficult to cultivate at the middle and high schools, and that protocols as structures for facilitating conversations and building trust were not widely in use.

A better understanding of the opportunities and barriers schools face related to professional learning conversations as well as a better understanding of the dynamics of trust will assist district and school administrators to engage in a problem solving process for better collaboration. Ultimately, administrators have an opportunity and a responsibility to touch the hearts and minds of the individuals on the front line of the work - the teachers in the classrooms working with students. Without teacher confidence, hope, optimism, resilience and self-efficacy, no amount of financial incentive, cajoling, or sanction will improve student learning.