Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Jolyn Blank, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ilene Berson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Valerie J. Janesick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Ph.D.


Professional Development, Project Approach, Teacher Education, Teacher Learning Communities


The purpose of this multi-case study was to describe and explain teacher learning within school contexts by exploring the nature of teachers' experiences in learning communities. This study explored the ways in which teachers participated in professional development sessions using the project approach as a framework for facilitating and engaging in professional learning communities by answering: What is the nature of teachers' experiences in inquiry-based professional learning communities? In what ways and under what conditions does documentation play a role in teacher learning? For data collection I used semi-structured interviews, audio recordings of professional development sessions, teacher documentation, teacher daily sheets, and my researcher journal. I applied a constructivist approach using a social lens for the data analysis to make sense of teachers' learning experiences (Vygotsky, 1935; Rogoff, 1995). The findings indicated that group dynamics play a pivotal role in how teachers' experience professional learning communities. Teacher's struggled to foster inquiry into their own practice. The findings also indicate documenting children's learning is essential in developing a deeper understanding of children. Despite the positive role of documentation within the professional learning community, teacher's needed favorable conditions to continue using documentation for teacher learning.