Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Allan Feldman, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Liliana Rodríguez-Campos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Jacobs, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Frank Muller, Ph.D.


Case study, Constructivist Leadership, Professional Development, Qualitative Research


The past few years have seen the establishment of many professional development programs for science teachers leaders aimed at improving the process of teaching and learning of science. One of these is the Robert Noyce Master Teacher Fellows (MTF) program, which is part of a research university in the southeastern United States. This is an extended teacher development program with the purpose of developing effective science and mathematics teachers into successful teacher leaders, professional development providers, curriculum developers, and formal mentors. One of the characteristics that distinguishes this MTF program is that, as part of the leadership development experiences, the teachers have to take an action research course in which they learn about the action research process and its importance. The course also provides them the opportunity to conduct an action research project in their teaching or leadership practice. Therefore, it was relevant to find out how the action research course contributed to the development and improvement of the teachers’ conceptions of leadership and of their practice as teacher leaders. In order to investigate this purpose, I used a qualitative research methodology with a case study design, including teacher interviews and analysis of documents. Eight science teachers participated in the study. The analysis of data included an interpretational qualitative analysis of each case and a cross-case analysis in order to look for differences and commonalities between the multiple cases.

The findings of this study suggest that the action research course contributed to the development and improvement of the participant teacher conceptions of teacher leadership and their practices as teacher leaders, helping them to evolve from a conventional leadership to a constructivist leadership. Throughout the course, the teachers moved from a theoretical understanding of the concept of teacher leadership to a practical understanding. Although before the course the teachers had theoretical knowledge about what a constructivist teacher leader is, they were practicing a conventional leadership. During the course the teachers participated in constructivist educational experiences, which were characterized by the teachers’ ownership of their learning process and development of the assignments, collaborative group work, dialogue, use of questions to prompt reflection, feedback-sharing, and the opportunity to act as real action research practitioners. These experiences allowed the teachers to reflect and realize that they were not acting as constructivist teacher leaders. This led them to change their conceptions and practices to become constructivist teacher leaders.

As a result of the experience in the action research course, the teachers were empowered to take control of their leadership practices. The constructivist learning experiences in which these teachers were engaged during the course led them to develop knowledge about action research and open their eyes to be able to examine and criticize their own practices and the context in which their practices take place, which resulted in the adoption of an activist stance that led them to change their practices. As a result of feeling empowered, the teachers began to investigate and reflect on their practices in a systematic way and to make changes, showing their evolution towards a constructivist leadership. In addition, the course not only led the teachers to investigate their practices so that they could improve as individuals, but also encouraged them to think beyond themselves as individuals to help their school community members to understand and improve their practices. The teachers started to create professional development environments in order to empower their colleagues with their learning and professional practice so that they could develop as teacher leaders and researchers.

The findings also suggest that action research can be considered a strategy for developing constructivist teacher leaders because it helps to cultivate the main characteristics that distinguish a constructivist teacher leader: the use of systematic research, the use of a reflective process and the engagement in collaborative processes that lead to the development of a shared leadership and the empowerment of all the members of the school community. Additionally, this study shows that an education about action research must be based on action, should empower the learners to transform their understandings and should guide them to develop courage to change their practices, help others to change their practices, and engage in constructivist actions that lead them to change educational procedures.