Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sustaining schools as learning communities: Achieving a vision of the possible
by Kilbane, James Farrel, Jr., Ph.D., Indiana University, 2007, 335; 3274987
Abstract (Summary)

School change efforts to develop schools as learning communities result in a school that is constantly learning how to improve and thus constantly changing. This collective case study of four schools involved in a four-year reform effort begins to examine the issue of sustainability in a learning community.

First, this study develops a framework for considering whether a school is a learning community, beginning with the five disciplines of Peter Senge. It then discusses the need for collaborative inquiry with the characteristics of collaboration, inquiry stance, use of data, reflection, and public sharing. Finally the framework identifies five factors whose presence aid in sustaining a learning community.

Documents during the implementation phase of the reform effort are examined to characterize the status of the schools as learning communities at the end of the effort. Then four years later follow-up data is collected using interviews, document analysis, and observations. Findings indicate that none of the schools have continued as envisioned by the reform effort. Changes to the environment in which each of these schools operates has impacted that sustainability to varying degrees. While there are some aspects of the reform effort still present, teachers involved in the effort were unable to impact whole school change in the years following the initiative, but have sustained the change work on an individual, though limited basis. In addition to the factors found by others to affect school reform (leadership, resources, support, time), this study suggests smaller faculty size may assist development of schools as learning communities.

Commonalities between the experiences of the four schools suggest that teachers experience a sense of loss and limitation when reform efforts are not continued, though they continue the efforts on an individual basis. Additionally, though the change of culture required in this whole school reform effort provided a challenge, there were some examples of cultural change occurring. Finally, this study notes that the elements, processes, and practices interact in a complex way that requires more study to understand both how to approach development of schools as learning communities, as well as their sustainability.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mason, Terrence C.
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 68/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Curricula, Teaching
Keywords: Collaborative inquiry, Learning communities, Reform
Publication Number: 3274987
ISBN: 978-0-549-15847-9
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