Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership

Committee Director

Steven Myran

Committee Member

Anthony Perez

Committee Member

Jay Scribner


The purpose of this research was to explore the influence of school leaders and teachers on surface level vs. sustained change through the implementation of professional learning communities, furthering the understanding of why some schools increase student achievement and others do not. Two predominant psychological theories, Kruglanski’s lay epistemic theory and Schwartz’s value theory, were used to explore the influence of cognition formation and values on the phenomenon within a complex environment. This research studied three Southeastern Virginia suburban middle schools. Case study methodologies were utilized, including school leader and PLC teacher member interviews, and an online survey that included the following measures: demographic and information questionnaire, sociogram questionnaire, need for cognitive closure scale, and value questionnaire 5X value survey. Triangulation was met through interviews, online survey measures, and other artifacts.

Four themes were identified: power structures, school leader involvement, school culture factors, and sustained change. Findings suggested these four interrelated factors influenced PLC implementation to create an environment for sustained change vs. surface level change. Each school case was unique, as was each PLC studied. Two school cases were suggested to have more PLC implementation than the third school case. The factor of effectively dealing with conflict was indicated as a possible gateway factor to sustained change. More PLC implementation was indicated as creating more collaboration beyond PLCs to influence the whole school community.