Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Barbara Packer

Committee Member

Judith B. Galician


Professional learning communities (PLCs), communities of practice, teacher perceptions, PLC implementation, paraprofessionals, rural and small school districts, principal and administrator participation, collaboration, PLC composition


This applied dissertation explored the interplay between collaboration within PLCs and classroom teacher perceptions of PLC implementation within a small, rural district. It examined how the involvement of different stakeholders in PLCs connects to overall perceptions of professional learning communities and how the participation of principals, administrators, and paraprofessionals shapes collaboration. The unique setting of a small and rural school district allowed the study to consider close interpersonal relationships that are common within these settings since these districts have limited human resources and individuals serve in various capacities within the organization. When stakeholders actively participate in PLCs, concerns arise about the authenticity of discussions, inquiry, and learning. Limiting genuine PLC work can compromise the effectiveness of PLC collaboration and implementation, thus impacting student outcomes.

The qualitative case study solicited participation from classroom teachers in a small and rural school district through interviews to support an understanding of stakeholders' participation. Additionally, PLC documents such as minutes and agendas were analyzed in the context of interview data and emerging themes. Exploring stakeholder participation and perceptions yielded valuable insights into the dynamics of implementing PLCs.

An analysis of the data revealed that diverse stakeholder involvement fosters expanded professional development for paraprofessionals and new teachers and may result in rapid professional growth. For administrators, there is a delicate balance between accountability and autonomy of PLC teams. The findings provide specific strategies administrators can employ to promote distributive leadership, enhancing learning outcomes for PLC members. Other findings demonstrated that paraprofessional participation is particularly enriching for PLCs. The research drew on Senge’s learning organization theory, and outcomes underscored the significance of systems thinking, shared vision, and team learning as constructs to consider when considering PLC composition and implementation. The data and findings are especially relevant to administrators and leaders in rural and small school districts.

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