Date of Award

Fall 2011

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Todd A DeMitchell


This study explores teachers' perceptions of school change and leadership. The study is guided by the question: In an innovative independent school, how do teachers perceive deliberate change efforts and relate to the leaders who lead them. Other issues considered are the role of school culture, professional development and institutional goals in an effective change process. This research is distinctive in that it examines school change from the teachers' perspective and was conducted in a school that had previously demonstrated positive growth. The result is a qualitative, case study of one exemplary, independent school.

In the summer and fall of 2010, the researcher gathered artifacts and conducted two focus groups and two follow up interviews with teacher-participants. From each focus group one participant was chosen by lottery to be interviewed. Participants discussed the change process they experienced at their school. Data was tape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for categories and themes. The researcher compared this data to existing literature, drew inferences, and generated theory.

Findings include an overarching theme and three sub-themes pertaining to leadership and school change. The overarching theme demonstrated that when leaders address teachers' personal and professional needs, they set the stage for positive school change. The first sub-theme was the importance of faculty and leaders working together to identify both vexing problems to solve and worthy goals to accomplish. A second subtheme illuminates the leaders built the faculty by helping teachers to improve, by hiring well, and by firing when improvement could not occur. The third sub-theme reinforces the idea that teachers are motivated to change because of the relationships they and the leaders share. Teachers are motivated to accept school initiatives that reflect a commitment to the school's mission and philosophy.