Doctoral Dissertations

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  • Burns, R. W. (2012) An Image of Novice Supervision in the Professional Development School Context: The Case of Helen. The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Poehner, P. (2009) Drafting a new chapter on critical friends groups: Exploring Teacher Learning from a Vygotskian Perspective. Ph.D. Penn State University


  • Amond. M.B. (2008) Enacting an Inquiry Stance: Examining the Long-term Impact of Learning to Teach in a Professional Development School Context that Fosters Teacher Inquiry. The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Ballock, E. (2007) The Development and Validation of a Framework for Assessing and Enhancing the Functioning of Critical Friends Groups. The Pennsylvania State University


  • Hankin, D. (2006) Meeting the Individual Needs of Novice Teachers: A Case Study of A Well Respected Induction Program. The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Irvin, Marybeth (2005) Confidence and Doubt: Balancing Teacher Efficacy and an Inquiry Stance towards Teaching in a Professional Development School Context. The Pennsylvania State University
  • Freeman, H. (2005) Case Study of Mentor and Intern Relationships in a Professional Development School Context at the Secondary Level. The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Francis, P. L.  (2004) Understanding learning and professional development through the stories of experienced elementary teachers in a professional development school context . The Pennsylvania State University.


  • Snow-Gerono, J.L. (2003) Living an Inquiry Stance toward Teaching: Teachers' Perceptions of Teacher Inquiry in a Professional Development School Context. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.
    This phenomenological case study describes how veteran PDS teachers, who are committed to an inquiry stance toward teaching and who work in PDS sites intended as cultures of inquiry, understand teacher inquiry and how they live it (or how it is played out) in their professional lives. Within this study, teacher inquiry is defined as systematic and deliberate inquiry involving data, analysis, and eventual change. The purpose of this dissertation research was to understand and describe the experience of teacher inquiry through the perceptions of teachers who work in a local Professional Development School partnership and self-identify as living an inquiry stance toward teaching. Data from this study focused on two main questions: "What does inquiry mean?" and "What are the relationships between inquiry and the environment?" This dissertation is written as acts in a play to respect the fact that the participants, PDS teachers, are living this drama of teacher inquiry and the researcher is writing their stories to inform a wider audience of teachers, teacher educators and educational researchers.
    The following four statements capture the themes identified for living an inquiry stance toward teaching: (1) Teacher inquiry is made up of varied forms that are interactive and may exist simultaneously or in connection to particular needs of the moment. (2) Teacher inquiry consists of simultaneous growth for teachers and students in its approach to lifelong learning and change. (3) Teacher inquiry is enhanced in professional learning communities where uncertainty and dialogue are embraced and appreciated. (4) Teacher inquiry and this PDS partnership context have an explicit connection even though there are varying degrees of participation. Additionally, data analysis demonstrated evidence of inherent tensions in these PDS teachers' stories and shared understandings of teacher inquiry and the knowledge base for education. While acting as playwright and crafting the stories of PDS teachers living an inquiry stance, the researcher often paused to consider contradictions and tensions within their stories and within her own understandings of inquiry and PDS and the ones portrayed in this dissertation study. Therefore, a section entitled, "Researcher as Actor: Director's Notes" follows each chapter/act discussing a theme for living an inquiry stance toward teaching. Likewise, the following five tensions have been identified as informative in the analysis of these PDS teachers living an inquiry stance toward teaching: (1) Visibility Invisibility, 
(2) Conceptual procedural, 
(3) External internal
, (4) Individual Collective Agency (Public Private)
, (5) Researcher Tension: Inside Outside.
    Implications from the themes and tensions identified in this dissertation include the idea that teachers and teacher educators need to consider the interactive forms of inquiry as well as their impact on teachers and their students before cultivating an inquiry stance as a means for teacher development across the professional life span. Additionally, educators must consider the environments they nurture and sustain and their impact on the cultivation of an inquiry stance toward teaching. When teachers live an inquiry stance, they have the potential to add to the knowledge base on teaching, improve learning opportunities for themselves and their students, and impact educational and social change in their local and global communities.


  • Henning, M.B. (2002) Social Studies Curriculum Work in and Elementary Professional Development School Partnership. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.
    Using phenomenology and historical case study methodology, this dissertation explores elementary social studies curriculum change in a Professional Development School (PDS). Teachers and administrators identified as key actors in the social studies curriculum development process share their perspectives on social studies curriculum work.
    Several themes about social studies curriculum work emerge from the teachers’ stories. First, teachers view writing interdisciplinary units or addenda to units as some of their most important social studies curriculum work. Secondly, the role of the curriculum support teacher (CST) in the district is pivotal to curriculum dissemination. Third, teachers view inquiry as a positive way to change social studies curriculum. The opportunity for conversation about curriculum was one of the most frequently discussed advantages of PDS membership. Teachers identify proposed state standards for social studies as one of the key variables affecting their curriculum work.
    In contrast to teachers, administrators defined unit-planning meetings as some of the most significant social studies curriculum work in the district. Administrators concentrated their efforts on improving the effectiveness of unit writing teams and supporting new teachers. Although administrators wanted teachers to feel ownership in the curriculum, they also valued having a structured process for curriculum change. When discussing inquiry, curriculum specialists and administrators repeatedly linked the process of inquiry to meeting proposed state standards for social studies. How teachers, administrators, and social studies educators discuss standards is a case in point of how power-laden curriculum change can be.
    Implications for curriculum work in this PDS center on re-examining relationships, inquiry, and modes of communication. While the PDS, as a collaborative group of university and school personnel, is not currently involved in formal social studies curriculum work, the PDS does play a role in the informal curriculum work of teachers and administrators. If the PDS wishes to play a greater role in the formal curriculum development process in this district, competing agendas should be negotiated and interrogated. Deliberation and critical friends groups are two avenues suggested to promote more democratic and collaborative decision-making in the PDS.


  • Gimbert, B, (2001) Teaching to learn, learning to teach; The lived experience of being an intern in a professional development school context. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.
    The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of six preservice teachers who participated as interns in a professional development school context. This research provides a basis for analyzing the contribution that the practicum offers for learning to teach, and teaching to learn, in the context of a professional development school program. The research questions driving this study were: How do interns understand and make sense of their lived experience of an internship in a Professional Development School (PDS) context as an alternative process of teacher preparation? What are the underlying themes revealed by the interns’ experience?
    A phenomenological case study with narrative inquiry framed and guided the study’s design. Data, consisting of interviews, field notes, documents, journals, and web-based portfolios, were collated over a twelve month period. Through a prolonged and iterative process of data analysis that entailed describing, analysing, and interpreting, the researcher documented the understandings of this particular PDS internship experience from the interns’ perspective. This study sought to establish trustworthiness of its work through prolonged engagement and long-term observation, the credibility of the researcher’s role and perspective, triangulation of data, and member checks with participants. Further, peer debriefing and on-going discussions about the current state of the study with the other research colleagues in the Professional Development School program enhanced the validity of this research. 
Through the within-case analysis, interns portrayed learning to teach as two distinct, yet connected processes: 1) learning about teaching and learning how to teach, and 2) learning about how to be a teacher. Specifically, in learning about teaching and learning how to teach, three themes emerged: unlocking expert practitioners’ knowledge and skills, thinking and doing, and understanding how children think and learn. As they learned about how to be a teacher, six themes emerged: shaping a transitory teacher identity, negotiating the college student role and PDS intern role in the school-university partnership, building teacher relationships, establishing community relationships, fostering home and school relationships, and exploring ownership of the curriculum.
    The researcher’s interpretation of the interns’ voices reveals six assertions that make sense of their collective experience. First, becoming a teacher involves learning about teaching, about how to teach, and about how to be a teacher and is a complex and individualized process that can at times be overwhelming. Second, PDS interns learn about teaching and how to teach primarily through mentoring from a designated mentor and a PDA. Further, interns learn how to be a teacher through exploring, nurturing, and expanding their teaching practices, thinking, and professional relationships in a community of multiple mentors. Third, a cycle of observing-teaching-reobserving-reteaching- facilitates preservice teachers’ understanding of the principles of teaching and learning, and structures opportunities for interns to help their mentor teachers learn how to improve their mentoring skills. Fourth, at the end of the internship experience PDS interns attain a stage of preservice teacher development that is beyond ‘mastery’ (Sacks & Harrington, 1982). As they actively question and seek to understand their own and children’s conceptual understanding, PDS interns explore how they effectively support and enhance children’s learning. Fifth, PDS interns understand how a school functions as an organizational system. And, last, as they question curriculum and model inquiry to support children’s learning, and raise their own and their children’s voices, the PDS interns adopt a stance as teacher leaders. Finally, from the implications of these assertions, further questions are generated that present multiple and diverse opportunities for future research.


  • Mule, L. W. (2000) Experiencing a professional development school (PDS) practicum: 
Interns’ voices in a yearlong internship. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University.
    The purpose of this phenomenological case study was to explore interns’ understanding of their experience as perceived and lived in a yearlong internship in Valley Road (pseudonym) practicum. The Valley Road practicum is identified in the study as a Collaborative Resonance professional Development School (CR PDS) practicum with three major characteristics: 1) institutionalized collaborative relationship between the university and a local school district; 2) emphasis on constructivist approach to learning to teach, inquiry, and learning community; 3) restructured program strategies to ensure participation of both school and university based teacher educators in terms of extended time in the field, joint planning and instruction of method courses, and joint approach to mentorship.

    Data was collected over a period of 11 months (August – June) through in-depth phenomenological interviews; interns’ reflective texts including journals, electronic portfolios, daily logs and lesson plans; researcher’s field notes; and program documents. A grounded theory approach guided the analysis of data, and an inductive cross-case analysis of the data collected for the study revealed four metaphors: metaphor of support; “surviving” the restructured methods courses; experience as “comfort zone” and the inquiry metaphor. The four metaphors indicated that interns appreciated the framework of collaborative resonance which undergirds the practicum. They saw the framework as affording them a collegial supportive network through multiple mentoring relationships. They also appreciated the theory practice connection made by moving the instruction of methods courses to the field, by extended experience in the field, and in engaging in inquiry about their practice.


**Association of Teacher Educators, Outstanding Dissertation Award, 2001**
  • Silva, D.Y. (1999). Telling their stories: Mentor teachers ways of being and knowing in a professional development school. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.
    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore teachers’ ways of being and knowing as they work in a newly created inquiry-oriented professional development school. This investigation uses case study methodology informed by both ethnographic and phenomenological perspectives. Using these lenses, the insights and activities of two mentor teachers were captured and analyzed. Data, collected over an eighteen-month period, included field notes, interviews, documents, journals, and email.
    The analysis resulted in two stories of mentor teacher work in a PDS. Drawing on metaphor, the first story depicts the work of a “gardener” who nurtures an intern and the second story portrays a “playwright” who scripts and stages a story of growth. The stories highlight the mentor teachers’ work centering on the roles of teacher as participant and teacher as teacher educator.
    These stories collectively reveal seven assertions that help make sense of effective mentoring practices. First, mentoring should be considered an art form that teachers develop b y drawing on their own unique strengths to construct an approach that fits their context, own teaching style, and intern. Second, mentoring requires embracing the PDS concept and the multiple roles of working with a PDS. Third, to construct knowledge about mentoring, mentors draw on the same philosophical and pedagogical orientations that they use with children. Fourth, powerful mentoring practices include both a cycle of inquiry and a cycle of spaces. Fifth, mentors can use focused observation as a tool for guiding prospective teacher reflection. Sixth, the school’s culture has a strong influence on a mentor developing a problem-posing stance to her practice. Seventh, mentors need to make mentoring “a part of” rather than “apart from” the work they do as teachers.