Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Epstein


Leadership, assessment, management, quality, continuous improvement, organizational behavior


Higher education institutions are being pushed towards increased assessment practices because of rising costs, mass access, new delivery methods, and rising competition on the national and global scale. Academic deans and department heads are at the center of these assessment efforts, and assessment should guide changes within the organization for improvement. Learning organization theory provides a framework for creating an environment favorable to assessment and improvement. Six learning organization principles – learning, communication, measurement, problem-solving, structure, and vision – were used for this study.

An online questionnaire was used to capture the perceptions of deans and department heads as to the presence and use of learning organization principles within their academic colleges. Responses were received from 180 academic leaders across the United States in general education academic colleges at professions-focused institutions. These are institutions which offer at least 80% of their degree programs in career-oriented fields.

The findings of the study indicate that learning organization principles are somewhat present within general education colleges, and the leaders believe their colleges to possess some aspects of learning organizations. The results also indicate that most leaders did not perceive their colleges to be using the principles towards improvement, although the leaders reported a high level of perceived success on performance indicators.

Learning, measurement, problem-solving, structure, and vision were found to be predictive of the perception of improvement from the use of the learning organization principles. Two of the learning organization principles, learning and structure, were also found to be predictors for perceived success. Suggestions from academic leaders revealed four additional findings: (a) more emphasis on learning is needed, (b) organizations should improve communication with stakeholders, (c) the right leadership must be in place, and (d) some structural changes within institutions are needed.

Overall, the results of the study reveal that subsets of higher educational institutions can possess some aspects of learning organization principles. The results also indicate a high level of perceived assessment activity in these academic colleges and the movement of these leaders towards using data and information to improve their organizations and success on performance indicators.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access