Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer

Third Advisor

Dr. Lisa Ryan


Professional learning community, collaboration, collegiality, learning organizations, shared leadership, teacher learning


The initiative of turning schools into Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is being implemented by many schools and school systems in different countries. PLC processes have shown to be successful in enhancing teachers’ and students’ learning (Gumus, 2013; Michalak, 2009; Mullen & Schunk, 2010). The fact that the Dominican Republic (DR) is committed to improving the quality of education, the implementation of PLC processes seems to be a compelling option to reach this goal. The Dominican Ministry of Education has followed the guidelines that research in the U.S. and other countries have set and has recently adopted PLCs’ features and processes through an initiative that promotes teacher collaboration and continuous learning (Instituto Nacional para la Formación y Capacitación del Magisterio, 2016).

Since the adoption of this research-based initiative is recent in the DR and highly contextual, this study examined the issues that a Dominican early adopter school experiences as it changes to a different operational method and responds to those issues. The study was conducted as an instrumental case study using a mixed methodology to obtain a thorough description of the PLC’s implementation and how stakeholders experienced the changes inherent to it. More specifically, the study focuses on identifying the issues the stakeholders encounter in the process, how they solve those issues, and the current status of the school’s implementation strengths and weaknesses.

The qualitative data were obtained through semi-structured interviews with teachers, school leaders, and a focus group to develop a thorough description of the factors that stakeholders encountered that either detract or facilitate the PLC processes’ implementation in the Dominican context. The quantitative data were obtained through the administration of the instrument: Professional Learning Community Assessment-Revised (PLCA-R) (Hipp & Huffman, 2010). This instrument measured the level of implementation of the PLC dimensions by identifying its strengths and weaknesses at the practice level. The qualitative data revealed: (a) the PLC process’s complexity because teaching and learning require adjustments and adaptations; (b) teacher decision-making was limited to the instructional planning level because the leadership team makes the decisions at the school operations level; (c) PLC processes develop a collaborative culture and require teachers to open themselves to new ideas and strategies, make decisions in collaborative teams, and support each other’s learning and growth; (d) an environment in which prevails trust, honesty, ethics, and authenticity promote positive interactions that lead to teacher learning and professional growth, even though some teachers resist open sharing and acknowledgment of weaknesses; (e) ongoing support, feedback, and communication are fundamental to implement PLCs.

Results of the PLCA-R teacher survey revealed both areas of strength and weakness for the current state of PLC implementation in the case school system. The weaknesses were shared leadership and the level of trust. Shared leadership did not develop as well as the other dimensions because administrators limited teachers’ decision-making to the instruction level. Additionally, teachers' level of trust was not yet well developed.

Despite the weaknesses and issues, the PLC promoted a culture of collaboration, job-embedded professional learning, a more student-centered approach, greater use of student data to inform instruction, and application of research-supported instructional practices, especially those that increase student engagement and differentiation for student learning needs. However, these results make evident that in the Dominican context, the change in culture that a PLC requires (i. e., the change from teacher isolation to collaboration, communication, and trust among teachers and between teachers and school leaders) may require special attention in the PLC implementation process. Results of this study also suggest that teachers and school leaders in the DR have little or no experience in sharing leadership. This can interfere with the development of the PLC in its full capacity if not addressed by both teachers and school leaders in the early stages of implementation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access