Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Patricia Morrell

LC Subjects

Learning strategies; Professional learning communities--United States; Teachers; Teachers--Training of


As part of the ongoing search for meaningful school reform, many schools have organized themselves into professional learning communities to improve student learning and support teacher learning. Most of the studies on PLCs have focused on their impact on student learning and not on why and how teachers are involved individually and collectively in a meaningful way to support student learning and improved instructional practices through their own professional growth.

This qualitative study addresses the motivation of secondary school teachers to engage in their professional learning through their participation in PLCs. The study also sought to explore whether this participation affected teacher learning and their instructional practices. Three research questions guided the study: (a) what motivates teachers to get and remain involved in PLCs; (b) how did teachers believe their participation in PLCs affected teacher learning; (c) did the teachers perceive their participation in PLCs impacted instructional practices. Through one-on-one interviews with teachers, observations of PLCs, artifact collection, and survey responses, data were gathered to learn about how self-motivation influenced teacher involvement in PLC activities. Data collection and analysis were guided and viewed through the lens of Self-Determination Theory, a theory of motivation which focuses on the intrinsic tendencies of people to behave in healthy ways, through their fulfilment of the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000).

The major findings of this study identified that while teachers are actively involved in regular PLC activities and are able to demonstrate the essential motivational needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, the fact that they are not able to choose their own PLCs nor share a common definition of what a PLC is limits the effectiveness of this process. Autonomy, actualized through the choices that teachers have to influence the activities of their PLC activities, and relatedness, actualized through collaboration and shared work, are present but are dependent upon tenure, department membership, and teacher’s educational philosophy. Also, the lack of a clear sense of how PLCs can support collective inquiry and action research suggests that there will be an inconsistent experience of the benefits of PLCs.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.

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