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Principals' perceptions of learning communities

Kathleen Joy Mort, Johnson & Wales University


This research investigated the relationships between how principals think about learning communities and how their understandings influence the way they organize and support learning for their faculty. In addition to examining the alignment between the mental models and actual behaviors, the research investigated the impediments principals experience in attempting to align their images with practice. Qualitative research in the form of interviews was used for this study. Interviews were electronically recorded and then transcribed. Data analysis and data collection occurred simultaneously. Learner-centered psychological principles established by the American Psychological Association (1997) provided the theoretical framework. Concurrently, literature in the following areas was examined: (1) school reform and improvement as it affects a learning community; (2) organizational learning; (3) adult learning theory as it relates to staff development; (4) staff development models; and (5) principals' roles in creating and sustaining learning communities. The researcher found that there was evidence of a great deal of community involvement and learning opportunities for children, but little evidence in most schools of the kinds of ongoing learning necessary to promote and strengthen professional growth in teachers. Although there was evidence of making the schools a welcoming place for children and their families, and a rich environment in which the children could learn, there was little evidence in most schools of a culture of continuous learning for the faculties. This study also confirmed that beliefs determine what leaders do; practice is determined by perception. As a result of this study, administrators, members of administrative teams, higher education leaders involved in creating, implementing, and evaluating preparation programs for principals, and those engaged in professional development will better understand how leaders' mental models of learning communities can affect the design and implementation of ongoing professional development for educators.

Subject Area

Teacher education|School administration|Adult education|Continuing education

Recommended Citation

Mort, Kathleen Joy, "Principals' perceptions of learning communities" (2000). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI9999555.