Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

David Brell

Document Type


Second Advisor

Carolyn Panofsky

Third Advisor

George Willis


Feinstein School of Education and Human Development

Department (Manual Entry)

Education Doctoral Program


Teacher change is at the heart of school reform. The research on teacher change has been primarily focused on teacher change from an individualistic perspective and has identified three possible paths of teacher change: beliefs precede change, change precedes beliefs, or change is nonlinear and recursive. This study looked at teacher change within a middle school during a time the school was undergoing a district-driven change in student grouping practices.

The study was conducted during the 2009-2010 school year and included ten teachers of science, social studies, and English in a grade 6-8 middle school. A qualitative study approach was used and data was collected from individual interviews, field notes and classroom observations. Wenger’s (1998) Community of Practice model was used as a framework that allowed the data collected to be viewed from both an individual and community perspective.

Two levels of data analysis were completed. The first data review was conducted to assist in answering the questions that were identified at the outset of the study. The second review extended analysis and examined the dialectics of teacher change. Qualitative analysis conducted found that participants were more positive the longer they experienced the change in grouping practices, participants felt that the change in grouping practices benefited struggling learners, and participants relied on each other to understand and effectively assimilate to the changes in practices demanded by the grouping change. The examination of teacher change during this study also found that teacher change was recursive and non-linear. Williams Middle School was also confirmed to meet the criteria of a Community of Practice (Wenger, 1998). Additionally, Williams Middle School, at the time of the study exhibited the characteristics of a Community of Innovation (Coakes and Smith, 2007). Finally, an adaptation of Wenger’s (1998) Community of Practice model is offered to provide a possible framework to apply the model to schools.