Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Ian Mette

Second Committee Member

Catharine Biddle

Third Committee Member

Janet Fairman

Additional Committee Members

Maria Frankland

Betsy Webb


The goal of this study was to investigate teacher perceptions of the role of internal and external coaching on implementation of proficiency-based education, a school-wide reform initiative. The conceptual framework for this qualitative multi-site comparative case study is a combination of the Double-Loop Learning Model (Argyris, 1976) and Vygotsky’s Space model (Gallucci, 2008). Data were collected and compared from four secondary schools in Maine for this study: two with internal coaches assisting in implementing proficiency-based education and two with external coaches assisting in implementing proficiency-based education. Seventeen teachers, four coaches, and four principals were interviewed as the primary source of data collection. Data from interviews were coded and analyzed through an open coding process. Findings were then examined and described in relation to the two theories framing this study, namely by using the stages of Vygotsky’s Space model of socio-cultural learning: appropriation, ii transformation, publication, and conventionalization. Key findings include: (a) External coaching has more influence over teacher learning in the initial stage of implementation (appropriation), providing whole-staff professional development and conventionalization, providing guidance around a common vision; and (b) Internal coaching has more influence over teacher learning during transformation and publication, with coaching happening in a one-on-one setting, helping teachers reflect upon strategies they are trying out and problem-solving as they practice components of the initiative. In addition, leadership approaches, structures present for coaching support, and challenges associated with the PBE initiative all play a role in each school’s approach to implementation.

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