Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)




Susan Bennett-Armistead

Second Committee Member

Kenneth Martin

Third Committee Member

Richard Kent

Additional Committee Members

David Boardman

Tanya Baker


Professional development for teachers gained more attention with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 2001. However, reform efforts spurred by this act focused mainly on training for specific programs and curriculum materials, resulting in little attention to instruction. In the last thirty or more years, new approaches to professional development have emerged, with teacher leadership, in particular, gaining more attention in studies as an important mechanism for reforming classroom practice to raise student achievement. Research has mainly examined collaborative frameworks to sustain teacher growth through professional learning communities situated within the context of schools and districts. Future research focused on the role of relationships with mentors and professional networks outside schools and districts has the potential to advance a conceptual framework for transforming teacher practice and student learning.

This study used social network analysis and narrative analysis as conceptual and analytical frameworks to understand how relationships among teachers in a community of practice influenced their practice and their growth. This study specifically considered the following broad question about professional learning: In what ways do relationships among National Writing Project teacher-consultants influence teacher-consultant’s growth as learners, writers, and teachers of writing?

Data was collected through surveys of several participants and interviews with four informants; these teachers worked in the same school district and participated in the State Writing Project (SWP) at different times in their teaching careers. Participants indicated that they believed particular practices, such as reviewing student work and receiving feedback from colleagues was important to their professional growth. However, these participants also noted that they rarely participated in such activities. Also, the informants explained they chose to participate in the SWP because they sought ways to address the needs of their students and goals of their district, needs and goals not necessarily met with professional development experiences.

This study analyzed the experiences of these informants in their teaching and learning about writing and their perceptions of their participation in the State Writing Project. Their stories suggest that colleagues with this social network of the SWP had a significant influence on their knowledge about and understanding of teaching writing. These SWP colleagues had an impact on revitalizing the informants’ enthusiasm for teaching, prompting a desire to enact particular practices in their schools and districts. Future studies could focus on these informal structures – these relationships within a network – as a way to support the professional learning of teachers. Additional studies might also examine how narratives serve both as a tool to understand these relationships and as a way to provide teachers opportunities to reflect on their growth as learners and teachers.