Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey

Second Advisor

Dr. Rebecca West Burns

Third Advisor

Dr. David Hoppey

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Melanie Sanders

Department Chair

Dr. Amanda Pascale

College Dean

Dr. Jennifer Kane


Principals are regularly expected to navigate and lead in contexts of complex change. While professional learning is often seen as a key lever for change, there is minimal research regarding principal professional learning in change contexts and even fewer studies making explicit connections between professional learning and change. This qualitative multi-case study of four principals actively engaged in a district designed and facilitated yearlong professional learning program explores the experiences of principals within the program and identifies critical connection points between professional learning and change. Through a series of semi-structured interviews and document analyses, findings emerged indicating that principals had both unique and common experiences within the program. While not every principal found the professional learning program to be transformational, all four principals identified unique changes in knowledge, beliefs, and practice in relation to the learning priorities and discussed individualized barriers and facilitators to change. Across the four cases, common experiences were identified regarding each of the key players of change: innovation/learning priority, learning environment, change facilitator, and learning environment. Five critical connection points between professional learning and change were identified: collective leadership, coherence, collaboration, differentiation, and praxis. In light of these critical connection points, the Organizational Learning Core emerged as a framework to illustrate the complexity and coherence of the learning priorities within the change context. Three themes were identified regarding the Organizational Learning Core. The first theme is that the Organizational Learning Core is central to personal and organizational change. This theme explores the parallel nature of instruction and learning at the classroom, school and 13 district levels. The second theme is that the Organizational Learning Core provides a framework for authentic, multidimensional coherence. This theme discusses the nature of vertical and horizontal coherence that is authentically established by those within the organization. The third theme is that differentiation within the Organizational Learning Core maintains coherence while supporting the unique needs of learning agents. This theme discusses the need for coherence, while also providing differentiated learning opportunities in response to the unique learning needs of each learning agent. These findings contribute to the fields of both professional learning and change, and serve to connect them, by illuminating evidence that professional learning for principals is a necessary component of organizational change.