Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

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

First Advisor

Dr. Elinor A. Scheirer

Second Advisor

Dr. Daniel L. Dinsmore

Third Advisor

Dr. Anne K. Swanson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Emma J. I. Apatu

Department Chair

Dr. Elizabeth A. Gregg

College Dean

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey



Research indicates that understanding the influence of leadership and partnership development can inform the need to improve public education (Penuel & Gallagher, 2017). Although leadership theory and change theory support the need for partnerships in education, less attention has been given to how such partnerships develop and the role that leadership plays in that process. Therefore, the present study explored the role of leadership within researcher-practitioner partnerships and the process of developing sustainable partnerships in education as documented in a set of federal grant proposals, their final reports, and other descriptions of their efforts. Grant documents examined were awarded from the 2013 funding announcement of the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships (RPP) in Education Research program.

In-depth qualitative document analysis provided a means to unobtrusively examine and interpret comprehensive, historical data (Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Patton, 2002). Directed content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005; Kaid & Johnston-Wadsworth, 1989) of the documents directed the process of data collection. This process used key concepts from the literature on transformational leadership, shared leadership, and leadership for change as the initial framework for data collection. Data analysis employed Eisner’s (1998) process of educational criticism using description, interpretation, evaluation, and thematics. Hatch’s (2002) process of typological analysis led to four typologies to organize the data for description and interpretation: capacity building; strategies for partnership development; approaches to communication; and the role of reflection in partnership development. The evaluation dimension of educational criticism indicated that partnerships employed shared leadership with evidence of internal and external support and a cultivation of shared commitment.

Themes indicated that partnerships focused on both rigorous research and reflective practice, leaders engaged partners in establishing the infrastructure and strategic plans of the partnership, and partnerships galvanized support to address complex social issues beyond their formal organizational structure. Recommendations for future research include the need: (a) to explore the dynamics of communication in partnership work; (b) to clarify and facilitate the process of change in grant and project development; and (c) to develop of a process for sustainability beyond a specific grant or project. Recommendations for practice include the need: (a) to explore the cultivation of relationships in support of partnership development; (b) to identify clearly the primary issue to be addressed in the work of the partnership, and (c) to clarify mutual outcomes. Conclusions from the present study indicate the importance of a focus on the deliberate development of the researcher-practitioner partnerships themselves, the importance of concrete strategies for sharing leadership, and the importance of the development of professional relationships that support sustainability in partnership development.