Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Patti Chance

Number of Pages



This study explored the five-year change process as experienced by members of a secondary school community who intentionally sought out and pursued school improvement through the establishment of a continuous improvement process with the goal of increased student achievement. Three questions guided this exploration: (a) What contextual factors contributed to the change process at a secondary school pursuing continuous improvement processes; (b) How did these contextual factors interact and inter-relate to contribute to the implementation and sustainability of the continuous improvement process; and (c) How did these contextual factors interact and inter-relate to contribute to the change process itself. As such, this study involved a close examination of the phenomenon of change as it existed within the complex situational and contextual conditions of the school organization; This was a longitudinal, exploratory single-case study with an historical analysis. Qualitative tools used to conduct this exploration included an extensive document review, an open-ended observation and twenty semi-structured interviews of teachers, teacher-leaders, administrators, parents and district leaders. Data were analyzed on three levels: chronologically, categorically and from the perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups. Within categories, data were analyzed for patterns and relationships using content and constant comparative analyses; Findings showed the change process exhibited tenets of chaos theory, principles of complexity science and concepts of quantum physics. The organization engaged in two simultaneous sets of actions (establishment of a professional learning community and smaller learning communities) within two distinct phases to the change process. In Phase I, the school community went through a shift in culture from isolation to collaboration during which a high degree of disorder caused by dramatic changes in the organization's subsystems, forced participants to rethink and regroup in such a way as to effect the educational agenda and program of the school as well as its leadership and community-building processes, ultimately leading to the establishment of a culture of continuous improvement. In Phase II the organization experienced the institutionalization of this continuous improvement process; Findings showed the organization, over the course of both phases, went through a process of self-organization and self-similarity. Self-organization occurred primarily within a context of four conditions that proved conducive to organizational transformation: (a) an openness to data - including disconfirming data - with increasingly more transparent and sophisticated data collection, analysis and interpretation; (b) widely-shared information including research and theory from various means including the purposeful and challenging work of school community members in numerous, temporary, task specific teams several times per week and whole group, job-embedded, collaborative professional development occurring at least six times per year; (c) freedom to act upon this information through teacher-driven and teacher-led decision-making and widespread invested leadership; and (d) frequent informal, annual, system-wide opportunities to self-reference; Self-similarity occurred as congruent messages (core beliefs and principles) were communicated extensively throughout dense, interactive networks, creating a field wherein these messages exerted powerful influence. The condition of organizational disequilibrium allowed these messages to he fed back on themselves, greatly amplifying their effects, leading to their iteration throughout various subgroups---ultimately shaping the culture to one that was consistent with the organization's strong sense of identity and intent. This continual shaping left the organization more adaptable and flexible, better able to cope with fluctuation and more intelligently respond to the changing needs of the environment: a professional learning community; The high-level of energy required for these significant changes and their sustainability came from authentic ownership and invested leadership resulting from a continuous process of meaning-making, collective inquiry, reflection among the school community, and the compelling draw of the strange attractor: a fervent hope and desire to make a positive difference in a student's life; Further study into the role of the principal, the use of non-traditional teacher-leaders, invested leadership and the degree of disorder needed to affect change in phase one of systemic change in the secondary school organization was recommended.


Change Process; Continuous Improvement; Educational Leadership; Five; Leadership; Organizational Change; Process; School; School Improvement; Secondary; Study

Controlled Subject

School management and organization; Education, Secondary

File Format


File Size

6307.84 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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