Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher Wagner (Director), Dr. John Hagaman, Dr. Gary Houchens, Dr. William Schlinker

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This dissertation supports the work of Black and Wiliam (1998), who demonstrated that when teachers effectively utilize formative assessment strategies, student learning increases significantly. However, the researchers also found a “poverty of practice” among teachers, in that few fully understood how to effectively implement formative assessment in the classroom. This qualitative case study examined a series of voluntary workshops offered at one public middle school designed to address this poverty of practice. Data were gathered via semi-structured interviews. The researcher used constant comparative analysis to discover patterns in the data for the following four research questions: (1) What role did a professional learning community structure play in shaping participants’ perceived effectiveness of a voluntary formative assessment initiative? (2) How did this initiative affect participants’ perceptions of their knowledge of formative assessment and differentiation strategies? (3) How did it affect participants’ perceptions of their abilities to teach others about formative assessment and differentiated instruction? (4) How did it affect school-wide use of classroom-level strategies?
Results indicated that teacher participants experienced a growth in their capacity to use and teach others various formative assessment strategies, and even nonparticipating teachers reported greater use of formative assessment in their own Participants and non-participating teachers perceived little growth in the area of differentiation of instruction, which contradicted some administrator perceptions.
The workshops’ contemplative, collegial, professional learning community structure also shaped participants’ experience in important ways. Implications for stakeholder practice and further research are discussed.


Adult and Continuing Education Administration | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Higher Education Administration