Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Special Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Norton-Meier, Lori

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

McGatha, Maggie

Committee Member

Chisholm, James

Committee Member

Peters, Susan

Committee Member

Tretter, Tom

Committee Member

Davis, Anita

Committee Member

Wolf, Jean

Author's Keywords

Adaptive Schools; Collaboration; Case Study; Action Space; Professional Learning; Teacher Capacity


This dissertation is an examination of the work of Adaptive Schools in Smith County Schools. It begins by explaining how the work of Adaptive Schools is relevant in the larger context of school reform. To explore this relevance, a qualitative analysis of Smith County was conducted. Smith County was selected based on systematic implementation of the work of Adaptive Schools. Analysis of interview data focused on: the impact of the work of Adaptive Schools within Smith County and the degree to which Adaptive Schools intersected with themes of continuity and change. Further analysis explores emergent questions about: (a) the function of Adaptive Schools as a paradigm or phenomenon and (b) significant contextual features of Smith County Schools. Theories of Dewey, Bandura, Vygotsky and Dweck were used in framing the study because of implicit and explicit connections to the work of Adaptive Schools. Ultimately, the study connects the work of Adaptive School in Smith County to the theory of Action Space. Findings are shared as a case study of the Smith County School district. This dissertation is divided into six chapters. The first chapter situates the study within the field of education reform. Chapter two explores the research base supporting Adaptive Schools and connects to relevant theorists. Chapter three includes description of the qualitative techniques that were used in constructing the case study. Chapters four and five explore patterns and themes which emerged from the study using the words of the seventeen interview participants. Chapter six synthesizes the findings of the study and makes suggestions about significance both for Smith County and the larger work of Adaptive Schools. Findings indicate that Adaptive Schools provides a paradigm for schools to enact Professional Learning Communities. Within the context of Smith County, the work of Adaptive Schools functioned as both a phenomenon and a paradigm. Visionary leadership and commitment to extending professional learning are needed in supporting deep levels of understanding and application of the work. The potential of Adaptive Schools to be impactful is significant in light of research that supports the efficacy of capacity building in the context of collaboration.