Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Instructional Leadership Excellence (ILEAD)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Derek Whordley

Committee Member

Joseph Kush

Committee Member

Karen Levitt


action research, professional development, suburban high school, teacher perceptions


Accountability in education is perhaps the most significant issue faced by school leaders and teachers today. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the form of No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001), school districts have been concentrating efforts directed at student achievement as related to state standardized testing.

School districts have subsequently focused attention more intensely on existing curricula and effective instructional practice to increase student learning. Action research has been used, and is gaining more momentum as a staff development tool, to impact student achievement in classrooms.

Fox Chapel Area School District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has a long-standing tradition of high student achievement and academic success. The adoption of the Professional Education Program (PEP) has enabled the district to provide teachers with staff development opportunities during the school day to closely examine instructional practices and refine daily activities to further improve student achievement. Fox Chapel Area High School (FCAHS) has expanded this to include a specific teacher initiated, action research initiative. Teachers identify areas of inquiry upon which to gather data and make adjustments in instruction and/or assessment to meet or exceed the requirements of federal legislation.

This study was designed to be a comprehensive program evaluation of the PEP program that assessed multiple aspects of the program through the lenses of the classroom teachers who have completed the PEP action research course. Utilizing survey instruments and questionnaires, teachers provided feedback to evaluate PEP's effectiveness as a professional development tool. Data was gathered through both qualitative and quantitative means to establish support for both the cultural impact of action research on the professional staff as well as its impact on student performance.

Data were analyzed comparing three distinct cohorts of educators who completed the action research phase. The data were used to determine if the program had a positive impact on instructional practice and to what degree action research is sustained in the daily lives of the professional educators.

National Staff Development Council's Standards Assessment Inventory was the primary survey instrument used. The Professional Development Survey, Section 2 as designed by Lowden (2005) and published in The Journal of Research in Professional Learning provided additional information specific to instructional practice.

Results of the study suggested that a positive impact occurred with respect to teacher efficacy issues and improvements in instructional practice. Data suggest that action research, when used as a reflective/professional development tool, was sustained after teachers were no longer formally involved in the PEP program as participants. Additional areas of study related to standardized and achievement tests are needed to establish a direct impact on student achievement.