Free Professional Learning Communities Dissertation Example

Type of paper: Dissertation

Topic: Education, Students, Leadership, Learning, Disability, School, Study, Information

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/12

A professional learning community brings teachers and administrators together during discussion groups, enhances the classroom experiences by including the community, and

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envisions the classroom environment as a community (Severage, 2008). Transformational leaders believe that professional learning communities share the following beliefs: (a) Collaborative work should involve inquiry and problem solving during daily teaching practices, (b) Professional development is effective when it is collegial and collaborative, and (c) Staff development is critical to improve student learning. Professional learning communities bring transformational leaders and teachers together to participate in learning assessments, curriculum study, and collaborative planning (Severage, 2008).
Today transformational leaders and teachers have to rethink their understanding of learning, curriculum, and teaching (Klein & Riordan, 2009).The success of schools depend on how transformational leaders and teachers implement designs creating a burden in schools to provide effective professional development (Klein & Riordan, 2009). Many transformational leaders believe that professional development sets the pace for content and pedagogy, provide opportunities for teachers to practice those ideas in the classrooms, and professional development provide coaches and peers for support and collaboration opportunities (Klein & Jordan, 2009).
        In the past, even though many teachers were surrounded by other teachers, they felt isolated and couldn't find time to connect with other teachers during the day (Avila, 2009). Today under the direction of Transformational leaders many teachers experience the positive effects from belonging to a professional community. Current transformational leadership and current approaches to professional learning communities has eliminated individual approaches to teaching and replaced by collaborative approaches (Riveros, Newton, & Burgess, 2012). Professional learning communities and transformational leaders come together to commit and willingly work together pursuing interventions with shared understanding and common values when there is a need for positive changes in students with

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learning disabilities academic achievements (Riveros et al., 2012).
Many school systems employ professional learning communities (PLC) within the school as a means of resolving internal problems, and creating environments conducive to transformational practices that allow others to learn new skill sets (Small & Minkes, 2010). Professional learning Communities objectives are to expand visions and shared interests by means of learning structures (Blankstein, 2009). There are five attributes that renders support to PLCs: (a) leadership is shared and supported by the transformational leader, (b) inquiry, (c) the organization has shared visions and values, (d) conditions are supportive, and (e) personal practice is shared (Blankstein, 2009). Many administrators and teachers believe that PLCs are more focused on students with learning disabilities learning; therefore, encouraging improved student achievements (Blankstein, 2009). PLCs are used as a part of staff development and teacher collaboration (Blankstein, 2009).
Transformational leaders and teachers depend on PLCs to better implement reform efforts of No Child Left Behind to increase students with learning disabilities academic achievements. As a collaborative team, the problem is presented to the group to solve and develop systemic improvements (Blankstein, 2009). Professional learning committees consist of tenured teachers, beginning teachers, administrators, and parents, each offering diverse viewpoints and experiences,(Smith, 2010). According to Mooney & Mausbach (2008), implementing a PLC model is an effective strategy which a school system can use to improve organizational changes. Dufour, Dufour , Eaker, & Many (2010) asserts that leaders who participate in a professional learning committee agree that they are able to assist students with learning disabilities improve in academics, and they continue to empower each other while focusing on positive results.
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On the other hand, many administrators and teachers fail to follow specific components of the model, decreasing the chances of improvements (Hipp, Huffman, Pankake, & Oliver 2008). The components of the PLC model that are often overlooked are: (a) plans for student interventions, (b) examinations of data, (c) collaboration with staff and peers, and (d) sharing information with peers (Clay, Soldwedel, & Many, 2011). Although many schools benefit from PLC models, there are schools that continue to fail due to the lack of transformational leadership concepts (Clay et al., 2011). As a result, teachers and staff are less motivated when they believe that the group is not functioning the way it should; therefore leadership behaviors are not met within the team. Clay et al., (2012) emphasized that in order for PLCs to work properly transformational leadership practices must guide the team.

Transformational leadership and co-teaching

Since the implementation of the No Child Left behind Act of 2001, co-teaching has been one of the nation’s easily acceptable programs used to assist students with learning disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (i.e. IDEA) was created so that students with learning disabilities could be taught or integrated with nondisabled students in a regular classroom setting (Nichols, Dowdy, & Nichols, 2010). With the guidance and leadership of transformational administrators, regular education and special education teachers collaborate together both taking responsibilities for teaching disabled and nondisabled students.
Two or more certified professionals in a classroom teaching students with learning disabilities at the same time are considered co-teaching (Hang & Rabren, 2009). These educators are usually a general education teacher and a special education teacher delivering instructions to students with learning disabilities and non-disabled students. According to
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Hang and Rabren (2009) both students with learning disabilities and non-disabled students are overall satisfied with co-teaching. The students’ receive more individual attention and more hands on activities that improve their learning. Students who are fortunate to have a regular education teacher and a special education teacher in the same classroom experiences improved academic performance, social skills, and improved self-confidence.
        Co-teaching has been an essential mechanism for the No Child Left Behind reform. Transformational administrators seeking to improve students with learning disabilities academic achievements incorporate co-teaching as a part of learning. According to Obiakor, Harris, Mutua, Rotator, and Algozzine (2012), to accommodate the educational needs for students with learning disabilities, transformational leaders and teachers must diversify their goals and instructions. Regular education and special education teachers must be prepared to include students with learning disabilities in the general classrooms depending on the students’ individual needs (Obiakor et al, 2012).
        According to Obiakor et al., (2012), Students with learning disabilities learn differently; therefore, not all placements in the general education classroom produce improved academic achievements, especially when no adjustments or modifications have been made to accommodate individual needs. Stivers (2008) asserts that many transformational leaders, at times will allow substitutes to replace the general and special education teachers in order to allow collaborative planning time; therefore, making the co-teaching relationship stronger. Methods of teacher collaboration includes: peer coaching, consultations, co-teaching, and problem solving, each designed to promote better learning opportunities for students with learning disabilities (Harpell & Andrews, 2010).
Transformational leaders are confronted with issues when it comes to the inclusion of students with learning disabilities in the general education population. Many teachers express
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their concerns with being over burdened with major responsibilities while trying to adhere to the No Child Left Behind subsection dealing with students with learning disabilities. Teachers and administrators are responsible for improving students with learning disabilities overall academic achievements. (Harpel & Andrews, 2010). Many Administrators must make these improvements with very low funds, shortage of highly qualified teachers and poor learning environments. Many of these issues continue to put a strain on a teachers’ instructional performance causing poor job satisfaction. Both special education and regular education teachers are faced with challenges of heavy workloads and the ongoing pressures that NCLB has placed on them to achieve set forth goals (Harpel & Andrews, 2010).
Transformational leaders who incorporate this shared teaching strategy do so in hopes of increasing and enhancing the performance of students with Learning disabilities (Nichols et al., 2010); however, problems tend to exist when you have two teachers in the same classroom creating tensions that interfere with a students' learning. According to Eres (2011), communications and interactions that teachers have with each other are not always on a positive note even though the administrator might be a transformational leader.

Leadership style and organizational learning

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When it comes to school improvements, administrators believe that organizational learning and visions are key elements to success (Kurland et al., 2010). Transformational leaders reinforce the teacher’s participation and willingness to follow the school's vision, giving teachers a sense of purpose which binds them together to engage in future learning and goals (Kurland et al, 2010). Transformational leaders and staff tend to shape school visions that are motivational factors of organizational learning in school (Kurland et al., 2010). When it comes to student learning, transformational leaders promote visions that guide organizational learning processes were teachers share learning with other staff members and continue to improve on teaching (Kurland et al, 2010). Transformational leaders who have visions understand core values and core tasks within the organization and strongly believe in what the organization will achieve.
  According to Jacobson, Johnson & Limaki (2005), transformational leaders who employ risk taking techniques possess three core leadership practices that are very viable to the organization: (a) setting directions-The leader articulates a common vision, assert high performance expectations, then communicate the vision to the staff, (b) developing people-The leader provides intellectual stimulation and support, and (C) redesigning the organization- The leader is required to reshape the schools culture.
Successful transformational leaders are forever concerned with taking risk and steps needed to ensure that schools, teachers, and the community continue to have a healthy existence which is highly needed for student achievements (Pashiardis, 1993). Eacott (2008) asserts that if schools are to meet the needs of their communities, then the need for effective strategic leadership is very important. The transformational leader aligns organizational structures with the works of its staff within the school system through effective strategies (Eacott, 2008). Respectfully, Bell (2002) added that when all members of a school
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community share visions and values, strategic planning can be very successful.
Transformational leaders continue to mobilize diverse constituents, build a sense of purpose, and create structural re-alignments while changing roles to make progress on fulfilling visions within school systems (Moxley, 2004). Consequently, the success of transformational leadership and strategic planning depends on the willingness of organizations and staff members to examine their cultures and adapt to new behaviors that will bring new ways of performing and thinking for future achievements (Moxley, 2004).

Transformational leadership and learning environments

Transformational leaders are key players when it comes to creating supportive and positive environments. According to Dyson and O’Sullivan, (l998), transformational leaders employ thoughtful leadership, consensus and clarity about core values, collaboration, and academic goals while challenging their teachers to take risks when working together to produce solutions to problems. Transformational leaders often experiment while taking risks that are considered learning experiences that can be painful and stressful (Kouzes & Posner, 2007). Teachers’ morale, students’ success, and positive learning environments depend on a principals leadership style (Pepper, 2010).
Effective principals allow teachers and staff to team together to improve students’ academics by shared decision making (Pepper, 2010). For success in today’s high-stakes testing environment, transformational leadership has been proven to be the most effective in empowering teachers and staff to share in common visions and use a collaborative approach towards student achievements (Pepper, 2010). According to Daniels (2010), learning environments consist of: (a) learning goals, (b) materials used, (c) methods of instruction, (d) the division of roles between learners and teachers, (e) the physical make-up where learning occurs, and (f) the roles of the learners. Students in positive learning environments receive
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higher grades, attend classes regularly, and feel confident about themselves.
Effective classroom management and instructions greatly affects a students' learning; however, (a)the physical surroundings where learning and instructions takes place, (b) the learning goals designed for each student, (c) the division of the roles designated to the learner and teacher, and (d) the materials and resources used for implementation, all compromise positive learning environments (Daniels,2010). Learning environments refer to every aspect of the school environment that influences the achievement of students, for both regular education and students with learning disabilities. Transformational leaders assume the roles as visionaries incorporating ways to help new and tenured teachers to continue to analyze their practices ensuring that all students are able to learn in an environment conducive to creating higher achievements for students with learning disabilities (Daniels, 2010).
Transformational leaders place a high emphasis on instructional time and make it mandatory over other school related activities creating a climate of high academics (Roby, 2011). Transformational leaders ensure that staff is committed to teaching strategies and continue to enhance students with disabilities' learning. Students perform better when they are taught by teachers who instill confidence in them, and who provide added support when needed to achieve academically. Schools that have a positive atmosphere where there are few interruptions such as fights, noise, and teacher turnovers are very conducive to improving students overall academic achievement. Transformational leaders assure that the characteristics of the school are systematic and organized around instructional time and technology to improve students' with learning disabilities learning.
        According to Cohen, (2010), positive school environments foster collaboration between teachers, trust amongst administrators and staff, cooperation, and active decision making. Teachers who are led by transformation leaders in positive school environments has more job
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satisfaction, commitment, and loyalty amongst peers (Hulpia, Devos, &Rosseel, 2009) which contributes to a safe environment for all students, including students with learning disabilities. May and Supovitz (2011) asserts that effective transformational leadership practices are imperative when it comes to setting goals and open communications within the school. (Robinson, 2010; Yang & Mossholder, 2010) concluded that transformational leaders who influence culture and nurturing learning environments affect teachers' behaviors which in turn affect student achievement.

Transformational leadership and teachers’ self-efficacy

       New teachers as well as seasoned teachers are always judging their capability to deliver instructions that will improve student achievements on a daily basis (Nir & Kranot, 2006). A teachers’ self-efficacy belief influences their emotions, the way they go about attaining goals, the way they think, and tend to overcome adversities while maintaining control of events that might affect their lives (Nir & Kranot, 2006). Teachers must exemplify skills needed to accomplish goals and have high beliefs that the goals are attainable. Teachers with low self-efficacy has no or limited ambitions contributing to low accountability when trying to implement or achieve targeted goals; especially goals set out for students with learning disabilities.
According to Faltis (2011), special education teachers tend to have an advantage over regular education teachers when it comes to being prepared to work with students with
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learning disabilities. Regular educational teachers’ self-efficacy is questionable, raising questions that ask: Am I prepared to teach students with disabilities, how do I best serve this population, and how do I modify instructions for the learning disabled while presenting instructions to regular education students(Faltis, 2011).
Fitzgerald and Schutte (2010) assert that transformational leadership is a motivational style that presents clear organizational visions that inspire employees working towards these visions to connect with other employees in order to reach their full potential. Behaviors that bring about good outcomes can be contributed to self-efficacy. Transformational leadership involves a positive connection between administrative leaders and other employees who need understanding and motivation when trying to reach their full potential (Fitzgerald & Schutte, 2010). This type of leadership enables a person to cognitively evaluate his or her own-ability to perform certain task such as implementing strategies to increase students with learning disabilities overall academic achievement. High self-efficacy beliefs in employees prevent low self-esteem, low morale, and promotes good feelings and motivations exemplified in their behaviors (Fitzgerald &Schutte, 2010).

Criticisms of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership brings higher levels of commitment in school settings amongst the staff; however, the morality of transformational leadership continues to be questionable in the educational settings where schools that have a toxic culture or environments are led by beginning administrators or administrators with low ratings. Hay (2013) asserted that toxic cultures may need or require a more directive approach rather than transformational leadership. Administrators who practice transformational leadership styles at high performing schools could find themselves at odds when it comes to leading in low performing schools where goals are not met, and social cultures that include high percentages of learning disabled students are prevalent (Eres, 2011).
According to Forte (2010), in opposition of transformational leadership, many researchers criticize this style due to the power driven influences practiced by many leaders who take on narcissistic tendencies. Another point of criticism from researchers indicates that transformational leadership is not effective when skills, information, and motivation are lacking within the organization (Forte, 2010).
Today school systems across the country have to take note of the older population that makes up most of the staff stemming from the Baby Boomers generation. These staff members and teachers are between the ages of 50-65. In direct conflict with the aging teachers are the younger generation teachers with a fresh start and fresh ideas. Transformational leaders are required to lead both groups in an open environment promoting shared visions and trust.
  In North Carolina, the Governor advocated against teacher tenure implicating that the older teachers close to retirement needed to retire. He also supported higher pay for beginning teachers creating animosity amongst both groups. Tensions continue to rise as both older teachers and younger teachers work together to make sure those students with learning disabilities improve in their academics. Many schools continue to operate at on a bureaucratic scale; for instance, internal systems are the same as they were decades ago even though there have been many calls for educational reforms.
The older teachers discovered they were going to be ejected from their jobs and their contracted tenure would be taken away. Teacher morale is at its' all time low even though they are led by transformational leaders. This has created negative impacts in many school systems in North Carolina leaving administrators to wonder if any leadership style will make a difference. It is also difficult for older teachers to be led by younger generational transformational teachers that has only a few years teaching experience; on the other hand younger teachers find it very difficult to adhere to outdated ideas and transactional styles, still practiced by older teachers.
Effective transformational leadership skills that motivate teachers and staff of all ages are essential in todays’ school systems (Dwyer, 2009), especially skills that utilize visions and innovations. According to Andert, (2011), positive outcomes from school systems come from transformational leaders who allow and encourage teachers to share in opinions, insights and organizational structures. Pryor, Humphreys, Tanjeja, and Toombs (2011), also states that transformational leaders that encourage more freedom and self-determination efforts tend to lead a staff that has increased job satisfaction.

Summary

Conclusively, NCLB was created to bridge the achievement gap between students with learning disabilities compared to those achievements of non-disabled students. Two thousand fourteen is the targeted year for full implementation of NCLB goals. Transformational leadership styles are used as a means of increasing students with learning disabilities, academic achievements and bringing employees together to successfully implement and reach the goals set forth by NCLB. This non-experimental Qualitative case study will examine the perceptions of administrators and teachers on transformational leadership influences on high school students with learning disabilities academic achievements in the Cumberland County Schools since the implementation of the NCLB Act of 2001.
The aim of this study will address how transformational leadership styles influence students with learning disabilities test scores, motivation, and academic achievements. It is the assumption that principals who practice transformational leadership have the leadership style that is needed for accountability and achievements (Pepper, 2010). According to (Fitzgerald & Schutte, 2010), transformational leadership is a motivational leadership style that presents clear organizational goals and visions while inspiring employees to work together to accomplish these achievements.
According to Ladd (2011), leadership practices continue to impact student performances, teacher performances, and public perceptions. The way teachers and staff view leadership styles within their schools influences the way they teach students with learning disabilities. The problem that prompts this research will inform school systems, and stake holders about administrators and teachers perceptions of transformational leadership practices and students with learning disabilities academic achievements. This research will build upon other research previously performed on transformational leadership in school systems. The results will be utilized to help administrators identify weaknesses and strengths within the organization that greatly influences students with disabilities achievements and teacher performances.
Impending changes brought on by NCLB could have a devastating effect on administrators, teachers, and students with learning disabilities. It is imperative that administrators and teachers recognize leadership styles needed to assist students with learning disabilities achieve in academics. (Mancuso, Roberts, & White, 2010).

Research Method

The study will be based on qualitative research. Shank observes that, "So, anytime we are doing quantitative research we need to determine our conditions and parameters of meaning before we make our tests. But here is the tricky part, in qualitative research, we must avoid predetermining meaning at all costs." (Quoted by Mayring et al., 2007, 7).
Northcote (2012) points out the questions faced during the designing of qualitative research. The questions relate to the size of the sample, researcher's bias, including all variables, consistency of results in repeated research study and availability of valid statistical data to substantiate findings.
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Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2007, 558) cite Nastasi and Schensul (2005, 187),

" Furthermore, qualitative methods can help researchers to describe various manifestations of intended outcomes that may not be reflected in standardized instruments and to identify unintended positive or negative outcomes for the individual and institution/community."
The above observations stress the importance of the manner and method to be followed in qualitative research study. The skills, professional knowledge and insight of the researcher help the researcher to avoid the pitfalls in a research study. The proposed qualitative research case study in CCS, will have to address all the aspects and parameters associated with the topic of the research.
Qualitative approaches, especially the case study method will allow the researcher to reflect on complicated, contextual, interactive, and interpretive nature of our social world (Staller, 2010). A qualitative method will be used in an attempt to understand experiences that exist in daily lives with representation of written or spoken forms rather than numerical (Staller, 2010). In-depth information will be collected from all the stakeholders:the twelve administrators and thirty combined regular and special education teachers within a limited setting.
The following research questions will be used to identify the perceptions of administrators and teachers regarding transformational leadership and its effect on students with learning disabilities academic achievements.
Q1: How do high school and middle school administrators perceive transformational leadership practices that have had an effect on students with learning disabilities academic achievements?
Q2: How do high school and middle school teachers perceive transformational leadership practices that have had an effect on students with learning disabilities academic achievements?
Qualitative approaches, especially the case study method will allow the researcher to reflect on complicated, contextual, interactive, and interpretive nature of our social world (Staller, 2010). A qualitative method will be used in an attempt to understand experiences that exist in daily lives with representation of written or spoken forms rather than numerical (Staller, 2010). In-depth information will be collected from the twelve administrators and thirty combined regular and special education teachers within a limited setting.
This section has a discussion of the specific method and design to be used and strengths and weaknesses of the design. Population, samples, material, and instruments will be discussed in this section. Data collection, processing, and analysis will also be discussed in this session. Respectfully, this session will discuss assumptions, limitations, delimitations, and ethical assurances followed by a summary.

Measurement

The first step in the qualitative research will be to select a representative sample size for the case study. The method for gathering the information/data will need the study of prevailing situation related to the topic of the research. Each participant in the study will be interviewed and asked questions that call for the informed opinion/view of the individual participant. The questions will need comprehensive understanding of the topic. Here, in CCS, the questions will be formatted keeping in view the leadership approaches to address the needs of the marginalized and disabled students and the implications of NCLB act in the process.
Semi-structured interviews will be used due to the studies small scale of research creating an open framework with the participants (Pathak & Intratat, 2012). As an approach to examine issues administrators and teachers have while practicing transformational
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leadership styles, face- to-face semi-structured interviews will be used in this study (Keogh & Wang, 2010).
The purpose of the research study is to bring out the undercurrents that influence the views of different stakeholders. The contrasting and contradicting opinions/views will have to be analyzed considering the individual participant's bias, prejudice and profession. View and opinions involving personal comments and remarks will have to be discarded; nevertheless,
the causal factors for such personal nature will have to be assessed and their overall impact on the system will be evaluated. The measurement technique will meet the norms of research and maintain the confidentiality of the information gathered from participants. Group discussions whenever conducted will include the common experiences of participants.
The results of the interviews will add to previous findings providing administrators and staff with pertinent information that could improve students with learning disabilities academic achievements (Onwuegbuzie, Leech, & Collins, 2010).Semi-structured face-to-face interviews, with open-ended questions, will be conducted (Yin, 2009).
styles and its’ impact on students with learning disabilities will be included in the second part of this study. Interviews will also be used to examine administrators and teachers perceptions’ of transformational leadership and its’ impact on students with learning disabilities. These interviews will take place in the administrators and teachers’ natural setting (Mancuso et. al, 2010). As an approach to examine issues administrators and teachers have while practicing transformational leadership styles, face- to-face semi-structured interviews will be used in this study (Keogh & Wang, 2010).
A descriptive case study will be selected for this research due to seeking detailed explanations of the perceptions of administrators and teachers and their thoughts on transformational leadership practices as it applies to students with learning disabilities academic achievements (Yin, 2003). According to Yin (2009), case study designs allow the researcher to examine different variables that contribute to the understanding of the questionable situation and new variables are introduced for further research. Participants were purposively selectedbased on homogenous sampling and availability (Suri, 2011; Marshall, Cardon, Poddar,& Fontenot, 2013).A total of 30 combined regular and special education teachers who share common experiences with teaching learning disabled students will be interviewed(Onwuegbuzie, Leech,& Collins, 2010). The results of the interviews will add to previous findings providing administrators and staff with pertinent information that could improve students with learning disabilities academic achievements (Onwuegbuzie, Leech, & Collins, 2010).Semi-structured face-to-face interviews, with open-ended questions, will be conducted (Yin, 2009).

Population

The targeted population for this study will be administrators and teachers who service identified students with learning disabilities at threehigh schoolsand middle schools located in North Carolina. The schools under study will be 6th through 12th grades targeting twelve administrators, and a combination of thirty instructional teachers to include regular education and special education teachers. These teachers and administrators will be certified in their area of expertise, full time, and have five years or more in teaching or administrative leadership. The participants will be a combination of males and females in different age categories and different ethnical backgrounds
The use of 6-12 interviews will allow for data saturation permitting themes and interpretations in studies that seek to understand perceptions and experiences amongst particular groups (Mason, 2010). The Purposive sample that will be used will allow documentation of the phenomenon. The sample that will be used to achieve representation and saturation includes twelve administrators and a combination of thirty regular and special education teachers from three identified high and middle schools in Cumberland County (Mason,2010)..
After approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) committee at Northcentral University, an introduction of the researcher and purpose of study will be submitted to the superintendent of Cumberland County schools requesting permission to proceed with the study. A letter of intent will be mailed to the participating schools. The participants will receive an email introducing the researcher and research purpose. The selected participants will be asked to sign an informed consent as a voluntary agreement to participate in the study. Participants will be informed of their rights, the research purpose, and any potential risks that might be involved.A purposive sample will be used from the total number of administrators and teachers who respond to the email.

Materials/Instruments

Dr. Till mentioned in the Executive Summary, the achievements and the areas for improvement in CCS. The researcher will gather detailed information about the achievements and their significance for leadership in providing the equal opportunities to marginalized students and students with learning disability. The researcher will also discuss the leadership approach adopted by the Principals and its efficacy in teachers' high-quality performance. the teachers will be asked to explain how the leadership approach has affected their performance.
Responses from administrators and teachers will develop themes for interview questions based on perceptions of transformational leadership styles and its influence on students with learning disabilities academic achievements. Interview questions will be easy to understand, unbiased, and grammatically concise on an eighth grade level (Yin, 2009). Prior to data collecting the researcher will conduct a pilot test of the interviews with administrators and teachers in order to become more familiar with the qualitative interview.

The other interesting discussion will be based upon the areas marked for

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improvement. The researcher will discuss the causal factors necessitating improvement in the areas mentioned in the Executive Summary. The focus will be on the proposed professional
training to the teachers and the importance of communications (feedback and follow-up) between the administrators and the teachers.
Considering the size of CCS and the number of the interviews with the administrators and the teachers, the study will have to be planned in a well-structured schedule. The observations, information/data received during the individual interviews and group discussions will be chronologically documented.
The use of computer technology in the research survey will prove to be very convenient and facilitative. The storage and analysis of the data will be easier to access and evaluate further for analysis and arriving at findings.

Data Collection

Data will be gathered through interviews and questionnaires. Dedoose software will be used to assist with the qualitative analysis. Survey instruments will be administered in an online environment with a URL created by a Web-Based program known as Survey Monkey. In dissertation research, Survey Monkey is commonly used for both business and educational institutions as data collection services. An online survey administration method sent to staff members at different locations is a pragmatic approach to sending the participants the survey link, but also present advantages for the data analysis stage (Yin, 2009). The data analysis stratification and interpretation of results will be conducted in the software package called Dedoose (Singh, 2013). The themes and results will be analyzed by the researcher. The researcher will create codes and labels to key into the computer while sorting through the interviews, field notes, and voice recordings (Yin, 2009).

After receiving approval from the IRB Committee and permission from the

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superintendent of Cumberland County schools to engage in the research, a pilot test will be conducted. Once approval has been given by the superintendent to proceed with the study, an e-mail will be sent to all participants with information on the study and instructions on how to complete the survey. Semi-structured interview questions and the link to the Survey Monkey will be included in the e-mail. The main research study will follow the field study. The twelve administrators and thirty instructional teachers will receive an e-mail inviting them to participate in the proposed research study. A 30-minute interview will be scheduled with each participant.

Interviews

Once informed consent is received from participants, a 30 minute face-to-face interview will be held during the day when teachers are on their planning periods or in the administrators’ office if it is an administrator being interviewed. In-depth exploration and understanding of transformational leadership and its’ influence on students with learning disability academic achievements will allow participants to respond and share their views using their own thoughts and words. Through an interview process, administrators and teachers will be asked to respond to semi-structured questions and provide any data about their perceptions of transformational leadership and its' effects on students with learning disabilities academic achievements. The attempt will be to show how theories give structure to the administrators and teachers' views. A tape recorder will be used to document participants’ responses, providing an in-depth analysis of the participant responses. The researcher will play the recorder back as needed to transcribe information. Hand written notes will also be taken.

Archival/Current Documents

Documents that contain archival and current data on students with learning disabilities
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progress and achievement scores will be used as additional sources. The researcher is an employee of Cumberland County schools; therefore, will have access to these records. The archival and current documents are stored in a state computer generated program called Power Schools. The researcher will also have access to the students with learning disabilities standardized test scores and report cards, all stored in Powers School.

Data Processing and Analysis

The data will be analyzed and descriptions and themes will be identified. The data analysis will code and search for emerging themes from the administrators and teachers responses. The themes will be defined as they emerge from field notes (0nwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007). The researcher will code the data using descriptive words to categorize information and analyze the information using Dedoose software. Constructs of Dedoose will be used for data coding and categories that form the analysis framework. Dedoose evaluation software will be used to form the analysis framework to code emerging patterns. Interpretational analysis will allow the researcher to examine the data and divide the data into segments that will be coded using descriptive words and symbols. The researcher will be able to observe discrepancies, themes, constructs, and patterns that will contribute to understanding the perception of administrators and teachers views of transformational leadership and its influence on students with learning disabilities academic achievements.
Data from the questionnaires and interviews will be validated for accuracy (Yin, 2009). Triangulation will allow the researcher to compare the interview data with students with learning disabilities progress reports and report cards providing validation for the study. Upon completion, the final report will be shared with administrators and teachers who participated to ensure validity (Cozby, 2009).
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Summary

Using a qualitative case study design the researcher will be able to understand and identify administrators and teachers perceptions on transformational leadership practices and its' influence on students with learning disabilities academic achievements. A single case study will offer various ways of collecting detailed and descriptive data through open-ended question interviews and surveys. This study will include twelve administrators and a combination of thirty special education and regular education teachers employed with Cumberland County Schools. Data collected from interviews and surveys, will be analyzed to form constructs, patterns and themes. Data will also be triangulated using interview answers.
The results from this study will expand and contribute to current literature regarding transformational leadership styles and its influence on students with learning disabilities academic achievements. The significance of this study allows for the findings to provide relevant field information and assist current and future educational leaders to be better prepared to serve students with learning disabilities and increase their academic achievements.
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