Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Edward F. DeRoche, PhD, Chair; Douglas B. Fisher, PhD; Mary Woods Scherr, PhD


Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute (Williamsburg, VA), elementary schools, history, Leadership studies, professional development, qualitative, social studies, teachers


This qualitative study explored the experiences of ten teachers who participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute (CWTI) during an 11-year period. The researcher used in-depth interviewing to identify why these teachers participated in this institute, what they experienced and learned during the institute, and how the institute influenced their teaching as well as student learning of early American history. The participants in this study identified similar reasons for applying to the institute, which included a desire to gain more knowledge and skills to improve their teaching of early American history. Seven themes emerged as participants described their experiences during CWTI. These themes included lessons learned, such as increased knowledge of early American history; perspectives on history, teaching, and professional development; useful materials and teaching resources; supportive people; rising to the challenges of the institute; respect and professional treatment; and experiences that were positive and fun. Participants described returning to their classrooms with improved enthusiasm, understanding, resources, knowledge and skills to improve their teaching of early American history. While utilizing different methods in their classrooms to improve their own instruction, these participants also felt responsible to share with colleagues what they had experienced and learned. In addition, some participants felt responsible for supporting improvements in colleagues' classrooms. Since statewide assessment for elementary social studies in the state of California does not exist, participants self-described student learning in their classrooms as a result of CWTI. Participants reported an improvement of student interest in social studies, increased participation in social studies lessons, as well as improved achievement of knowledge and skills in early American history. CWTI provided a unique and impressionable professional development experience for these participants. Through their participation in this study and reflection on the experience and impact of CWTI, participants acknowledged powerful changes to their perceptions and practices of both social studies and professional development. The study concluded that CWTI makes a meaningful difference in the individual teaching practices and learning outcomes for participating teachers and their students, and that this organized, content-rich, experiential professional development program provides memorable and powerful opportunities for teachers to make lasting improvements in their practice.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access