Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Cheryl A. Getz, EdD; Lea A. Hubbard, EdD; Terri Monroe, PhD


adult learning, group relations conference, Grounded theory, Leadership studies, K-8 principals, school administrators, school leadership, Transformational learning theory


The role of the principal as a change agent is at the forefront of the conversation regarding the state of schools in public education, yet little is known about how group relations work can enhance a principal's ability to engage in this work. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, this study examined the change in attitudes and behaviors of K-8 principals who participated in a Group Relations Conference. A grounded theory approach was employed to address the following research questions: How do principals understand and describe their learning after participating in a Group Relations Conference? How do they apply their learning to their professional life? What are the differences in an individual's reported perceptions and application of the learning (if any)? Data was gathered through individual interviews with nine participants. Building on transformational learning theory, typically attributed to the research of Jack Mezirow, Monroe and her colleagues have crafted an excellent site in which to examine how principal leaders modify their worldview regarding leadership and how they are able to apply that learning to their professional roles over time. This study found that the learning that resulted from participation in the conferences was related to an individual's predisposition to the Group Relations Conference. Participants' openness affected not only their level of participation at the conference but also their ability to apply that learning after the conference. Overall learning from the conference experience also relied heavily on a participants' willingness to read and reflect upon pre-conference materials and readings. This information may assist conference directors better prepare for the conference, enhance participants' learning outcomes and, in the case of school leaders, potentially impact their ability to affect change at their school sites. The findings of this research contribute to our knowledge of adult learning theory as it relates to Group Relations Conferences in the context of K-8 administrators.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access