Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Amy Broemmel

Committee Members

Stergios Botzakis, Mary Catherine Hammon, Jennifer Jordan, Anne McGill-Franzen


Inspired by a desire to improve teacher professional development so that teachers could better meet the needs of all their students, this study proposed a new construct for teacher development that included both personal and professional development. The construct, whole(hearted) teacher development, referred to both growth and it’s necessary learning environment and was constructed from marrying four theories: Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s (2009, 2016) idea of mental complexity generated from constructive-developmentalism; Mary Belenky and Colleagues’ (1997) Women’s Ways of Knowing; Jack Mezirow’s (1991) Transformative Learning; and Brene Brown’s (2006) Shame Resilience Theory. Growth inside whole(hearted) teacher development was defined as when teachers grew in how they understood their experiences and came to know things and how they understood and employed shame and vulnerability. Such growth required a learning environment that allowed the learner to direct their own learning and operate as an equal, free from knowledge hierarchies or judgment. For the purposes of this study, a literacy professional development (PD) was designed and implemented to foster and support whole(hearted) teacher development. This qualitative, multi-case study examined two teachers’ experiences with whole(hearted) teacher development inside a semester-long literacy PD. PD sessions were recorded and transcribed along with each teacher’s pre and post classroom observations and Subject Object Interviews and an informal check-in. The data were analyzed for patterns in participants’ interactions within the professional development sessions, changes in their cognitive development, and changes in their literacy practices following the case study data collection protocol. The analysis resulted in identifying that participants were vulnerable and empathetic at varying degrees; the two participants each had a specific learning process; and one participant experienced whole(hearted) teacher development growing both her mental complexity and her instructional practices whereas the other participant only changed her instructional practice. The findings in this study suggest that personal development along with professional learning is critical for teacher growth and development.

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