Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

John H. Schuh


In the last decade, research universities have been called upon to reform undergraduate education (Boyer Commission, 1998). Faculty members are key participants in undergraduate education improvement efforts, such as learning communities. Although it has been suggested that learning communities have far-reaching potential for influencing faculty renewal and development, relatively little is known about their impact on participating faculty. This study examined mid-career faculty members' involvement in learning communities to discover outcomes of their participation and to explore the degree to which the construct of vitality can appropriately describe and illuminate their experiences in learning communities. The theoretical framework and methodology informing this study was phenomenology, and three qualitative methods of data collection (interviews, document analysis, and observations) were utilized. Faculty identified seven positive outcomes of their learning community participation: satisfaction/pride in work; opportunity to experiment/take risks; relationships with students; relationships with colleagues; scholarship of learning communities; opportunity to educate for democracy/citizenship; and personal insights and reaffirmation of one's work. Five negative outcomes were revealed, including: time demands; cliques of students; occasional failure of certain aspects of the learning community; departmental indifference/resistance; and lack of rewards. The outcomes realized by participants of this study connect to mid-career faculty development needs as presented in the literature suggesting that learning communities provide an environment and experiences that are rich in faculty development potential for mid-career faculty members. Additionally, learning communities attract faculty who possess traits associated with vitality and provide opportunities to further enhance vitality. Learning communities foster vitality by: serving as a boundary-spanning activity where faculty can merge various work interests; allowing faculty to engage in purposeful production; and providing faculty with experiences that contribute to feelings of energy, excitement, and engagement with their work. Overall, learning communities provide an environment that fosters both mid-career faculty development and faculty vitality. However, the faculty development potential and related outcomes of learning communities should not be left to chance. Intentional and systematic efforts to create and refine environments and opportunities within learning communities should be undertaken so that faculty can reap the greatest possible benefits from their participation.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Shari L. Ellertson



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

185 pages