Building Educational Leaders’ Capacity in a Community of Practice




collaboration, community of practice, professional learning, rural school leaders, self-efficacy


This qualitative study examined rural educational leaders’ perceptions of the outcomes of the 2019 Leadership Camps (LCs). This capacity-building opportunity helped educational leaders meet as a community of practice (CoP) where participants’ interactions contributed to learning with and from one another, reducing perceived isolation and increasing self-efficacy. We analyzed data collected from 242 participants’ responses using an open, axial, and selective coding process. With this sample, 52.5% of participants were rural educational leaders. Overall, educational leaders most often appreciated interacting, networking, and collaborating with peers. Additionally, educational leaders highlighted the importance of the in-depth understanding and application of the Leadership Standards and reflective practices. We claim that this approach to professional development within a CoP offers rural educational leaders various work-related growth opportunities, including fostering collaboration, promoting professional conversations, and creating a community for reduced isolation, which will likely enhance their job performance and satisfaction.


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Author Biographies

Théophile Muhayimana, University of Northern Iowa

Théophile Muhayimana, EdD, is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Department of Educational Psychology, Foundations, and Leadership Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He has been involved for 25 years in leadership for teacher and faculty professional growth, student learning and success, as well as school improvement in primary, secondary school, and higher education settings. He holds an EdD in Educational Leadership, an M.A. in Applied Linguistics/Language Teaching, and a B.A. in English. His major research interests lie in the area of professional learning, systemic change for school improvement, critical and inclusive pedagogies, and assessment.

Denise Schares, University of Northern Iowa

Denise Schares, EdD, currently serves as Associate Professor of Educational Psychology, Foundations, and Leadership Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. Her background includes a B.S. in Vocational Home Economics and Health, M.A. in Educational Psychology; Teaching, and an Curriculum and Instruction.

 Dr. Schares directs the University of Northern Iowa Institute for Educational Leadership, working to clarify important issues in education and to address the issues in an innovative and collaborative manner. She currently serves as Principal Investigator for a grant awarded by the Kern Family Foundation called Leading and Learning with Character.

Megan Ruxton, University of Northern Iowa

Megan M. Ruxton, PhD, is a Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at the University of Northern Iowa and an independent consultant in program evaluation. She received her doctorate from Colorado State University in Political Science, with an emphasis in environmental politics and policy. Her work focuses primarily on undergraduate and graduate training programs in STEM and STEM education, but is broadly situated in programs stressing interdisciplinary training and creating a training pipeline for underrepresented minorities.


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