Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Norman Weston

Second Advisor

Dr. Ignacio Lopez

Third Advisor

Dr. Sandra Stringer


This program evaluation examines MindQuest21, a project-based learning (PBL) model that was implemented in a Chicago, Illinois suburban community. It began with a summer institute experience with a group of approximately seventy teachers in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. These teachers volunteered to attend a four-day MindQuest21 professional development seminar where they actively participated in a facilitated PBL model of instruction and collaborated on the development of PBL units within their district. A pre-post survey was used to compare teacher confidence increases and PBL understanding after the summer institute. This was followed by teacher interviews, follow-up sessions, classroom visits, and examinations of student artifacts. This study aims to be a resource for other school districts interested in implementing a highly collaborative PBL professional learning process within their school community. Data collected throughout the first-year implementation served as invaluable formative and summative information sources to identify specific themes and recommendations. Conceptual frameworks structure the recommendations in categories of strategic action. These recommended actions include; shifting from traditional staff development to professional learning systems, building internal sustainability for change, exploring stakeholder belief systems, moving from curriculum delivery to investing in curriculum development, and fostering environments where learning is optimized through active experiences. The research reveals insights and provides direction for educators seeking to transform their teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of our expanding and diverse 21st Century students.



I would like to express my deepest appreciation to my committee chair, Dr. Norman Weston, who guided and supported me throughout this study. His nurturing encouragement and unwavering belief in my capabilities were unrelenting. Without his guidance and persistent help this dissertation would not have been possible.

I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Purinton, Dr. Lopez, and Dr. Stringer who invested their valuable time, graciously provided their expert advice, and kept me grounded through the writing process of this study. I thank National Louis University for embracing diversity and fostering academic excellence.

In addition, many thanks to Mr. James Bellanca and the Illinois Consortium for 21st Century Schools for inviting me to be an integral part of this exciting and transformative professional development endeavor. With gratitude to the many teachers and administrators who contributed their time, genuine efforts, suggestions for improvement, and professionalism during this study.

I’d like to also thank my family and friends who were there for me in so many supportive ways. I am truly blessed to have been raised by proud Mexican parents who believed in a better life for their children. To my children, Joseph and Andrea, thank you for keeping me real. A special thank you to my dear friends; Dr. George Chipain, who helped me persevere during this important work, Mrs. Sulma Grigalunas, the kindest spirit I’ve ever known, and Mr. Thomas Avery, my lifelong colleague and friend who never stopped believing.

“You haven’t seen the best of me. I’m still working on my masterpiece.”