Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Jay Fiene


Educational attainment in the United States is at the highest levels since recording started, yet large numbers of students are not completing education at the secondary and postsecondary levels. This lack of education impacts their long-term prospects for living wage careers, stable housing and the ability to support both themselves and their families. A growing response to this crisis is the development of cross-sector collaborative partnerships to address educational attainment resulting in an educated and skilled workforce that will ultimately improve prosperity in a community or region. This collaborative work has expanded as a result of growing recognition that all sectors of the economy have a stake in education as a way to create strong communities and regional prosperity. While evidence of the challenges in educating all students abounds, evidence of success in collaborative partnership efforts to improve education is sparse.

This constructivist grounded theory research study was developed to explore the collaborative behaviors leading to success in improving educational outcomes for all students. Leaders at the executive and operational levels of collaborative partnerships participated in this study through a three-phase process of semi-structured interviews. Data collection and analysis for this study used a process of constant comparison and occurred simultaneously with a comprehensive literature review. Participants in this research study represented collaborative partnerships from across the United States that are focused on improving educational attainment at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Four findings from this research study support an overarching substantive grounded theory that explicates the importance of moral purpose as the underpinning for achievement of collaborative outcomes. The findings further describe the behaviors necessary for success in crafting strong relationships, building trust, and communicating for impact. These interpersonal behaviors can be supported by the presence of psychological safety at the group level to maximize the efficacy of collaborative partnerships to achieve systems improvements in education. This study also encourages all collaborative partnerships to consider using a continuous improvement approach to their work grounded in intellectual humility. The study concludes with recommendations for future research to further explore the implications of psychological safety in the context of collaborative partnerships, noting that both intellectual humility and curiosity are aligned with the concepts of psychological safety and continuous improvement or improvement science.