Nell E. Ballard-Jones, Ph.D. is a 2021 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Nell E. Ballard-Jones at her Dissertation Defense.

From L-R: Dr.Leann Kaiser, Committee Member, Dr. J. Beth Mabry, Committee Chair, Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • J. Beth Mabry, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Leann Kaiser Ph.D., Committee Member


narrative inquiry, critical competencies, soft skills, adult learning, transfer of learning/training, teachers, decision making, professional development, thematic analysis, leadership

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School districts spend millions of dollars each year to provide training and learning to staff working in direct and indirect service to students (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2021). This financial commitment says nothing about what is even more important: the need for school employees and the systems in which we work to serve students more effectively. Despite vast allocations of time and money and presumably best intentions for better social and academic outcomes for students, very little data exist that reflect regular transfer and application of training/learning into professional practice (Nittler et al., 2015). By and large, schools and school systems look the same today as they did 50+ years ago despite the fact that the world looks very different and so much more is known about the cognitive process and contextual contributors involved in erudition development. Teacher application of critical competencies such as cultural responsiveness, trauma informed practices, social emotional learning and basic neuroscience in the ways they conceptualize and implement instructional practices may not be easily apparent during casual observation, yet they are inextricably linked to positive academic and social outcomes for students, thus imperative to effective professional practice. This study investigates the ways in which professional educators make decisions about the transfer and application of professional learning centered on critical competencies (soft skills) in their daily work. Narrative Inquiry (NI) provided the methodological frame for this exploratory study that through thematic analysis surfaced five key factors influencing learning transfer: Instructor/Presenter/Facilitator; Connection to Lived Experience; Relevance to Job Assignment; Alignment with Self-Identity; and COVID–19. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( ) and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Nell Ballard-Jones

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-4720-2999

Dr. Nell Ballard-Jones has been a public-school educator in the Seattle area for more than 20 years. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Washington before beginning her education career. Dr. Ballard-Jones has worked as a high school social studies teacher and school administrator in both urban and suburban districts in large comprehensive schools as well as in smaller alternative settings. Her work is grounded in social justice, and she is steadfast in her commitment to and advocacy for the students with whom and for whom she works. Dr. Ballard-Jones believes in importance of learning as a perpetual state of being and that the behaviors and beliefs of teachers are critical to positive educational and social experiences and outcomes for students, thus society at large. Dr. Ballard-Jones’ scholarship is seated in adult learning and doing (transfer), she earned her PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University in 2021.