Date Approved

2017

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David M. Anderson, Ed.D., Chair

Committee Member

Gary E. Marx, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Barbara A. Bleyaert, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Ethan Lowenstein, Ph.D.

Abstract

Contemporary educational reform has attempted to improve teaching quality and raise student achievement through high-stakes teacher evaluation and through the introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, to advance teaching and learning, instructional leaders must shift their focus from teacher evaluation and the CCSS themselves to how teachers attempt to meet the CCSS in their classrooms through decisions about curriculum, instruction, and assessment and why they make those decisions. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study is to develop a deep understanding about the elements of, and interactions between, a fifth grade teacher’s educational belief system (consisting of his central beliefs, his values, his attitudes, and his opinions), goals (primary and secondary), enactment of the English Language Arts (ELA) CCSS, and his reflection.

This dissertation utilized a grounded theory approach and a single-case study design that consisted of pre-observation interviews, three-hour classroom observations, and post-observation debriefing sessions in four cycles over the course of a semester, along with a final philosophical interview that occurred after the final observation cycle. The findings were derived from an extensive analysis of the interview transcripts, the field notes and video footage from the classroom observations, the artifacts that were collected, and the pictures that were taken.

The findings include a detailed description of the contents of the teacher’s educational belief system, his goals, his enactment, and his reflection, and the grounded theory is represented by a culminating model, which visually depicts the interaction among those constructs. This was a remarkable case in which the teacher’s educational belief system, goals, enactment, and reflection were congruent, and the findings were consistent with Rokeach (1968) and Pajares’ (1992) theories about beliefs, Argyris and Schon’s (1974) action theory, Bandura’s (1986) theories about self-efficacy, Locke and Latham’s (1990) goal theory, and Doolittle’s (1999) theories about constructivist learning. A key finding that emerged was the importance of the teacher’s goals, which were vital to inferring the contents of his educational belief system and to better understanding his decisions about curriculum, instruction, and assessment during the enactment process. Furthermore, the teacher’s goals were at the center of his reflective process as he evaluated how effective the enactment was in achieving his goals and the resulting plans he made to maintain his instructional plan or to adjust it to better meet his goals.

While not generalizable beyond this case, the results of this study could have implications for instructional leaders who work with similar teachers in hopes of improving the quality of teaching and learning in their classrooms. If this was a representative case that exemplifies the extant literature, the recommendations would be to seek a deep understanding, apart from the teacher evaluation process, regarding the interactions amongst the teacher’s educational belief systems, goals, enactment, and reflection, and to use the deep understanding acquired by engaging the teacher in a highly reflective process to help him or her obtain tighter congruence, or recognize the existing congruence, amongst the elements of his or her educational belief systems, goals, and enactment.

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