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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Theresa Andrea Nugent
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research and Technology
Title: A Narrative Inquiry of Teachers’ Perceptions Regarding Their Professional Development Experiences
Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer, Chair
Dr. Gary Wegenke
Dr. Patricia O’Brien
Date: Thursday, November 8, 2007 3:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.
1354 Ellsworth Hall
The purpose of this narrative inquiry study was to explore teachers’ perceptions of their professional development experiences. Qualitative studies are needed to truly understand through “thick rich” descriptions (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) what is happening (or not) from the viewpoint of the classroom teacher in reference to their professional development experiences and related impact on student outcomes. In an era of accountability, teachers’ voices are essential for understanding potential connections between teacher learning, via professional development experiences, and improved student outcomes.
This research project involved a purposeful sample of eight first-grade and second-grade teachers, identified by their principals as “committed” to a life-long love of learning and to applying new knowledge gained from professional development experiences into their classrooms. These teachers reflected on the experiences they valued, how they applied their learning to support student-learning outcomes, the types of support they received, and the barriers they encountered.
The findings of this study reveal that teachers value professional development experiences that improve their teaching strategies and offer relevant and practical knowledge. To be successful, teachers believe that they need more time to conduct ongoing informal dialogue with colleagues while applying new learning. In addition to support from colleagues, teachers benefit from the additional assistance provided by internal coaches. Teachers experience barriers related to lack of time and sense of ownership, preconceived notions, insufficient training, and management of noncompliant student behaviors.
In reference to student outcomes, these first-grade and second-grade teachers primarily used their observational skills rather than formal assessments to evaluate the impact of new teacher learning on student outcomes. Most teachers did not make a formal connection between participating in professional development experiences and improved achievement from their students. These findings have important implications for the kind of support and follow-up needed in planning professional development opportunities in an era of accountability.