Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Amy Flint

Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle Zoss

Third Advisor

Dr. Peggy Albers

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Ramona Matthews

Abstract

This study examined an aspect of educational policy that has on the whole, been neglected in the extensive sum of research conducted on the topic. Specifically, it sought to investigate the ways in which elementary teachers navigate and negotiate the policy context in which they work and teach. The framework for this study examined the mediated constructs of teacher practices in politically restrictive environments through the theoretical lenses of symbolic interactionism and critical pedagogy. Symbolic interactionism was used to interpret the actions, both individual and social, of the participants as they discussed the ways in which they cope with educational policies and the impact on them as individuals and as educators. Critical pedagogy was employed to investigate issues of power, and how this power affected those navigating educational policies. (Freire, 1970). The participants in this study were three early childhood teachers; all with a vast amount of teaching experiences. Qualitative interview data (Seidman, 2013) was collected to understand and report the philosophical and social constructs that served as a catalyst for the meaning-making process behind educational policies and the ways in which teachers understand and implement them into classroom practice. Constant comparative analysis was used to identify codes and later, categories as they emerged through a comparison of the data. In addition, discourse analysis; specifically Gee’s (2011) seven building tasks were applied to identify the ways in which power was exercised daily in schools, classrooms, and in the politically charged realm of education. Findings reveal that boundaries separating one’s home life from one’s teaching life are nonexistent, as well as a lack of humanness present in the current teaching environment creates a sense of despondency by the participants as they reflect on how their own agency as educators is placed into the hands of policy makers. Moreover, a critical need exists to build relationships between policy makers and teachers as both groups continue to work and move forward for the positive advancement of students and teachers.

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