Date of Award

9-12-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Peggy Albers, Ph. D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Pearl A. McHaney, Ph. D.

Third Advisor

Mary P. Deming, Ph. D.

Fourth Advisor

Dana L. Fox, Ph. D.

Abstract

The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate the beliefs, philosophy, and experience of a veteran English teacher and how each of these constructs informed her classroom practice. This research, conducted in a metropolitan high school in the South, provides insight into the way a veteran teacher believes, practices in her classroom, and relates to her greater teaching milieu. The study is theoretically framed in Greene's (1971) notion of "doing philosophy" in which a teacher makes meaning from her reflected, lived-through experience, and Applebee's (1996) notion of curriculum as conversation for the teaching of language arts discourse. Research indicates that teacher's beliefs are personal (Munby, 1984; Pajares, 1992; Nespor, 1987), and transactional with practice (Richardson, 1991). Other research shows that beliefs may be tacitly or overtly held without manifestation (Fenstermacher, 1978; Green, 1971) but that they are the best gauges for the choices people make throughout their lives (Bandura, 1986; Nisbet & Ross, 1980). This study seeks to understand what a veteran teacher believes that may explain her practice. Data were collected over 15 weeks of an 18 week semester via observations, formal and informal interviews, and a researcher's log. Using a constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) the researcher determined recurring themes and structures in the data to explain beliefs into practice. The findings of this study showed that a veteran English teacher's beliefs were overtly held and practiced as a result of personal background, cumulative teaching experience, and certain conditions within the immediate and greater instructional setting. The study further indicated the teacher created personal meaning for herself and students, respectively, through practicing a form of professional autonomy from the greater teaching milieu and by creating a specialized learning community in her classroom. The results of this study suggest veteran teachers form self-inclusive practice based on beliefs and experiences, especially when conditions exist environmentally requiring the teacher be a self-sufficient practitioner.

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