Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Michelle Zoss, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Daphne Greenberg, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Philo Hutcheson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Dana L. Fox, Ph.D.


This study examined what has largely been overlooked in educational research: What happens to educational reforms in teachers’ classrooms when they shut the door and teach? Few researchers have talked with teachers to understand their experiences with educational reforms. I framed this narrative inquiry in sociocultural theories of culture (Bruner, 1996; Cole, 1996; Smagorinsky, 2001; Vygotsky, 1978) and experience (Dewey, 1938/1997) to provide lenses for understanding the history, setting, activities, and artifacts that informed how veteran teachers taught during different eras of reform. The participants were three English teachers who started teaching shortly before significant moments in educational reform began to take hold in a small town high school. I employed narrative theory (Bruner, 1987) toward the collection, analysis, and reporting of data to position the study in ways that honored the stories and experiences of the teachers. The methodology included detailed, multi-layered analyses of reform documents as well as multiple individual and group interviews. This study opened the door of three classrooms and told the story of three teachers as they experienced reforms over time from the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Supreme Court ruling to the publishing of the report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) to the passing of the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind (2002). I found that veteran teachers who believed their practices were already in line with the mandates passed down, altered little in their teaching practices. In the culture of this English department, traditions and years of experience played a more valuable and steadfast role than the educational reforms that came from the federal and state governments.