Theses Doctoral

Documenting Teachers' Experiences of Participating in a Locally Initiated District-Based Professional Development Program

Choi, Linda J.

Professional development (PD) is often viewed as essential to improve classroom practices--as a way to create changes in districts, changes in classrooms, and changes in teachers--which, in turn, strives to improve student learning. Many insist that for a PD initiative to be successful, it needs to create changes in teachers’ classroom practices, who are indeed at the ground level of interpreting, implementing, adapting, and enacting what PD offers. Researchers claim that teacher resistance is the central problem of PD failure (Janas, 1998).
Confined to the duality of compliance vs. resistance to PD, teachers either change or do not change according to the grading system that the administrators and researchers impose. A binary view of teachers who meet the expectations and those who do not meet the expectations of the district and PD personnel is, then, inadequate to studying the process of what happens beyond that narrow conception of teachers who participate in district/school-wide PD. V. Richardson (2003) argues that teacher resistance is a symptom of a disconnect between a structural reform agenda and teachers’ concern for teaching students well.
Within the context of a locally initiated PD program that included elements of effective PD proposed by a body of research, I examined a select group of participating teachers’ experiences. Based on the classroom practice of a teacher whose students have shown drastic growth on high stakes tests despite social factors, the district had expanded the program as a district-wide initiative. Using care theory, I specifically explored changes in 12 teachers’ beliefs and practices as a result of their PD participation, in addition to identifying factors that facilitated program implementation.
The results showed that the “caring teacher” identity mediated classroom practice changes, that teachers selectively used PD based on the feedback from their students rather than changes to their knowledge and beliefs. Based on this reciprocity, teachers’ self-identification as caring teachers defies traditional labeling of participating members as “compliant” or “resistant”; all teachers in the study described how caring about and caring for their students led to program implementation with a varying degree of fidelity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Goodwin, A. Lin
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 13, 2018