Type of Document Dissertation Author Pienta, Rachel Sutz Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-08242005-194718 Title Making Sense of Teachers' Work Lives: A Qualitative Study of Teachers in Florida Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Sande Milton Committee Chair Pamela Flood Committee Member Patrice Iatarola Committee Member Patricia Martin Committee Member Keywords
- Teacher Motivation
- Learner Centered Teaching
- Florida Education Policy
- Teacher Engagement
- National Board Certified Teachers
- Teacher Retention
- Role Of The Principal
- Teacher Education
- Middle School Teachers
- Elementary School Teachers
Date of Defense 2004-04-30 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe primary purpose of this study was to contribute to the understanding of how committed, engaged teachers construct their work lives. This study focused in particular on how “star” teachers who stay in the classroom sustain engagement in and make meaning of their professional experience. The nine teachers selected to participate in this study were all public school teachers in Florida. Each of the teachers included in the study taught in either the elementary or middle grades. All had been teaching for five or more years.
A qualitative approach was utilized in this study to explore the work lives of the participating teachers and to identify factors that contribute to their professional longevity. This methodology included focused in-depth interviews and personal classroom observations. The interviews were structured using in-depth, phenomenologically based interviewed interviewing (Seidman, 1998) that allowed the researcher and the teacher to engage in a guided conversation.
Open and focused coding methods were used to analyze the data (Anfara et al, 2002; Emerson et al, 1995; Guba and Lincoln, 1985). Conceptual categories were developed from emergent themes (Harry et al, 2005). A process of thematic analysis provided a means by which to give structure and a framework for description (Van Manen, 1990).
Six findings about star teachers emerged from the study. The star teachers had five behaviors in common and also shared one organizational factor. The teachers all engage in the following actions: (1) seek opportunities to learn and enrich their practice in ways that will improve classroom teaching; (2) employ adaptive strategies to meet systemic challenges; (3) work to develop rich professional collaborative relationships with other teachers; (4) want to recognized and respected for their professional efforts; and (5) view students as important partners in a democratic learning community. The organizational factor common to the star teacher is the need to have a supportive principal.
The study highlighted how principals and teachers work together in school cultures that support collaboration and innovation. The study recommendations call for a system-wide “reculturing” that would change “individually and collaboratively held meanings” about schools and learning (Sergiovanni, 2000, p. 147).
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