Curriculum and Instruction Dissertations

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    A Phenomenological Study Exploration of Pre-planned Thematic Units in Preschool and Kindergarten
    (2023-03-24) Fischer, Deborah Ann
    Preschool and kindergarten staff can leverage organized planning strategies to support the use of integrative thematic units. However, early-year teachers state dilemmas in selecting, preparing, and executing integrative thematic units. Challenges surface when the staff tries to follow children‘s interests and inquiries, deliver lessons, and compile materials to support lesson design. When preschool and kindergarten staff select thematic units beforehand, teachers may feel best equipped to plan, target student objectives, prepare lesson resources, and maintain lesson consistency within grade levels. Pre-selecting and pre-planning can also support diverse learners such as English Language Learners (ELLs), special needs students, or students with multiple intelligences or learning styles. Conversely, selecting thematic units more spontaneously based on the students‘ current interests could help excel a students‘ motivation to learn more effectively. This study analyzed 15 preschool and kindergarten teachers‘ thoughts and lived experiences using pre-planned or unplanned integrative thematic units within one specific, large international early childhood center in Germany. Having gathered and evaluated thoughts, opinions, livedexperiences, and planning methods from the 15 participants, the study results may prove transferable and beneficial to other contexts involving integrative thematic units in the early years.
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    Performance-Based Assessment as Basis for Curriculum Enhancement: A Basic Qualitative Study
    (2023-02-10) Pagharion, Mary Grace C.
    Performance-based assessment (PBA) is a test type critical in determining students' proficiency in Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program (MCAP) Algebra 1. Students' poor performance in the PBA section, comprising half of the test, resulted in the continued decline of the MCAP Algebra 1 proficiency rate since 2015 (Maryland State Department of Education, 2020). The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore teachers' perceptions to help explain why students struggle in PBA, leading to the decline of the MCAP Algebra 1 proficiency rate since 2015. Engagement and Dewey's progressivism theories served as the study's foundation. The literature gap indicates no relevant study specific to PBA and math proficiency. Research questions focused on teachers' perceptions to help explain why students struggle in PBA and strategies to improve students' Algebra 1 MCAP proficiency. Data collection used an in-depth semi-structured interview via Zoom meeting portal from 15 Algebra 1 teachers from 10 county high schools in Maryland based on the selection criteria: current Algebra 1 teachers with at least two years of experience teaching Algebra 1. The semi-structured interview recordings were transcribed using, sorted, and coded for thematic analysis, identifying overarching and sub-themes within the data set. Study findings are: (a) PBA is a critical component in determining college and career readiness, (b) students lack the foundational knowledge and skills in performing PBA, and (c) curriculum enhancement strategies may help improve students' PBA performance. The school system may consider suggested curriculum enhancement and development strategies to improve students' MCAP Algebra 1 proficiency.
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    A Qualitative Study on the Academic Perspectives of Military Families
    (2022-12-18) Espinoza, Valarie R.
    The purpose of the basic qualitative study was to understand the perspectives of military service members regarding their children’s academic challenges and the support currently provided at military-connected schools. The study aimed to fill the knowledge gap to better prepare stakeholders to support military families during their transitions. The problem was the academic roadblocks students of military service members faced when they moved from one duty station to another. The research study revealed military service members’ perspectives about the academic challenges their children experienced when transitioning from one military installation to another. The study also revealed what military service members perceived about their child’s academic support in school. Data collection involved observable, verifiable, and confirmable evidence to supporting the research questions. Interviews and surveys were used in the study. The participants included 15 military service members, their spouses, and veterans. The following themes emerged from the data analysis: lack of support given to military families, career and family security, minimal support for students with disabilities during relocations, the need for improved communication and consistency, and resiliency and support. Recommendations for further research can be expanded in the following ways: seeking the perspectives of educators, administrators, school district superintendents, and government personnel involved in the policy-making that supports military families.
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    Integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Curriculum and Teacher Efficacy: A Qualitative Study
    (2022-12-05) Morgan, Sophia N.
    The problem is the lack of an explicit curriculum to support teacher efficacy in providing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. The need for teacher efficacy is especially salient when providing STEM instruction because STEM education remains largely undefined and sometimes lacks clear standards. This study sought to explore and understand: (a) the support teachers need from the curriculum to become efficacious in providing STEM learning experiences; (b) the role of an integrated STEM curriculum to support teacher efficacy at an international school; and (c) the responsibility of school leaders, including curriculum writers and principals, to support teacher efficacy when using an integrated STEM curriculum for instruction. Although much of the existing literature has emphasized a need for efficacious teachers in the classroom, the role of an integrated STEM curriculum in supporting teacher efficacy development is unknown. The conceptual framework developed by Kelley and Knowles, in conjunction with Bandura’s self-efficacy theory, served as the theoretical framework for the study. This study used interviews and field notes to gather data from a convenient sample of 11 teachers and six school administrators who volunteered to participate in the integrated STEM initiative at the research site. An emergent methodology was used to analyze the data to understand the experiences and the meanings teachers and administrators attributed to teaching with an integrated curriculum. The findings confirmed an integrated STEM curriculum is essential in developing teacher efficacy for teaching students STEM skills. The curriculum provided a common language for teachers and school administrators and supported teachers’ comfort with STEM instruction. Keywords: teacher efficacy, explicit curriculum, integrated STEM, localized curriculum, Sphero
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    A Qualitative Phenomenological Study of Educator Perspectives on Full Inclusive Teaching Environments
    (2022) Yates-Bledsoe, Cheryl
    The problem was general education classroom educators in a rural northeast Ohio school district did not identify as prepared to provide effective instruction to learners of wide-ranging academic and physical abilities in inclusive classroom. Study significance was evident in organizational shifts benefiting inclusive model educators and students. Stakeholders may benefit from research findings, with positive impact on inclusive models. Literature gaps existed regarding teacher training and need identification supporting inclusive students. Transformational leadership and social constructivist theories provided the theoretical framework for the study. Key research questions prompted seeking lived experience of inclusive educators, documentation of the experience, instructional strategies, and administrative elements supporting teachers. The purpose of the study was to understand how general education teachers perceived preparation to provide effective instruction in inclusive classrooms. In this hermeneutic phenomenological study, data were collected using semistructured interviews from 15 K-12 general education teachers in inclusive classrooms at the site, excluding intervention specialists. Data collection included professional development transcript analysis, demographic inquiry, and semistructured interviews utilizing a researcher-created instrument, with thematic analysis model examination of data. Transcriptions were member-checked by participants. Multiple data encounters established familiarity, initiating coding for theme identification and labeling. Latent expression and patterns were evaluated to saturation, and codes collapsed for interpretation related to research questions. Key results yielded insufficient training and ineffective application of least restrictive environment (LRE). Co-teaching models were identified as ineffective resulting in failed authentic differentiation and tiered instruction. Recommendations included time for professional development and increasing opportunities for co-planning and cooperative teaching. Keywords: IDEA, ESSA, inclusive teaching, inclusive classrooms, inclusive efficacy, student outcome inclusion, characteristics of learners with disabilities, teacher preparedness for inclusion, social learning theory, social constructivism, transformational leadership