Teacher decision making in reading instruction with choices and mandates
Ciminelli, Michelle R.
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In this qualitative research study, I attempted to understand and describe what happens when elementary school teachers have a choice of instructional methods and materials for teaching reading, as well as decisions made when given a mandated reading program. In particular, I wished to discover the choices educational professionals make in reading instruction throughout the year, and the processes of those choices. Additionally, I examined the similarities and differences in the decisions educational professional make about instructional reading programs across the year among various populations such as veteran vs. novice teachers, various grade levels, looping vs. non-looping, team teachers, and teachers vs. principal. Finally, I wanted to explore the factors that influenced educators’ decision-making processes. Theories of social constructivism, decision making, and reflective practice guided the design and methodology for the study. This study was conducted over a ten month period in a rural elementary school. Participants included nine kindergarten through fourth grade teachers, the school principal, and the district curriculum specialist. Data for this study were collected through multiple interviews and field observations, as well as artifacts related to reading programs and instructional practices. The data were analyzed through open, axial, and selective coding phases (Creswell, 2007). As became evident early in the study, and increasingly so as data collection and analysis progressed, teacher decision making differed depending on whether or not participants had choice in how to teach reading. The data revealed several factors that influenced teacher decision making when allowed choice in reading instruction, including student needs, colleagues, the need for support and guidance, professional development, and time constraints. With the mandated program, teacher decision making was influenced by training, a process of modifications, and fear and risk taking. I present two models of decision making; one represents decision making with choice, and the other represents decision making with a mandated program. Several implications for administrators, professional development, and teacher education were drawn from the findings of this study in regard to assisting teachers in the implementation of reading instruction.