FROM VISION TO PRACTICE: A CASE STUDY OF WRITING PROJECT TEACHERS
Singleton, Elizabeth M.
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This dissertation examines the experiences of three practicing teachers involved in a professional learning program focused on writing instruction as they envisioned and enacted new practices for teaching writing in their classrooms. A secondary aim of the study was to uncover the supports and barriers the teachers encountered as they attempted to implement their new ideas for improving their students’ writing in the midst of a reform-oriented literacy initiative in their high-needs school district. This study employed a qualitative multi-case study methodology to take an in-depth look at each teacher’s vision-to-practice process. Data sources from an examination of the visions, practices, and reflections of each of the three case study teachers included semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of documents produced during the professional learning program that captured teachers’ visions of good teaching. Findings lend insights into the dilemmas that teachers experience assimilating new teaching practices within their existing theoretical perspectives, beliefs, and established principles of practice. Teachers selected new practices that were aligned with their theoretical perspectives of writing development which informed their beliefs about students’ writing challenges and guided their implementation efforts in their classrooms. While beliefs about students’ challenges remained mostly unexamined, teachers developed new practices to address their beliefs about how they could help students improve as writers. Teachers engaged in productive struggle to balance the competing demands of content coverage, fulfilling their professional responsibilities, and meeting their students’ needs. Although teachers made different instructional decisions, they each prioritized preparing their students for their futures over other considerations. Teachers did not find many supports in their schools to encourage their efforts, and they experienced a lack of professional learning opportunities and a data-driven culture as barriers. Findings suggest that teachers require supports to enact professional identities as learners, knowers, and leaders within reform-oriented contexts. The study findings support the utility of teacher vision as a lens for examining practicing teachers’ professional learning and growth.