North Carolina kindergarten teachers and developmentally appropriate instructional practices : a phenomenological study

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sherry Richards Willis (Creator)
Institution
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://www.wcu.edu/404.asp
Advisor
Eleanor Hilty

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of kindergarten teachers as they worked to implement a developmentally appropriate approach to teaching. Their stories included details related to the support they receive as well as detailed descriptions of the many barriers faced during a time when accountability is very high. As teachers with a high value for developmentally appropriate practice, they experienced cognitive dissonance when circumstances arose to limit their ability to use the best practices they favored. These practices included differentiation of instruction; provision for active and meaningful learning experiences; small group instruction; the use of centers that supported language development; problem solving; development of social skills; literacy and numeracy skills; as well as learning through play—all practices carefully planned to recognize and honor how children learn best. Mandates requiring the teachers to use scripted curriculum programs were a strong source of the dissonance. These programs were designed to reflect a more academically structured approach to teaching. Instruction was required to be delivered in a whole group setting, with little effort to differentiate instruction. Learning was more passive in nature with children being required to sit for long blocks of time working at tables or desks completing worksheets. The teachers found creative ways to tweak the mandated curriculum to make them more age and grade appropriate. Other barriers reported by teachers included the lack of professional development aligned specifically to their needs, the lack of collegial collaboration, and the inappropriate expectations of parents and first grade teachers. Teachers indicated that they wanted their administrators to be knowledgeable about early childhood education and child development. They wanted to receive meaningful feedback to help them improve their instructional practice. The teachers reported feeling that kindergarten did not appear to be a highly valued component of the educational program. It did appear to them that more attention and more resources were regularly aimed at tested grade levels. The teachers were also concerned about not having a voice in decisions that directly affected them. The major source of support for the teachers came from a group organized by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction known as The Power of Kindergarten. The teachers in the study were among the members of this group. Strong collegiality, gaining a sense of professional empowerment, and focused professional development were reported by the teachers as being important outcomes of their experiences with Power of K.

Additional Information

Publication
Dissertation
Language: English
Date: 2010
Keywords
developmentally appropriate practice, mandates, professional needs, teacher beliefs
Subjects
Kindergarten teachers -- North Carolina -- Case studies
Kindergarten -- North Carolina -- Case studies
Kindergarten -- Study and teaching -- North Carolina