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Practices of two experiential teachers in secondary public schools in an era of accountability

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Annie Elizabeth Jonas (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Mary Jean Ronan Herzog

Abstract: It is well documented that the pressures of accountability and standardization have impacted public school teachers and their teaching practices (Imig & Imig, 2006; McCloskey and McMunn, 2000; Sacks, 1999). The pressure to conform to the mandates of high stakes testing has had a narrowing effect on teachers’ praxis (Wills & Sandholtz, 2009; Mustafa & Cullingsford, 2008; Llewellyn, 2005). This study explored how two high school teachers, who use experiential methodology as the foundation of their teaching, describe and enact their teaching practices in the context of a public school system that emphasizes accountability. With research indicating that experiential teaching can positively impact student growth and academic achievement (Ives & Obenchain, 2006; Powell & Wells, 2002; Scales et al., 2006; Murphy, 2009) this study sought to uncover the factors, both in schools and within teachers, that support or challenge a teacher’s ability to implement an experiential practice within this context. The teaching experience of two high school teachers was explored over an eight month period through in-depth interviews, focused observations, interviews of students and an examination of classroom documents generated by the teachers and their students. As a phenomenological study, the research focused on gaining an in-depth understanding of the experiences of these teachers and to explore the factors (in school and in the teacher) support or hinder their ability to maintain an experiential praxis. The analysis of data indicate the following central themes that support an experiential practice within this context: 1) teachers who have had significant career experiences outside of classroom teaching 2) teachers who have a strong command of content but whose practice emphasizes student learning and growth rather than content 3) a teacher’s willingness to significantly extend their availability to students beyond standard classroom time and 4) support from school administration and support from other colleagues within the school setting. The following factors emerged as ones that challenge the implementation of an experiential praxis within this context: 1) pressures from high-stakes testing demands on student performance and in turn teacher evaluation 2) pressures of pacing from state curriculum standards that are narrow and extensive 3) conflicting expectations from students who are “grade-oriented” rather than “learning oriented” and 4) teacher fatigue.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
Accountability, Case Study, Experiential Education, Inquiry-Based Teaching, Progressive Education, Teacher Evaluation
High school teachers
High school teaching -- Methodology
Experiential learning
Education, Secondary
Educational accountability