High-quality learning environments are critical to support students’ learning and development. This study supported eight lead teachers of Starting Strong classrooms in four different early learning programs to try to improve teachers’ knowledge, self-efficacy, and use of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) within their classrooms. Four Starting Strong supports were evaluated during this research, including an asynchronous video series, coaching with use of the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Report, and Community of Practice (CoP) meetings. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales, Third Edition (ECERS-3) was used to measure the overall quality of preschool classrooms before and after the intervention. Pre- and post-intervention surveys were also conducted to measure participants' knowledge and self-efficacy. While there was no change in participant knowledge of DAP or self-efficacy, there was significant improvement in the ECERS-3 scores from the Spring to the Fall assessment. All participants reported the four Starting Strong supports as being very useful and offered suggestions for improvements, explicitly suggesting consistency and shared learning experiences. Collectively, the Starting Strong supports helped the teachers apply their knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood education in establishing quality preschool environments.
More and more, colleges and universities across the United States and throughout the world are relying on adjunct instructors (sometimes called casual academics or part
time instructors) to teach classes in their field of expertise. Often, those classes require a
blending of theory into practical application, such as in business, accounting and other
career focused classes. Previous literature has shown that adjunct instructors often have
little formal preparation for teaching, and even when some preparation is offered, it is
often insufficient to establish confidence, or teaching self-efficacy, in the classroom. This
study examined changes in teaching self-efficacy after adjunct instructors were provided
information (articles) around constructivist teaching strategies within collaborative
Community of Practice (CoP) meetings to discuss those strategies. The study was
conducted at a small private college, which relied heavily on adjunct instructors to
conduct classes. A quantitative pre-post survey, and qualitative comments throughout the
intervention sessions were used to examine changes. Participants reported a significant
increase in teaching self-efficacy, which was especially prominent amongst new
instructors compared to those with more experience. There was also a self-reported
increase in the use of more constructivist strategies within their classes over the course of
the intervention. Finally, participants also rated the components of the intervention
(articles and the CoP meetings) and while they rated them similarly in terms of impact,
the CoP meetings were discussed as critical to both learning and application of strategies
in practice. Future studies should examine how these strategies could be used in wider
groups of instructors and how the effects might be enhanced if a longer program were
used, but it is clear that providing opportunities for adjunct faculty to come together and
discuss new strategies can help improve teaching self-efficacy in higher education.
The Sonoran Desert is a magical place full of beauty and wonder. With an increase each year in the number of new families calling Arizona their home, so also comes an increase in pre-conceived notions of the dangers of the Sonoran Desert. Dangers such as plants, animals, and weather conditions can cause fears in families. Though these fears are valid, understanding different ways to stay safe and engage with nature in the Sonoran Desert is critical to building future generations of adults that value the natural world. Current literature does not address the Sonoran Desert and Arizona as a space to engage in nature play. The current action research study builds on the literature to offer new perspectives on nature play in the Sonoran Desert. A mixed-methods approach was used to assess caregivers' perception of safety, risk, and benefits of nature play in the Sonoran Desert. The intervention utilized the social media platform, Instagram, to administer the intervention content. Results from this study suggest that even though participants were already engaged in nature play, their perceptions of risk, safety, and benefits of nature play in the Sonoran Desert changed positively or were reinforced. The analysis expands the current literature on risk, safety, and benefits of nature play.
Museums have long been known as an exciting, educational field trip for teachers and students, however, they have the potential to be more. Aside from field trips, some museums offer a range of resources for teachers including professional development sessions. This study followed a sample of classroom teachers as they completed a three-part workshop on Project Based Learning in order to determine in what ways does museum-based professional development change (a) Teacher perceptions of museum resources and (b) Teacher utilization of museum resources within their classroom, as well as what aspects of the museum-designed professional development experience did teachers find most effective in impacting their own teaching. The Experiential Learning Theory and an Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) effect model were used to evaluate how perceptions changed before and after the museum-designed experience. Overall, the trustworthiness of the informal educators and their resources increased, as well as teacher utilization of the resources since participation. Some of the aspects that teachers reported as most effective included their willingness to engage because of their overall enjoyment of the experience. Teachers also emphasized that these workshop sessions enhanced their current teaching practices, and did not simply replace them.
International schools work to serve students from a variety of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. When a student is developing proficiency in a language, they have difficulty accessing content in that language. In order to support all of their students, including those developing language proficiency, teachers have to implement differentiated instruction.This mixed methods action research study set within the context of an international school in Madagascar sought to empower secondary teachers to support the English language learners in their classes. The innovation consisted of a professional learning community focused on English language learners as well as a digital toolkit of resources aligned with the content of the professional learning community meetings. The group of seven participants met a total of three times over the course of three months during the first semester of the school year.
After their participation, they demonstrated little change in self-efficacy, although they did have a stronger understanding of the resources available to them within the local context. Through the innovation, the participants developed a common understanding of the concept of differentiation in addition to expanding their knowledge of teaching strategies. Most notably, the format of the professional learning community proved to be an effective and useful way to allow the participants to connect with one another, share their experiences, and gain relevant information regarding language acquisition and strategies for differentiation.
Parents of gifted adolescents often face unique challenges in supporting their children’s social and emotional learning (SEL). The purpose of this mixed methods action research study was to examine (1) As a result of a SEL parent workshop series, what changes were observed in: (a) Parental knowledge of SEL? (b) Parental self-efficacy in supporting their gifted child’s SEL needs? (2) What did parents perceive as the most useful aspects of the SEL parent workshop series? The intervention took the form of a flexible five-session virtual workshop series and was delivered via a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction. The workshop series was designed to provide families with key information on giftedness in adolescence to help them better understand how characteristics of giftedness impacted their own child’s socio-emotional development. Results from this study showed a statistically significant increase in parent knowledge of SEL concepts, and a mean increase in parental self-efficacy. While participants rated all aspects of the intervention workshop as useful, limited participant engagement shifted the workshop model from a collaborative model to a highly individualized one. As a result of the study, it is clear that parents do benefit from additional information on SEL support strategies, but continued research is needed to develop an intervention where the content and format best support participant needs.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools and families collaborate to determine educational decisions for children with special needs. However, successful collaboration occurs when special education practitioners and families build strong partnerships. This study employed a mixed-methods action research design to examine the effectiveness of professional development training for school-based special education personnel to increase collaboration during special education meetings. The training centered around building participants’ knowledge of special education regulations, policies, and procedures and providing strategies to facilitate a collaborative partnership between families and the school. Participants’ knowledge gained from the training intervention was assessed using a pre-post-intervention survey, followed by semi-structured interviews. Useful aspects of the training intervention included gaining a foundational understanding of legal rights and responsibilities in special education and specific preparation and communication strategies for future family and school collaboration during special education meetings.
Stress and anxiety are on the rise in children and adolescents, which may adversely impact their social and emotional development, learning, mental health, level of functioning, and educational success. Compounding this issue is that teachers often lack the preparation to best meet their students’ mental health needs. These associated factors constitute the problem of practice that prompted this action research study, whose purpose is to examine the effectiveness of Stress on Students (SOS)—a series of professional development modules designed to educate teachers on student stress and anxiety. SOS was developed with input from teachers through previous cycles of action research. The modules focus on identifying stress and anxiety among students and intervention strategies to increase teachers’ knowledge and perceived levels of self-efficacy. This study was grounded in the theoretical frameworks of andragogy and self-efficacy theory and employed a concurrent, mixed-methods design. Data were collected through a quantitative pre- and post-test survey instrument and qualitative semi-structured individual interviews. Analytic strategies included paired samples t-tests, descriptive statistics of the pre- and post-test, and multiple coding cycles of the individual interviews. Triangulation of the quantitative and qualitative data confirmed SOS’ effectiveness on teacher participants (n = 6) and provided complementary evidence. Teachers showed an increase in their actual and perceived knowledge about student stress and anxiety post-SOS with similar results pertaining to their perceived levels of self-efficacy in working with students who exhibit stress and anxiety. Additionally, teachers fully participated in SOS and deemed the topic and content to be relevant and valuable.
Students with disabilities are entering higher-education institutions at increasing rates, but they are not being adequately prepared for this transition. Transition plans have been created by Special Education teams in the K-12 system, but oftentimes, the student is not an active participant in the development of these plans for their futures. A huge gap in preparing for the transition to post-secondary education is a student’s self-determination skills. Self-determination is a belief that you control your own destiny and are motivated to create your own path in life. This study explores how students with disabilities can improve their self-determination skills through guided practice and small group collaboration. Participants included (n=4) freshmen students with disabilities who were actively engaged with their institution’s Disability Resource Center at a 4-year public research institution in the West. A qualitative practical action research study was designed to explore the impact of implementing a self-determination innovation to support college students with disabilities in improving their self-determination skills. The innovation developed for this study was adapted from Field and Hoffman’s Steps to Self-Determination curriculum. Findings from this study illustrate the need to support transitioning college students with disabilities in understanding their disabilities and how it can and will impact them in the college environment and beyond. Providing students with a safe space to explore their disabilities and the challenges they have encountered in their lives, allows them to identify the barriers to their growth and build a support system of similarly situated students that provide them with a sense of belonging and camaraderie they have not usually experienced in their lives. This study demonstrates how supporting students in improving their self-determination skills can help them build their confidence and self-advocacy skills to persist in higher education institutions.
Situated in a majority-minority school setting, this action research study focused on developing culturally responsive teaching (CRTchg) approaches in a group of Caucasian teacher leaders. Highly qualified teachers who determined the curriculum, professional development, assessments, and school-level policies were leading two alternative schools, but this group of predominantly majority teachers had difficulty relating to their African-American and Hispanic students and fostering student learning. Specifically, the intervention provided methods to encourage and support them on their journey towards implementing CRTchg. I developed interactive professional development workshops to introduce concepts from servant leadership. Additionally, I used culturally responsive school leadership and critical race theory as part of the professional development process to promote the implementation of CRTchg and foster a sense of self-efficacy for its use. In the study, I used a mixed-methods approach that included surveys, reflective journals, and interviews to gather data to determine how and to what extent professional development sessions for these teacher leaders affected their perspectives and teaching styles with respect to CRTchg. To understand better these effects, I explored six constructs including servant leadership listening; servant leadership awareness; servant leadership empathy; servant leadership building community; using CRTchg; and self-efficacy for employing CRTchg. Quantitative results indicated teacher leaders scores on the four servant leadership variables, increased significantly indicating they were more aware of cultural matters, listened more closely to students, were more empathetic, and engaged to a greater extent in building community with their students. Additionally, quantitative data showed significant increases in teacher leaders use of CRTchg and their self-efficacy for its use. Results from the qualitative data were consistent with those from the quantitative data and exhibited a high degree of complementarity, pointing to the same conclusions. Notably, as they progressed through the workshops, teacher leaders questioned educational and cultural assumptions that influenced their instructional practices and revised them as they began to implement CRTchg, which made their instructional practices more meaningful to students. The discussion focused on the complementarity of the data, understanding the results, limitations, implications for practice, implications for research, and personal lessons learned.