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«Title of dissertation: PRESCHOOL TEACHERS’ BELIEFS, KNOWLEDGE, AND PRACTICES RELATED TO CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT Debra Michal Drang, Doctor of ...»

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ABSTRACT

Title of dissertation: PRESCHOOL TEACHERS’ BELIEFS,

KNOWLEDGE, AND PRACTICES

RELATED TO CLASSROOM

MANAGEMENT

Debra Michal Drang, Doctor of Philosophy,

2011 Dissertation directed by: Professor Joan A. Lieber, Department of Special Education This study examined preschool teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, and practices related to classroom management. The rationale for researching this topic is based on the role of teachers in the special education referral process, the poor success rate for inclusion for children with disabilities who demonstrate problematic classroom behaviors, and the data on expulsion rates for preschool students.

A multiple case study design was used to explore the following questions: (a) What are the components of classroom management in preschool? (b) What is the role of the preschool teacher in classroom management? (c) What are the sources of preschool teachers’ knowledge about classroom management? (d) How have preschool teachers evolved or developed as classroom managers over the course of their careers? (e) How are preschool teachers’ beliefs and knowledge about classroom management manifested in their classroom practices? (f) Do preschool teachers engage in classroom management practices that support or contradict their stated beliefs?

The research setting was Hawthorne Academy, a private community-based preschool in a suburban county of a mid-Atlantic state. Participants included six teachers divided over three classrooms. Data were collected via interviews, classroom observations, and document review. Findings are presented as case summaries of each classroom and participant, a descriptive analysis of the setting, and themes from a cross-case analysis outlined in the context of the research questions.

The participants in this study described teaching children the expectations of school as a component of classroom management, along with establishing structure and routines and fostering emotional development. Participants consistently cited other teachers as sources of knowledge about classroom management, but feedback from accumulated classroom experience was the strongest influence. There was considerable evidence to substantiate that participants’ knowledge about classroom management came from personal and informal sources. Language was the tool that teachers employed to manifest classroom management beliefs and knowledge in their practices, and their practices were consistent with their stated beliefs. Findings are discussed in connection to pertinent literature, Bronfenbrenner’s (2006) bioecological model of human development, and for their potential relevance to preschool children with disabilities who demonstrate problematic behavior.

PRESCHOOL TEACHERS’ BELIEFS, KNOWLEDGE, AND

PRACTICES RELATED TO CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

–  –  –

Advisory Committee:

Dr. Joan Lieber, Chair Dr. Paula Beckman Dr. Brenda Jones Harden Dr. Margaret McLaughlin Dr. Debra Neubert ©Copyright by Debra Michal Drang

–  –  –

To my advisor, Dr. Joan Lieber, thank you for your constant professionalism, • support and constructive feedback.

To my dissertation committee, thank you for your valuable insights.

• To the teachers of Hawthorne Academy, for giving so generously of your time • and sharing many years of accumulated experiences and expertise with me.

To my family and friends, I feel blessed to be surrounded by so much love, •

–  –  –

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction

Classroom Management

Teacher’s Beliefs and Knowledge

Teacher’s Beliefs and Knowledge About Classroom Management

Preschool Teachers’ Classroom Management Practices

Preschool Teachers and the Relationship Between Beliefs/Knowledge and Practices

Theoretical Framework: The Bioecological Model of Human Development

Summary

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Literature Search

Teachers’ Orientations to Management and Self-Efficacy/Perception of Control

Summary: Teachers’ Orientations to Management and Self-Efficacy/Perception of Control

Preservice Teachers’ Orientations to Management

Summary: Preservice Teachers’ Orientations to Management

Causal Attributions

Summary: Causal Attributions

The Development of Teachers’ Management Knowledge

Preschool Teachers’ Classroom Management Practices

Summary: Preschool Teachers’ Classroom Management Practices

Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Consistency Between Beliefs and Practices

Summary: Developmentally Appropriate Practice and the Consistency Between Beliefs and Practices

Summary and Discussion of Literature

Research Questions

Chapter 3: Methodology

Qualitative Methodology

Multiple Case Study Design

Research Questions

Setting





Participants: Recruitment Criteria

Participants: Recruitment Process

Participants

Method

Data Collection

vi Interviews

Observations

Document Review

Data Analysis

Credibility Measures

Ethical Considerations

Researcher Role and Biases

Chapter 4: Findings

Case Summary: Janet and Debbie’s Class

Janet’s Story

Janet’s Approach to Classroom Management

I call it organized chaos

Different places have different sets of rules

It’s the process that matters

Debbie’s Story

Debbie’s Approach to Classroom Management

It doesn’t change from day to day

I’m in charge of my own behavior

We try to give them the tools

A Day in Janet and Debbie’s Room

Physical Space

Students

Weekly Schedule

Daily Routine

Arrival

Self-Directed Activities

Circle Time

Snack

Specials

Curriculum Enrichment

Outside Play

Case Summary: Tracy and Jennifer’s Room

Tracy’s Story

Tracy’s Approach to Classroom Management

I have so many things that I do

My job is to teach them the structure

They are part of a group and their voice is heard

Jennifer’s Story

Jennifer’s Approach to Classroom Management

Deserving of their place in the classroom

They always have a reason

You don’t really have a few seconds

A Day in Tracy and Jennifer’s Room

Physical Space

vii Students

Weekly Schedule

Daily Routine

Arrival

Opening Activities

Split Groups

Specials

Snack and Story

Free Play

Theme Based Activity

Closing Activities

Case Summary: Becca and Michelle’s Class

Becca’s Story

Becca’s Approach to Classroom Management

I am a role model first and foremost

Sometimes disciplinarian and sometimes mother figure

Part of it is judging the situation

Document Review

Michelle’s Story

Michelle’s Approach to Classroom Management

It’s all setting the tone

A solid in their life

Teach them fundamental problem solving skills

A Day in Becca and Michelle’s Room

Physical Space

Students

Weekly Schedule

Daily Routine

Arrival

Opening

Split Groups

Specials

Snack

Free Play

Math, Language Arts, and Theme/Project Time

Closing

Hawthorne Academy

Administration

Admissions

Classroom Management

Setting the stage

The social-emotional needs make themselves known

Themes

Research Questions 1 and 2: Components of Classroom Management and the Role of the Preschool Teacher

viii Teaching Children the Expectations of School

Facilitate Increased Independence

Model Appropriate Social Behavior

Demonstrate Recognition and Patience for the Process

Establishing Structure and Routines

Fostering Emotional Development

Provide Emotional Security

Demonstrate Respect for Children’s Feelings

Research Question 2: Sources of Knowledge

Teachers: Role Models, Mentors, and Colleagues

Personal and Informal

Feedback from Accumulated Experience

Research Question 4: Development as Classroom Managers

Enhanced Initial Management Efficacy from Prior Experience with Children

Research Question 5: Classroom Practices

Language is the Tool

Structured Language

Unstructured Language

When Language Does Not Work

Research Question 6: Consistency between Beliefs and Practices

Consistency is a Pattern Over Time

Some Beliefs and Practices Require Balance

Chapter 5: Discussion

Beliefs: Components of Classroom Management and the Role of the Preschool Teacher

Sources of Knowledge

Beliefs/Knowledge: Development as Managers

Classroom Management Practices

Consistency between Beliefs and Practices

Theoretical Analysis: The Bioecological Model of Human Development

Limitations of Study

Methodology and Study Design

Characteristics of Setting and Participants

Implications for Practice

Directions for Future Research

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Appendix G

Appendix H

ix Appendix I

References

x

–  –  –

Table 1. Teachers’ beliefs and knowledge related to classroom management……18 Table 2.

Preschool teachers’ classroom management practices and the relationship between beliefs and practices………………………………………………………19 Table 3. Participants’ demographic information………………………………….94 Table 4. Administrators’ demographic information……………………………….95 Table 5. Weekly schedule: Janet and Debbie’s class…………………………….127 Table 6. Weekly schedule: Tracy and Jennifer’s class…………………………...155

–  –  –

Figure 1. Janet and Debbie’s classroom………………………………………….

124 Figure 2. Problem-solving chart………………………………………………….138 Figure 3. Tracy and Jennifer’s classroom………………………………………..152

–  –  –

Increasing numbers of children are having their first school experience at a very young age. In 2005, 43% of three-year-olds and 69% of four-year-olds attended a center-based preschool program, meaning a student entering kindergarten might have been in a classroom setting for one or two years prior (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). At the same time, preschool children are expelled at a higher rate than students in grades K-12 (Gilliam, 2005; Gilliam & Shahar, 2006). This alarming problem relates directly to the ways in which early childhood teachers conceptualize and practice classroom management, however there is limited research in this area.

Furthermore, teacher-child relationships in the early years of school have been significantly correlated with a number of student outcomes including adjustment to school, academic success and social competence (Birch & Ladd, 1997; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004).

Teachers’ beliefs, knowledge, and practices related to classroom management are also uniquely salient to the field of special education. Abidin and Robinson (2002) identified problematic student behavior as the best predictor of teachers’ special education referrals, next to academic competence. Teachers are virtually always the ones who initiate the referral process and their opinions regarding student performance are considered vital. It follows that exploring teachers’ perspectives on classroom management is necessary in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role that they play in determining educational placement, and whether their judgments concerning student behavior result in uniform and

–  –  –

disabilities receive educational services in inclusive settings, teacher perceptions of their behavior is essential to understanding the components of successful inclusion.

Chazan (1994) found that general education teachers are less likely to tolerate difficult student behavior than special education teachers. This could be a function of a different emphasis placed on classroom management by elementary and special education teacher preparation programs. While the former focuses on large group management skills, the latter stresses individualized intervention strategies and assessment of their effectiveness (Gilberts & Lignugaris-Kraft, 1997). This relates directly to teacher understanding and practice of classroom management and the resulting impact on the inclusion of children with disabilities who demonstrate behavioral difficulties.

Classroom Management Many worlds converge within a classroom. The teacher, students, parents, curriculum, principal, school, district, public policy, and cultural beliefs are just some of the structures that interact with one another on a multitude of levels to create the framework in which children are educated. The resulting challenge for educational researchers is to isolate precise variables for measurement and analysis while accounting for the multidimensional nature of the context. The body of literature on classroom management is a prime example of this premise. It crosses over several disciplines (education, psychology, sociology, anthropology), as researchers examine such diverse areas as self-regulation, social/moral development, behavioral interventions, conflict resolution, teacher/student beliefs, and the influence of race,

–  –  –



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