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Parsons, A. W., Richey, L. N., Parsons, S. A., & Dodman, S. L. (2013). How do teachers change their practice? Case studies of two teachers in a literacy professional development initiative. 35th Yearbook of the Association of Literacy Ed

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Parsons, A. W., Richey, L. N., Parsons, S. A., & Dodman, S. L. (2013). How do teachers change their practice? Case studies of two teachers in a literacy professional development initiative. 35th Yearbook of the Association of Literacy Educators
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  127 How Do Teachers Change Their Practice? Case Studies of Two Teachers in a Literacy Professional Development Initiative  Allison Ward ParsonsLeila N. Richey Seth A. ParsonsStephanie L. Dodman George Mason University   Abstract   A majority of professional development efforts are predicated on the notion that teach-ers are willing and able to change, but research demonstrates that these efforts are often slow and met with resistance as a result of previous low-quality professional development initiatives. Te case studies reported here explore two teachers’ experiences in implementing guided reading as a result of a longitudinal, university-led profes-sional development initiative. It was found there were differences in teachers’ level of implementation of guided reading and differences in their ability to plan quality literacy activities.  he teacher is the most important in-school factor influencing student achievement (Bean & Morewood, 2011; Bransford, Darling-Hammond, & LePage, 2005); therefore professional development (PD) initiatives must concen-trate on improving the quality of classroom instruction. Consequently, federal mandates (specifically the No Child Left behind Act, 2001 which was passed in 2002) require states to provide “high-quality” PD. Even though the research  128  L󰁩󰁴󰁥󰁲󰁡󰁣󰁹 I󰁳 󰁲󰁡󰁮󰁳󰁦󰁯󰁲󰁭󰁡󰁴󰁩󰁶󰁥 community has generally reached consensus about what constitutes high-quality PD (Desimone, 2009; Dillon, O’Brien, Sato, & Kelly, 2011; aylor, Raphael, & Au, 2011), classroom teachers are often provided with low-quality PD (Bau-smith & Barry, 2011).Organizations such as Learning Forward (formally the National Staff Development Council), the National Council for eachers of English, and the International Reading Association have called for education researchers, admin-istrators, and policymakers to provide targeted and continued PD for teachers (Joyce & Showers, 2002; Learning Forward, 2012; NCE, 2006; Penuel, Fish-man, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007). For example, Learning Forward (2012) has developed standards for implementation of PD that emphasize ongoing im-plementation and support, constructive feedback, and formative assessments of initiatives. Although PD is accepted as an important factor in enhancing teacher effectiveness and student learning, previous research demonstrates that instruc-tional reform is slow and is frequently met with resistance (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Duffy, 2004; Remillard, 2005).Te current study explores two urban elementary school teachers’ instruc-tion while participating in a longitudinal literacy PD initiative led by university-based literacy researchers and their perceptions of the PD by examining the following research questions: 1. How does these teachers’ literacy instruction change over time? 2. How do these teachers perceive the PD initiative as influencing their practice? LITERATURE REVIEW Theoretical Perspective  A situative perspective (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) informed this re-search. Tis perspective assumes that learning is situated in activity and is socially constructed in a specific context (Vygotsky, 1978). Learning should take place in the context in which it will be used (Putnam & Borko, 2000). For example, Brown and colleagues argued that knowledge is “inextricably a product of the activity and situations in which they are produced” (p. 33). Tis study was situ-ated in the context of this school and conducted within teachers’ classrooms.In addition, perspectives of balanced literacy framed this study (Pressley, 2006). Effective literacy instruction balances basic skills instruction (phonics, decoding, literal recall, and fluency) with high-level reading skills that enhance   How Do eachers Change Teir Practice? 129 students’ strategic, adaptive, creative, and reflective abilities (Pearson, Cervetti, & ilson, 2008). Similarly, word-level instruction is balanced with opportunities to comprehend and create authentic text (Pressley, 2006). Terefore, the perspective of effective literacy instruction taken in this PD initiative includes word study, guided reading, independent reading, shared reading, read alouds, and writing (Cunningham & Allington, 2010). Professional Development Research suggests that high-quality PD initiatives provide support for teachers  where specialists and partners model best practices and coach teachers (Bean & Morewood, 2011). In addition, prior research demonstrates strong evidence linking the following five components to successful PD efforts: (a) focus on content; (b) active learning opportunities for teachers that include opportunities for observations; (c) coherence between teacher knowledge, beliefs, and curricu-lar guidelines/policies; (d) a duration of at least 20 hours of contact time; and (e) collective participation of peers in the same grade or school (Desimone, 2009; Dillon et al., 2011; Penuel et al., 2007; aylor et al., 2011). Te longitudinal PD initiative presented here incorporates these components through a school-university partnership that facilitates continuous support from school literacy coaches and university literacy teacher educators to facilitate urban elementary school teachers’ high-level literacy instruction. While there is agreement on the components of high-quality PD models, there is still a need for research that examines the process by which teachers change through PD initiatives (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Guskey, 2002; Scott, Cortina, & Carlisle, 2012). Examinations of the process require research focused on classroom practice and student learning (Dillon et al., 2011). Tis study is grounded in Guskey’s teacher change model. Tis model positions changes in teachers’ attitudes as dependent upon positive outcomes in student learning. When teachers learn of new practices through PD, they may imple-ment those new practices immediately, but unless they see positive changes in student learning, they will not alter their beliefs about teaching and learning. As a result, Guskey asserts that change and instructional improvement is a continuous process that only begins with PD. Te current study focuses on this initial phase of Guskey’s model by exploring how PD leads to changes in elementary school teachers’ literacy practices.Previous research demonstrates the value of capturing teachers’ perceptions of PD models, particularly literacy coaching, as a means to assess the efficacy of an initiative (Scott et al., 2012). Capturing teachers’ perceptions also allows  130  L󰁩󰁴󰁥󰁲󰁡󰁣󰁹 I󰁳 󰁲󰁡󰁮󰁳󰁦󰁯󰁲󰁭󰁡󰁴󰁩󰁶󰁥 PD developers and facilitators to identify classroom teachers’ needs for future PD opportunities (Fishman, Marx, Best, & al, 2003; Hayes & Robnolt, 2006; Kennedy & Shiel, 2010). Te current study presents an analysis of two classroom teachers’ experiences during the first two years of an ongoing school-university partnership. METHODS Tis study used case study methods (Yin, 2009) to explore two teachers’ experi-ences in a literacy PD initiative. Case study methods are appropriate for studying complex phenomena, especially when the phenomena are closely connected to the context (Yin, 2009). In this study, the phenomena under study are teachers’ change in instruction and teachers’ perceptions of PD. Setting Tis research took place in a high-needs urban charter school. Te school popula-tion included 99% African American students. It is a high poverty, itle I school,  with 86% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. At the time of the study, 60% of the school’s teachers lacked formal teacher preparation; most held emergency certification credentials. Most alarming, only 29% of students scored proficient or higher on the school’s standardized reading assessment. School lead-ers reached out to university faculty in an effort to improve literacy instruction through guided reading. At the time, the school used a scripted basal program that did not differentiate for varied student levels. Te school’s lead administrator rec-ognized that instructional changes were necessary to improve student outcomes.In the first year of the partnership, two university faculty members pro-vided four school-wide PD sessions focusing on guided reading, informal literacy assessments to guide instruction, and literacy centers, as well as modeling lessons for teachers. In the second year, the expanded university research team focused on the literacy coaches and school leaders, holding monthly book club meetings that emphasized effective literacy instruction and coaching practices. Te researchers collected data to measure and evaluate the progress of our PD initiative, with ongoing analysis to determine next steps. Tus, PD sessions were tailored to stakeholder-identified needs (Fishman et al., 2003; Hayes & Robnolt, 2006; Kennedy & Shiel, 2010).o address the first research question of how teachers’ literacy instruction changed as a result of PD, the university team conducted observations of the teachers’ literacy instruction. eachers were observed once during Year 1 and four times during Year 2. A member of the research team observed each teacher’s   How Do eachers Change Teir Practice? 131 literacy block, usually 90-120 minutes. Observers were as unobtrusive as pos-sible and took detailed field notes, which were later independently coded by two researchers. o address the second research question of teachers’ perceptions of PD influencing their literacy practices, a researcher interviewed each teacher after three of the observations (the Year 1 observation and one observation each in the fall and spring of Year 2). Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, then coded by two separate researchers. All data were qualitatively analyzed through open and axial coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Participants Te first teacher, Ms. Henry (all names are pseudonyms), is an African American  woman in her mid-30s. She had an education degree and traditional teaching certification. She had nine years of classroom experience and previously taught in public schools in other states. Ms. Henry is experienced in guided reading and balanced literacy instruction prior to the university partnership. Te second teacher, Ms. Barber, is an African American woman in her mid-20s. She holds emergency certification. She was in her third year at the school; she worked as an instructional assistant for a year before she was given her own classroom,  where she has taught for two years. She was not familiar with guided reading or balanced literacy. FINDINGS In this section, a summary of the findings for each research question is provided. Next, a case description of each teacher’s literacy instruction is presented. Research Question 1: How do these teachers’ literacy instruction change over time? Our findings were mixed. Te first grade teacher, Ms. Henry, did not significantly change her literacy instruction as a result of PD. Although she did not imple-ment guided reading during each observation, her instruction was driven by solid pedagogical understanding within the confines of the school’s curriculum and organizational issues. She was not resistant to changing her practices to meet instructional reform. Instead, she was already well versed in balanced literacy practices and guided reading.Te second grade teacher, Ms. Barber, was not an experienced teacher and previously relied upon the basal reader to guide her literacy instruction. She was unfamiliar with guided reading and balanced literacy instruction prior to our PD initiative. Ms. Barber was willing to try what she learned in the PD sessions.
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