Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Gerald Grant


Curricula, Teaching, Teacher education

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction


This study examines teachers' ongoing, voluntary attempts to change their classroom practice. It is based on classroom observations and interviews with nine teachers in one urban, public high school. Adding to current research on how and why teachers change their practices for their own purposes, this study addresses the questions of why teachers decide to change their practice; why teachers differ in their approaches to change; what conditions within the classroom, the school, teachers' careers, and teachers' lives influence when and how teachers change; and what support facilitates teachers' voluntary changes.

Teachers have three purposes for changing their practice: to improve students' learning experiences, to seek excellence, and to avoid boredom. Teachers need to be teacher centered in order to pursue these purposes. First, teachers are centered and themselves as learners. They choose topics for their classes that they want to study, and their approaches to learning influence their approaches to teaching. Teachers who expect much of themselves as learners also expect much of their students. Second, teachers center on their own needs to have control in the classroom and control over their will to make priorities and take risks. Third, teacher change centers on teachers' understandings of their work. Teachers who are experiencing success with changes in their classrooms are able to articulate their understandings and relate these to their practices. However, in their ongoing, voluntary attempts at change, teachers report not changing their goals or basic philosophies; only the methods for reaching those goals are changed.

Teachers need support for change which enables them to formulate and articulate clear understandings about their work, examine how their practices reflect these understandings, and challenge these understandings. Teachers discussed forms of support--including teacher collaboration, block scheduling, and assistance from other staff--that would further enable them to change. Whether initiated by teachers or supporting staff, efforts to support teacher change should capitalize on change as a learning experience, engage teachers in learning opportunities that allow expanded visions of what is possible in teaching and learning, and create learning experiences that are meaningful for teachers and their students.


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