Examining Mandated Testing, Teachers’ Milieu, and Teachers’ Knowledge and Beliefs: Gaining a Fuller Understanding of the Web of Influence on Teachers’ Classroom Practices
by Jacob W. Neumann — 2016
Background: Much research has been done on the factors that influence teachers’ work. Yet, the nature and scope of those factors, and their impact on teachers, remain unclear. Indeed, different literature bases on teachers’ work present different and often contradictory conclusions. For example, some researchers claim that mandated accountability testing exerts the greatest impact on teachers’ work. Yet, other researchers claim that teachers’ knowledge and beliefs have an equally strong impact on their work as does mandated testing. These contradictory findings in the research seem to happen at least in part because most research into teachers’ work only looks at one or two influences on that work and ignores how multiple factors work together to influence teachers’ work.
Purpose: Recognizing this background, this study examines three factors that influence teachers’ work: mandated accountability testing, teachers’ knowledge and beliefs, and teachers’ milieu. The article examines each factor, both individually and collectively, for their combined influence on teachers’ work.
Setting: This study was conducted at a public middle school in south Texas.
Population: Four social studies teachers participated in this study: 2 eighth-grade U.S.history teachers, 1 seventh-grade Texas history teacher, and 1 sixth-grade world cultures teacher.
Research Design: The study encompasses 5 years of weekly interactions with social studies teachers at the school. I logged approximately 450 hours of nonparticipant observations, made field notes and audio recordings of regular classroom activities, conducted 13 semistructured interviews and had numerous informal conversations with the teachers, and attended teachers’ department meetings. Open coding was used to closely analyze research texts.
Findings: The analysis finds that these three factors do not influence teachers’ work in isolation. Instead, they combine to form a complex “web of influence” on teachers’ work. The article crafts a narrative of these teachers’ experiences with these different factors and illustrates how the factors combine to impact their work.
Conclusion: This article holds implications for school leaders, policy makers, and teacher educators. In short, it offers evidence about the unintended consequences of not taking a holistic approach to school leadership, educational policy, and teacher education.
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