Author

Allyson Dean

Date of Award

5-2015

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Sarah Mackenzie

Second Committee Member

Richard Ackerman

Third Committee Member

Mary Ellin Logue

Abstract

Recent initiatives aimed at improving the quality of Head Start programs have included an increased focus on the instructional strategies of Head Start teachers. One factor that researchers have associated with higher quality classroom instruction and increased child achievement in the K-12 grades is teachers’ sense of self-efficacy (Berman & McLaughlin, 1978; Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997; Guo, Piasta, Justice & Kaderavek, 2010; Justice, Mashburn, Hamre& Pianta, 2008; Nie et al., 2013). Thus far, research on early childhood teacher self-efficacy has almost exclusively relied upon survey and other types of quantitative data to answer questions about this important construct.

This study of Head Start teacher self-efficacy builds upon this body of research by utilizing a multiple case study to explore Maine Head Start teacher self-efficacy. This qualitative study examined the ways in which self-efficacy is developed and influenced by the context in which teaching occurs. Interviews with Head Start teachers and educational leaders as well as onsite observations were conducted to examine teachers’ delivery of instructional support and their belief in their ability to do so in ways that benefit children.

Findings from this study indicate that elements of the teaching environment such as time for planning and reflection, relationships with colleagues, and the amount of time with children can and do influence teachers’ provision of instructional supports. In addition the study found that teachers embed instructional supports within a cycle of intentional teaching that includes formative assessment data used to plan for, modify, and individualize instructional supports for children. Formative assessment data also confirmed the benefits of instructional support strategies for the teachers in this study and acted as evidence of mastery that sustained teachers’ instructional self-efficacy.

These findings offer important information for educational leaders and other professionals who wish to optimize the conditions under which Head Start teachers provide effective instructional supports and build instructional self-efficacy. Information from this study can also be used to inform the types of policies and practices that best support teachers in their instructional support of children.

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