Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Abstract

This research studied the practices of educators at an ethnically diverse suburban elementary school which had demonstrated success in the area of student writing, even among at-risk students. The overall research goal was to examine to what extent and how leadership-related practices impacted classroom instruction in a manner that helped produce successful writing scores. A case study approach was used to explore four key leadership-related practices (supervision, curriculum, professional development, and knowledgeable leaders) and their impact on classroom literacy-based instructional strategies.

The study participants included two leaders and fourteen teachers from a single elementary school located in a metropolitan Michigan community. To collect and analyze opinions of leader and teacher behaviors, sixteen interviews were conducted. Qualitative coding techniques were used to develop common themes/categories of information.

Analysis of the data provided two dominant categories that teacher participants viewed as significant factors in her or his ability to successfully teach writing: the influence of leadership practices and the impact of instructional strategies. In reference to the influence of leadership practices, teachers indicated they were impacted in four primary ways: (1) persistent supervision and materials supported a coherent literacy program; (2) curriculum was clarified through discussion and report card alignment; (3) the leaders provided continuous professional development on the literacy framework that was focused, modeled, and shared; and (4) leaders were knowledgeable about the instructional methods they sought. In reference to impact of instructional strategies, two major areas emerged: (1) a framework organized strategies into a cohesive program; and (2) this framework defined the roles of phonics, guided reading, self-selected reading, and writing instruction in producing effective writers.

Overall, this study supports previous research on this topic in that if a coherent literacy framework is supported through the leaders' supervision; its foundation is a comprehensive curriculum; and the leaders, as well as teachers, become knowledgeable of the framework through professional development, then classroom instruction will be influenced and students will experience quality writing instruction. The findings from this study further add to the literature base by providing a deeper understanding of how leaders can impact classroom instruction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access