Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Kretovics

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian Horvitz

Third Advisor

Dr. Walter DeBoer

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Robert Leneway


Inquiry-based learning, professional learning communities, educational leadership, school reform, professional development, teacher beliefs


Federal and state mandates aimed at improving the American K-12 school system abound (Spillane, 2004). Federal legislation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002), and state-mandated curriculum are aimed at improving teaching and learning thus ultimately improving student achievement. The purpose of this phenomenology study was to examine the experiences of 7 middle and high school social studies teachers through district-mandated changes in inquiry-based instruction and technology-integrated lessons. By capturing how individual teachers experience mandated changes, this research aimed to discover the existence of policy coherence within a district as it translated federal and state policy into changes in teacher beliefs, knowledge, and practice, and whether mandating change really works to change teacher beliefs, knowledge, and classroom practice.

Multiple methods of data collection were used in this research. The interview protocol was designed to elicit descriptions of how teachers interpreted their experiences with mandated pedagogical changes through the lens of (a) beliefs regarding instructional technology and its use in the classroom, (b) using inquiry as a teaching approach, (c) professional development, (d) administrative support, (e) collaboration with colleagues, (f) resources for inquiry-based instruction and technology, (g) facilitating or impeding factors to effective implementation, and (h) change in instructional practices. The interviews were transcribed, analyzed, and grouped in the aforementioned eight themes. Also, a classroom observation protocol was developed based on the participating district’s Principles of Learning (POLs) and Disciplinary Literary (DL) expectations. Furthermore, Professional Learning Community (PLC) and professional development events artifacts were analyzed.

This study reveals policy incoherence within the district. Even though participating teachers had differing operational definitions of technology integration and their application of inquiry-based instruction varied, they worked diligently to implement the policy expectations. This study also documents significant barriers to effective policy implementation when working in an at-risk urban environment; most significantly noted were unbalanced resource allocation, lack of administrative press and accountability when it involves teachers who are resistant to change.

The study concludes with recommendations for improvements in these important reform strategies.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access