Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. LaSonja Roberts, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Dorothy VanderJagt, Ed.D.


As new teachers enter the field of education, they face many challenges as they work to quickly adapt to the many demands of the job. One of the most pressing factors for new teachers is deciding what to actually teach each day. For educators, the curriculum represents the master plan that both guides their educational efforts and supplies the tools to get the job done. However, new teachers experience varying levels of curriculum support when they begin their careers, and some receive absolutely no support at all. This study describes those cases of beginning a teaching career with little to no curriculum support as the missing curriculum phenomenon. Using an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, this study sought to better understand both the frequency and the impact of the missing curriculum phenomenon for new teachers.

Beginning with a quantitative phase, a survey was administered to all identifiable secondary educators teaching English, Math, Science, or Social Studies in a particular county in a Midwestern state. Findings from the survey suggest that new teachers often lack important curriculum supports and that large gaps in curriculum infrastructure exist. Of the 134 teachers who responded and met the inclusion criteria, over 70% reported significant gaps in the curriculum support they received in their first year of professional teaching, and over 20% reported receiving no curriculum resources or support at all. In order to overcome the challenges associated with missing curriculum resources, the majority of teachers reported dedicating over 10 hours per week outside of work toward curriculum development, and most new teachers also find themselves spending their own money on curriculum resources. Despite these challenges, it is also important to note that teachers reported that their access to curriculum materials significantly improved over the course of their careers.

In the qualitative research phase that followed, five teachers who had experienced a missing curriculum were identified for follow-up interviews. Their testimony revealed significant levels of job-related stress related to their missing curriculum experience, accompanied by strong feelings of doubt, fear, and isolation. Their descriptions also provided insight into the conditions that foster missing curriculum experiences, including high levels of turnover, the absence of consistent leadership, the failure to maintain resources, and the failure to provide required supports for new teachers.

The study’s findings bridge two important areas of educational research: (1) new teacher retention and (2) curriculum use. While much research has positioned the use of mentors and new teacher induction as the preeminent retention strategies, the findings of this study promote the curriculum itself as an important support method. This study’s findings also affirm a small but growing body of literature that calls for greater attention to be paid to what curriculum is (or is not) in use by public schools in order to better support the teachers who are charged to implement the curriculum in their classrooms.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access