Term of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading

Committee Chair

Dan Rea

Committee Member 1

Grigory Dmitriyev

Committee Member 2

Lina Soares

Committee Member 3

Lucy Bush

Abstract

Current educational reform tends to emphasize an impersonal test-driven approach to teaching while the present research maintains this reform is inequitable because it neglects the personal component of teacher caring, which is necessary to reach all students, especially disaffected underachievers. The purpose of the present multi-case study was to determine the caring beliefs and practices of six effective teachers in two Title I Elementary schools in a central Georgia school system, how these beliefs and practices manifested in the classroom, and in what ways the teachers’ beliefs and practices may have been influenced by their own cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and those of their students. Using semi-structured interviews and classroom observations, the researcher explored individual and common beliefs and practices of the effective teachers concerning their students’ academic and personal achievements.

The researcher found these teachers believed and demonstrated the need to support intellectual, social, and moral growth as a component of caring for students, especially underachieving students. They believed caring relationships focusing on the full human growth of students were necessary and effective for student academic achievement. They believed all students could learn and be successful in school and life. The teachers valued the uniqueness of each child and supported individual student instruction and growth. Personal backgrounds of the teachers impacted their own beliefs and practices about how to be effective teachers of children. The cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds of the teachers’ students sometimes impacted how the teachers taught their students but did not affect how they cared for their students. The teachers defined student achievement for “at-risk” learners as self-improvement based on personal goals set with teachers’ assistance, and therefore, their ideas of achievement goals were not always consistent with mandatory curriculum standards and benchmarks.

The voices of effective caring teachers may provide the missing personal link to current impersonal approaches to educational reform that fail to help low-achieving students. The present study supports inclusive and equitable educational reform by acknowledging the personal contributions of effective caring teachers in fostering the achievement of all students especially, disaffected underachievers.

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