Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Norton Meier, Lori A.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Carpenter, Bradley Wayne

Committee Member

Chisholm, James

Committee Member

Thomas, Shelley


Teachers--Training of; Teachers--Attitudes; Teaching--Social aspects


As the United States invests billions of dollars into teacher professional development, the underlying assumption is that learning leads to change and improvement in classroom practice. In truth, however, the process is not so simple. In this collection I explore what happens between new learning and application of that learning. This dissertation is a collection of scholarly papers examining teacher lives, culture, and learning from professional learning through implementation of learning in instructional practice. It examines the tensions between teacher beliefs, teacher learning and teacher practice and makes suggestions for systemic change. Within it, I contend that a focus on culture–of teachers and of students–is essential to improving the field of education. To that end, I present a new model of teacher learning that privileges culture and considers the complexities of teacher life and growth. This dissertation is divided into five sections, including three papers intended for publication. The first section introduces the study and the format of the collection, providing an overarching scholarship including the shift from professional development to professional learning and from culturally relevant pedagogy to culturally sustaining pedagogy, as well as an explanation of the qualitative methodology of the study. The second section is the first published paper, which uses auto-ethnography to examine the researcher’s own beliefs, learning and practices through the lens of critical literacy and establishes the researcher’s stance as a positive critical ethnographer. This piece introduces the reader to the multigenre essay and its usefulness for illuminating the complexities of teacher lives and perspectives. The third section examines one professional learning experience in the form of a summer university course. I analyze what made the experience an example of effective professional learning and its implications for designers, facilitators, and consumers of teacher professional development. This analysis leads to my posing a new model for teacher learning that takes into consideration the realities of teacher life, including the barriers they face within school communities and the factors that contribute to their ultimate acceptance or rejection of new learning. The third independently publishable paper comprises section four and follows one of the teachers from the summer learning experience; it is an ethnographic case study of her experience of learning and subsequent implementation while navigating the tensions between her new knowledge and the social conventions of schools and schooling–illustrating my model of teacher change. The fifth section closes the dissertation with a summary statement reflecting on all three works and how they address the research questions posed by this study.