Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Middle and Secondary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Chisholm, James

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Norton-Meier, Lori

Committee Member

Norton-Meier, Lori

Committee Member

Larson, Ann

Committee Member

Horner, Bruce

Author's Keywords

teacher agency; teacher innovation; curriculum


In this study, I explore the curricular conceptions and practices of seven diverse secondary teachers in an urban, public school district who were involved in a year-long innovative professional collaborative. I also examine the types of ecological influences, including the influence of the collaborative, that played a role in the development of their sense of agency, or lack thereof, focusing especially on their exercise of structurally transformative, or innovative, agency. I examine the following questions in this study: 1. How do teachers perceive curriculum and their roles in curriculum? In what ways do they perceive their curricular conceptions and practices to be influenced by: their past teaching experience? their teacher education program? their perceived professional space in the workplace (culturally, structurally, and materially)? their short-term and long-term objectives for their students? 2. How do teachers view their participation in the innovative professional collaborative as contributive to their conceptualizations about and relationship with curriculum: with regard to their beliefs? with regard to their written plans? with regard to their classroom practice? Approaching the ‘contact zone’ of the collaborative through the lens of Bakhtin’s (1981) theory of dialogic thinking, and with an ecological understanding of agency informed by his concepts of ideological becoming and internally persuasive discourses, I utilized qualitative case study methods, as well as life history interview methods, to answer my research questions, garnering teachers’ perspectives by way of surveys, interviews, video diaries, and innovative artifacts. I analyzed the data through processes of open and focused coding, coding using pre-established codes, and cross-case analysis. Results from this study suggest that teachers’ exercise of structurally transformative agency is impacted by the ecological influences of their past experiences, present contexts, and future goals, but that it is also—and to an even greater degree—highly influenced by their core perspectives toward these influences, regardless of whether the influences are supportive or constrictive in nature. This research also suggests that teacher preparation programs, schools, and teachers may benefit from cultivating spaces and relationships that encourage vulnerability, the production of new knowledge, trust for teachers, organic teacher leadership opportunities, reflective conversations, and occasions on which teachers can “get outside of the profession,” all of which promote teacher innovation and growth in structurally transformative agency.