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2015 Dissertations

Portraits of the High School Principal: Perspectives on Instructional Leadership

Margo M. Adkins

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

Education reform has increased accountability measures for principals to ensure all students are achieving.  Although student achievement should be the primary focus of a principal, the various responsibilities of the principalship can overshadow instruction. Due to the large number of students, multitude of course offerings, extra-curricular activities, discipline, and operational issues, many high school principals are inundated with responsibilities and challenges that may cause less time to be allocated to curriculum and instruction. These multiple responsibilities can also lead to principal burnout and high turnover rates.  To understand how high school principals managed their time to ensure curriculum and instruction was a priority, a qualitative study was conducted.  The researcher collected and analyzed data from semi-structured interviews, observations, and documents.  The portraiture methodology was then employed to create portraits that would provide a realistic perspective of the high school principal’s experience.  The instructional principals in this study each had a co-principal to manage the principalship.  This structure should have guaranteed curriculum and instruction would be a priority.  However, there were still challenges that would disrupt the focus from instruction.  Even with the division of responsibilities, principals felt ownership for anything that transpired on the campus.  In spite of the demanding time requirements of the high school principalship, the leaders in this study were very dedicated to the role and student achievement.

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The Selfie Generation: Students’ Perceptions of Classroom Incivility in Social Work Education

Alexander Otto Ballan

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education Leadership

Chair: Murray, John P.

Abstract

From the early days of academia, classroom incivility has been acknowledged as counterproductive to the social contract of an educational environment; however, due to the subjectivity of what constitutes uncivil behavior, classroom incivility continues to be open to interpretation.  The recent surge in classroom incivility has been attributed to changes in generational culture, parenting styles, K–12 educational practices, technological customs, and consumeristic/narcissistic attitudes of students.  A marginal amount of classroom incivility literature has focused on higher education settings; even more scant is the literature that has explored uncivil behaviors in social work education environments.  

This quantitative study examined students’ perceptions of classroom incivility in social work education, using the theoretical framework of social exchange theory.   The sample included 203 social work students; nearly 78% were enrolled in the Master of Social Work program and approximately 22% were enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work program in a public university in southern California.  A majority of the sample expressed some level of concern regarding the severity of the uncivil behaviors listed in the survey; however, the participants appeared to be polarized in their responses concerning the frequency of uncivil behaviors.  Based on these findings, implications for field internship and professional practice were identified and recommendations were made to assist undergraduate and graduate programs to recognize what is potentially the new norm in social work education settings and to promote a dialog regarding how students are educated and socialized into the social work profession.  This research did not clarify the issue of what constitutes classroom incivility; rather, it generated questions for future research regarding probable causes, consequences, and effects of uncivil behaviors in social work education.

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Preparing Future Elementary Teachers with a STEM-Rich, Clinical, Co-Teaching Model of Student Teaching

Stacey Benuzzi

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

By 2018, STEM occupations are projected to grow twice as fast as all other occupations combined (Olson & Riordan, 2012; Craig Thomas, Hou, & Mathur, 2012).  The need to educate and produce more STEM graduates is eminent, and research shows that the pipeline to prepare students for STEM fields begins in elementary school.  Research also shows that many elementary teachers lack the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and confidence to teach STEM subjects (Dorph, Shields, Tiffany-Morales, Hartry, & McCaffrey, 2011).  Meanwhile, opportunities for elementary teachers to develop their STEM PCK and confidence in teacher preparation programs or professional development are limited. 

To address this problem, programs like Raising the Bar for STEM Education in California are emerging.  A yearlong case study utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methods was employed to examine the program’s effectiveness in preparing future elementary teachers to effectively teach STEM subjects through a STEM-rich, clinical, co-teaching model of student teaching.  Data collection methods included qualitative interviews, observations through videotaped lessons, documents, and quantitative pre- and post-surveys.

The key findings from this study include that the STEM-rich, clinical, co-teaching model of student teaching was successful in increasing pre-service teachers’ confidence and expanding their pedagogical knowledge of teaching inquiry-based lessons.  Pre-service teachers were willing and excited to teach STEM subjects in their future elementary classrooms at the conclusion of the program.  However, the growth in content knowledge and confidence was uneven among the four STEM content areas and there was a lack of integration. 

Based on the findings of this study, it is recommended that future STEM professional development programs emphasize the vital importance of STEM fields as the rationale for teaching STEM subjects; build pedagogical content knowledge; integrate STEM subjects through a focus on engineering; explicitly link STEM to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards; design the STEM professional development around the characteristics of Adult Learning Theory; and foster reflective, collaborative communities of practice.  Further recommendations for policy and research are presented and discussed.

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Facilitators or Impediments to College Readiness

Daniel P. Bryan

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

A major problem high schools are confronted with is how to help all their students to become college ready. Part of the problem is how to provide that important social capital to thousands of students on campus while the counseling staff numbers at a school may be in the single digits, with student-to-counselor ratios ranging from 450-1000 students to one counselor.  A way to mitigate this ratio is to educate the teaching staff to help provide key college knowledge in class, as they are the primary contact with students during the school day.   In order to explore how high schools can create a culture around college readiness, a holistic qualitative study using in-depth interviews of students, and an open-ended survey of both students and teachers, along with a study of important college readiness documents provided rich, valuable feedback about how students and teachers and other staff members experience sharing the social capital of college knowledge. The data for this study was obtained from nine individual interviews of current high school students from grades 10, 11, and 12, and eight open-ended surveys of current high school students from grades 10, 11, and 12.  Data was also gathered from eight open-ended surveys of teachers, counselors and college-career specialists, and through a review of primary source documents from the school site the student participants attend.

The findings show the power institutional agents possess to influence students through daily contact and sharing the most relevant college readiness information.  Findings also indicate the synergy created when a high school implements the elements of a framework (system) at the macro (school wide) and micro (classroom level) for college readiness, shows promise in terms of creating the potential to maximize students’ ability to become not only college ready, but prepared well for any postsecondary future.

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A Public Four-Year Instituion’s Efforts to Address Students’ Spirituality

Matthew S. Cabrera

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Murray, John

Abstract

Higher education has taken pride in holistically developing students. However, research has shown that there is a void or lack in addressing students’ holistic development. More specifically, the lack or void is in addressing the spiritual development of students (Love & Talbot, 1999; Stewart, Kocet, & Lobdell, 2011). There remains little research on programs that directly and explicitly focus on spiritual development, especially in public institutions. It is important to study such programs to understand them as possible models and best practices for addressing spirituality in higher education. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how a four-year, public institution of higher education addresses students’ spirituality through the use of an interfaith center, reflection room, and student organizations focused on religion, faith, and spirituality.

A multi-case study methodology design was used to implement this research study.  There were three cases being studied – an interfaith center, a reflection room, and student organizations focused on religion, faith, and/or spirituality.  Each case involved interviews with student users, interviews with staff, and a review of documents.  Based on the theoretical framework and research questions, data accumulated from the data collection process were analyzed for emerging and convergent themes that relate to how these spiritually-related services impact students’ development.

Findings have concluded that these spiritually-related services do address various measures of spirituality.  However, there are areas in which spiritually-related services could improve to address more measures of spirituality.  Also, there are some negative factors that need to be addressed to improve the efficacy of these services.  Some factors include visibility of the services provided and more specific training for staff.  Recommendations for policy, practice, and future research are presented as ways that public higher education institutions can implement to address spirituality among their students.

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National School Reform: The Benefits of Civility and Ethics Instruction

Monica Cole-Jackson

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Jeynes, Williams

Abstract

The United States Department of Education recommended national school reform to enhance the public school system. Even with these proposals, some school leaders still struggle to determine how to improve student engagement, school climate, and staff and student relationships. This quantitative research reviews the perceptions of 187 students from four southern California middle schools to determine if social and emotional deficits exists that hinder positive student engagement, school climate and relationships. Data analysis and perceptions from participants’ revealed students thought some of their peers defiant, forgetful, lazy, unmotivated, cheaters, drinkers, and bullies. The youth also thought some teachers were not respectful or trustworthy and did not exhibit peacemaker behaviors in the classroom or on campus. The findings indicate a need for social and emotional support within these public middle schools. An exploration of the benefits of civility and ethics instruction, particularly, how this intervention might help to improve student behavior and support social and emotional shortcomings. Using aspects from Harvard University's Public Education Leadership Project Coherence Framework, this work offers recommendations for school stakeholders to assess and analyze behaviors and social and emotional needs of students in addition to implement and measure the impact from research-based civility and ethics instruction.

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The Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes at a California Community College: Insight from Faculty in a Single Department

Paul J. Creason

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Vega, Wiliam M.

Abstract

In 2002, the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) revised the accreditation standards and mandated institutions to implement the assessment of student learning outcomes (SLO) for all courses and programs.  The effective assessment of student learning outcomes provides a mechanism for faculty to analyze, discuss and use data to improve instruction.  This process has been integral to the institution’s ability to meet and maintain standards required for accreditation.  However, the assessment should be aimed at improving teaching and learning and providing instructional consistency that results in a better experience for students. 

Data from this qualitative study indicates the key components to consider when implementing student learning outcomes assessment. This study examines faculty perception of a single department’s process, and provides leaders with a roadmap to consider for the implementation of SLO assessment.  This study used a qualitative, single site, case study design to address the research questions.  Three methods of data collection were utilized:  (a) in-depth interviews, (b) observations of faculty meetings, and (c) document collection.  The researcher interviewed 11 of 13 full-time faculty members in the target department who had participated in the full assessment cycle and agreed to participate.

Key factors as identified by the faculty included: communication, knowledge of SLO’s, a clear plan, training, expertise, staff to assist faculty, and time to conduct the assessment and analysis.  Elements that were not evident in the literature emerged and indicated that the department culture and faculty characteristics should be considered when creating an implementation plan.

The data revealed that the largest obstacle for SLO assessment was the amount of time it takes to do a comprehensive and high quality assessment.  There was a clear disconnect between the tasks, the time they take and the institutional deadlines.  Other campus-wide barriers cited were a lack of communication from campus leadership, inadequate training, and the perception that the college did not support the necessary clerical and professional staff to assist faculty with the effort.

The resources and policies that were reported to assist faculty included a faculty-driven effort, an investment in the process to include compensation for the time spent, clerical and professional staff, technology to simplify the process and an examination of faculty workload.

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Strategies that Foster Academic Success for African-American Males in Elementary School

Patricia Dawkins

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

The educational literature tells us that African American males usually score the lowest on periodic assessments and standardized tests, represent the highest percentage in special education programs, are absent from honors classes, are subject to the most office referrals, suspensions and expulsions, have the largest drop-out rate from high school, and therefore constitute the lowest percentage to graduate from high school (Noguera, 2008). African American males are also the highest percentage of any race to be incarcerated (Yim, Losen & Hewitt, 2012). However, regardless of race, economic status or gender, most students are capable of achieving when they are offered appropriate teaching and learning strategies and are made to feel welcome at school. From personal observation as an elementary school principal for 20 years, I have come to believe that elementary school is the crucial period in which positive or negative attitudes towards school are formed, and learning behaviors are fixed.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to identify successful teaching and learning strategies at school and in the home, for academically successful 5th-grade African-American boys. In this study, I selected six 5th grade boys who were identified as proficient in Language Arts and Mathematics to hear their opinions about what teaching and learning strategies had worked for them. I also interviewed their teachers and parents to find out what they believed had worked so well for these successful boys.

Among the findings were: the importance of attending after school programs such as the Girls and Boys Club; parental involvement in homework; regular communication between parents and teachers; establishing clear homework routines and doing homework daily; the importance of participating in extra-curricular activities such as sports or music; the importance of teachers using culturally relevant pedagogy; the importance of teachers caring; and the importance of discussing college at home.

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The Academic Redemption of the Latino Male Community College Student

Jassiel Torres Domínguez

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education

Chair: Vega, William M.

Abstract

After high school graduation the majority of Latino males who decide to continue their education will do so via the community college (Martinez & Fernández, 2004; Kurlaender, 2006; Ornelas & Solorzano, 2004; Sáenz & Ponjuan, 2009; USDOE, NCES, 2014). Many will have the familial encouragement, peer support, and the aspirations to succeed toward their community college goal (Gándara, 2009a, 2009b).  However, many Latino male students are unsuccessful in their journey toward a community college certificate, associate’s degree or transfer to a university (Villalpando, 2010).

The problem under investigation in this study was the achievement gap that Latino male students may experience in community colleges and the socioeconomic impact of this lack of educational opportunity.  The purpose of this study was to explore the journey and experiences of 15 reentry Latino male community college students who achieved academic success after previously departing from the community college for a minimum of one year. Led by an ethnographic interview qualitative methodology, data was collected via 15 semi-structured interviews of individuals who met the necessary criteria for this study

Findings from this study suggest that Latino male students may not be informed or knowledgeable about higher education nor possess the necessary navigational capital to excel at the community college.  This study also revealed that Latino males may depart the community college in pursuit of employment opportunities to contribute to family expenses and to provide for themselves financially. Further, participants expressed that they returned to the community college in order to increase career options and secure future employment with greater job security.  Lastly, many participants expressed that a return to the community college was needed in order to fulfill a desire for a better life; fulfilling an original unaccomplished goal (educational and professional) or a new goal that was decided upon while away from the community college.

Recommendations for this study include key partnerships among educational institutions geared toward major and career awareness, the importance of greater collaboration between the community college and partners in industry, and the role of work study for nontraditional student retention.

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Signing Day: From High School Athlete to Division I Scholarship – An Examination of the College Preparatory Supports for African American Male Student Athletes

Stephen R.D. Glass

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Scott, James

Abstract

The academic deficits of African American males are sadly well documented.  National test data shows African American male students falling woefully behind in reading and math. Only 12% of African American males scored proficient in reading on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, and only 13% scored proficient in Grade 8 math.  African American males are also consistently absent from school (Noguera, 2012) which further impacts academic performance and the likelihood of graduating from high school.  However, research indicates that students who participate in school-sponsored activities were more likely to persist in school (Shifrer, Muller, Pearson, & Wilkinson, 2012).  African American male students who participated in sports not only attend school more regularly, but also increased their grade point averages.

Long Beach Poly High School, the “Home of Scholars and Champions”, has a long-standing tradition of successfully preparing student athletes to for athletic scholarships to colleges and universities.  Many African American males who participate in high school sports, especially football and basketball, dream of earning athletic scholarships to play their sport in college. In hopes of replicating this experience for student athletes in other urban high schools, this qualitative case study was driven by one central research question: What systems of academic support does Long Beach Poly High School provide for African American male student athletes who aspire to earn Division 1 scholarships?  Addressing three sub-questions, this study explored academic structures, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and the extent of systems implementation.  Operationalizing Critical Race Theory as a framework, the researcher interviewed seven academic and athletic staff members and a focus group of five student athletes to understand the systems in place at Poly.

The findings illustrate how Poly has intentionally constructed an academic system of support for any student athletes’ aspirations.  This system began with the student athlete’s undeniable commitment to his academic program, whereby the academic and athletic staff work collaboratively with teachers, support personnel, and parents to share accountability with the student athlete.  With multiple opportunities for tutorials and additional assistance, student athletes delay gratification.  They sacrifice today for a dream that will be born tomorrow.  The mystique of being a Jackrabbit and a rich history of academic and athletic excellence merited studying the unique environment of Long Beach Poly High School.  Further recommendations for policy, practice, and research are presented and discussed.

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What’s Professional Development Got To Do With It?  The Value of Lesson Study in Implementing the Common Core Standards for Mathmetical Practices

Jennifer N. Kolb

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

There is deep and growing concern that the United States is not preparing enough students, teachers, and professional mathematicians and scientists to sustain the economic and scientific development that has made this country great. The problem is that elementary teachers are typically poorly prepared in mathematics, which is ultimately placing students at a disadvantage as they advance through the higher grades and college without a strong mathematics foundation. Educational studies have pointed to the importance of providing elementary teachers with opportunities and structures that encourage on-going improvement of pedagogical practice in mathematics, but elementary teachers remain underprepared to teach it.  The purpose of this mixed-methods research study is to examine the effectiveness of Lesson Study as a means of professional development for elementary teachers’ implementation of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices (CCSS).

The study focuses on teachers’ perceptions of Lesson Study and their ability to develop lessons incorporating the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practices and their ability to engage students in developing mathematical thinking.  Literature pertaining to Lesson Study reveals the importance of sustained professional development that allows teachers to meet regularly over a period of time to work on the design, implementation, testing, and improvement of one or several lessons.  The study participants included 7 elementary teachers, 1 principal, and 1 district administrator from a small urban school district participating in a grant with California State University, Long Beach and the University of Chicago.  Qualitative and quantitative measures were utilized during this mixed-methods study.  Surveys, interviews, video observations, and classroom Common Core State Standards observation data were collected and reviewed for common themes and statistical significance. The findings suggest Lesson Study can be an effective means of professional development for implementing the Common Core State Standards and the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices. Through Lesson Study teachers can begin to move away from a teacher-centered classroom to one that focuses on a student-centered approach to teaching and learning. Educational policymakers will learn from this study how teachers can benefit from Lesson Study as a type of professional development and how it can support teachers as they integrate new ideas into classroom practice.

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Latina/o Students’ Experiences in a Small High School and College Access through a Critical Race Theory Perspective and Community Cultural Wealth Model

Carlos H. Loza

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Slater, Charles

Abstract

There have been many recent changes in education focused on closing the achievement gap, yet minority students continue to fall behind.  Latina/o students encounter systemic oppression in schools and society in the forms of academic tracking, classism, racism, and other biases (Bemak & Chung, 2011; Dickson, Zamora, Gonzalez, Chun, & Callaghan Leon, 2011; Hipolito-Delgado & Lee, 2007; Holcomb-McCoy, 2007; Martinez, 2003; Ortiz & Gonzales, 2000). At the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels, Latina/os attend schools whose educational conditions are some of the most inadequate in the United States (Oakes, 1984; Valencia, 1991).  One of the most significant school reforms at the high school level is converting comprehensive high schools into small schools or small learning communities.  This school structure could be beneficial in addressing some of the academic issues of minority students but also offer some cautions. 

The problem under investigation in this study is the achievement gap of Latina/os students in gaining college access in comparison to their white peers (Education Trust, 2010).  While small schools were created to close this achievement gap, there are still some concerns in regards to college access of these students.  The purpose of this study was to explore Latina/os college students’ experiences from the same small high school on how the school helped or hindered their college access. It also explores how these students used their community cultural wealth factors in order to overcome challenges and be successful. Led by a narrative inquiry interview qualitative methodology, data was collected via 10 semi-structured interviews of college students who met the necessary criteria for this study. 

Findings from this study suggested that the family feeling these students cited of being in the small school, was a factor that contributed to their academic success. The college awareness resources that were available to them with constant reminders from a college counselor that also contributed to their success.  Through a critical race theory lens, (Solórzano, 2001) this study also revealed institutional oppression occurred through the school’s lack of quality Advanced Placement courses, lack of diversity and insufficient funding for extra-curricular or school activities that hindered their acceptance to prestigious universities. Further, participants expressed that they overcame these challenges using Yosso’s (2005) six community culture wealth factors. 

Recommendations for this study include key curricular strategies to ensure students experiential knowledge is taken in creating the school’s curriculum, the importance of having a robust curriculum and , and the role of creating funding to offer extra-curricular and school activities will make a huge impact on Latina/os’ college access.

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Examining Students with Disabilities in a Linked Learning Pathway

Renee L. Polk

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Stallones, Jared

Abstract

In order to meet the demands of a 21st century global economy, students must have a broader range of knowledge and skills than ever before. As we work to increase the number of youth who are college and career ready, we must ensure that students with disabilities are not left behind.  High school graduation rates and postsecondary education completion rates for students with disabilities is low (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knockey, 2010).  Students with disabilities also have lower employment rates, lower average hourly wages, and higher unemployment rates (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).  As our economy demands higher and better-skilled workers, we must ensure that we continue to focus on best educational practices for students with disabilities to encourage completion of high school and preparation for postsecondary education and employment. 

Evidence suggests that combining academic and vocational programming, providing work experiences in high school, providing instruction in self advocacy, and establishing adult resources in the community for students before they leave school are all practices that  increase graduation rates for students with disabilities (Phelps & Hanley-Maxwell, 1997; Blank & Harwell, 1997; Kohler & Troesken, 1999).  Linked Learning is a secondary school reform targeted at preparing students for college and career.  Linked Learning is built upon the engaging elements found in the hands-on learning experiences that career and technical education programs offer.  One of the main goals of Linked Learning is to provide students with an array of opportunities that will foster higher graduation rates as well as preparation for college and career.  Students in a Linked Learning Pathway are able to contextualize academic learning through real-world applications and opportunities.  Linked Learning Pathways expose students to the full range of postsecondary opportunities, including two-and four-year colleges, certification programs, apprenticeships, and immediate entry into the workplace. 

 This study focused on examining students with disabilities in Linked Learning Pathways to see if participating in an academic sequence combined with career technical education leads to better college preparedness. Quantitative research methods were employed to examine comparisons between students with disabilities participating in Linked Learning and students with disabilities not participating in Linked Learning. The California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the Early Assessment Program (EAP) in English and math were the bases of comparison.  This research found limited but promising evidence that Linked Learning students with disabilities outperform their peers with disabilities who are not enrolled in Linked Learning on the CAHSEE English exam. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups on the CAHSEE math exam. However, this research did reveal limited but promising evidence that students with disabilities participating in Linked Learning scored "unconditionally ready" on the English Early Assessment Program (EAP) examination at a higher rate than students with disabilities not participating in Linked Learning. This is significant because scoring "unconditionally ready" on the English EAP exempts students from the California State University (CSU) English Placement Test (EPT), and upon acceptance to a CSU allows placement in a CSU English composition class without remediation.  Recommendations for policy, practice, and future research are also addressed in this study.

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Instructional Leadership for High School Principals

Courtney Brooke Robinson

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Slater, Charles

Abstract

Instructional leadership for high school principals is becoming more important as principals are being held increasingly accountable for student achievement results.  Principals are next to teachers in impacting learning in the classroom.  The problem for high school principals is that they do not feel prepared to be instructional leaders for their school.  There are many tasks a principal must handle throughout the day and these tasks take time away from principals acting as the instructional leader for their school.  Principals are also not always supported in their development as an instructional leader.  The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how high school principals have developed into instructional leaders, the obstacles they encountered during this process and their perceptions of the types of external support they received in instructional leadership.

The participants in the study included six high school principals from four different school districts.  The principals had all been on the job for at least one year.  Interview and document data were collected and analyzed for common themes.  The findings of the study suggested that when principals receive external support in instructional leadership, there are indications that they begin to develop in this area.

District support, mentoring and coaching, team support and reading with purpose were important in the development of the principals.  The findings also suggested two obstacles, time and people, for principals as they lead their schools in instruction.  Finally, the study’s findings indicated the principals who receive support had positive views of that support.  Based on the results of the study, recommendations were made for providing a strong system of support for high school principals in the area of instructional leadership.

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Connected Knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education

Richard Rodman

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education Leadership

Chair: Murray, John

Abstract

This study investigated low female participation rates/persistence in certain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses/majors, predominantly but not exclusively, engineering and physics. A gender gap exists in certain STEM disciplines; this gap may be exacerbated by pedagogies that favor males and make learning more difficult for females. STEM-related jobs were forecast to increase 22% from 2004 to 2014. Since 1965, the United States (U.S.) has provided H1B Visas to provide sufficient numbers of these specially trained people. If more U.S.-born females were in these STEM fields, the need for H1B foreigners would diminish. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau, only 18.8% of industrial engineers are female. From 2006 - 2011, at the institution where this study took place, the percentage of females who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering was 16.63%. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2010 there were 1.569 million “Engineering Occupations” in the U.S., of which only 200,000 (12.7%) were held by females. STEM professions are highly paid and prestigious; those members of society who hold these positions enjoy a secure financial and societal place. This study uses the Women’s Ways of Knowing, Procedural Knowledge: Separate and Connected Knowing theoretical framework. A modified version of the Attitudes Toward Thinking and Learning Survey was used to assess student’s pedagogical preference. Approximately 700 math students were surveyed; there were 486 respondents. The majority of the respondents (n=366; 75.3%) were STEM students. This study did not find a statistically significant relationship between gender and student success; however, there was a statistically significant difference between the learning preferences of females and males. Additionally, there was a statistically significant result between the predictor variables gender and pedagogy on the dependent variable student self-reported grade. If Connected Knowledge pedagogies can be demonstrated to provide a significant increase in student learning, and if the current U.S. educational system is unable to produce sufficient graduates in these majors, then it seems reasonable that STEM teachers would be willing to consider best practices to enhance learning for females so long as male students’ learning is not devalued or diminished.

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Alumni Perceptions of the Role of Field Education in Professional Preparation

Duncan Sutton

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Community College/Higher Education Leadership

Chair: Haviland, Don

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of alumni’s perceptions of the impact and effectiveness of field education on their professional/career preparations for full-time ministry. The theoretical framework for this study, David Kolb’s (1984)  Experiential Learning Cycle, identified the key elements upon which an effective field education program might be structured and provided a framework through which to analyze alumni’s perceptions of the career/professional preparation they received.  This qualitative interview study explored the experiences of 18 recent alumni to understand their perceptions of the development of their career capacities as they relate to the role and responsibilities of a Salvation Army officer. The participants were all recent alumni of the Salvation Army’s College for officer Training (USA Western Territory) and were selected based on their age and time since graduation.  Three main themes emerged: Meaningful Experiences, Attitudes, and The Field Supervisor. The alumni’s meaningful experiences included hands-on opportunities to test and apply the theory learned in the classroom, insight to the role and responsibilities of the corps officer, and exposure to new and/or different expressions and traditions of worship and service to the community. Additionally, though alumni were divided on  their attitudes towards tasks that were more menial, it was, ultimately, this attitude that determined the perceived value of that experience for both learning and ministry. To fully benefit from their field education opportunities, alumni had to be self-directed in their learning and make a conscious decision to want to learn, see value in experiences, and engage in reflection on their experiences. Finally, field supervisors not only determined the experiences that are offered, but their willingness to invest in the learning experiences of the alumni (being available for shadowing and observation, and providing feedback) was critical to the effectiveness of the field training experience.  Recommendations for policy and practice include the selection of appropriate field education locations, orienting and preparing the students for their field education experiences, selecting and preparing/training practitioners in the field to be effective field supervisors, and some best practices for field education programs.

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Persistence, Determination, and Hard Work are Crucial Ingredients for Life: A Narrative Inquiry into the Lives of First-Generation Vietnamese American Students

Betty Ta

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Educations

Chair: Haviland, Don

Abstract

Asian Americans are often regarded as the “model minority” (Chen & Yoo, 2009; Petersen, 1966), applauded for their ability to blend in to American society, achieve academically, and climb the socio-economic ladder.  However, this model minority status is a myth that fails to recognize the variation that exists across different Asian American subpopulations.  Recent studies have acknowledged the diverse ethnicities, cultural, economic, and social capital among different Asian American subgroups (Shields & Behrman, 2004; Wing, 2007; Yang, 2004).  This narrative inquiry explored the K-16 educational experiences of educationally successful first-generation Vietnamese American college students.  This Asian American subpopulation has experiences and outcomes that, in many ways, resemble those of traditionally underrepresented groups like African American and Latino students.  Thus this study examined the experiences of those who have succeeded to better understand the supports upon which they have drawn and the obstacles they have navigated.

Through narrative inquiry, this study gives contour and voice to the educational experience and academic life of these students from their own perspectives.  More specifically, this study employed narrative representation to retell lived experiences in the form of a chronological story (Clandinin, 2013; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000; Creswell, 2008).  Themes across participants were also examined and presented to honor the voices of other participants and provide deeper insights into the experiences of first-generation Vietnamese American students.  The stories of these understudied, disadvantaged students are examined to understand the personal, social, and institutional influences that affect the experience of this population and the possible interactions among these contributing factors as students navigate the K-16 educational pipeline.  By means of storytelling, findings elucidate the factors that support the scholastic achievement of first-generation Vietnamese American youth and the barriers that hinder their success using a student retention and anti-deficit approach.

Findings indicate that first-generation Vietnamese American youth navigated the K-16 educational pipeline as active agents with a wealth of capital and great resilience.  Like other marginalized students of color, youth in this study arrived at school with aspirational, familial, social, navigational, and resistant capital (Yosso, 2005).  Further, collectively, cognitive, social, and institutional factors enhanced students’ ability to persevere and triumph in face of barriers (Swail et al., 2003).  However, findings also suggest that some assets, such as family and language, were not absolute.  In many cases, one form of capital interacted, facilitated, or constrained another form of capital.  For instance, while family could be supportive and facilitative of student success, family members and traditions also presented significant barriers for at least some study participants.

Findings from this study inform policy, practice, and future research to facilitate greater participation, engagement, and educational achievement for first-generation Vietnamese American youth, as well as assist other first-generation youth navigate the educational process and create their own college-going tradition.  Based on the findings of from this study, policy makers should increased funding for qualified support staff (such as school counselors, school psychologists, school psychiatrists, school social workers, school-community liaisons, and bilingual aides) to help Vietnamese American youth overcome personal and institutional barriers to success (Swail et al., 2003).  Schools and colleges should annually develop improvement plans, as well as publicize and evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to promote minority student and parent engagement.

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The Effects of STEM-Rich Clinical Professional Development on Teachers’ Sense of Self-Efficacy in Teaching Science

Michael Trimmell

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Symcox, Linda

Abstract

There is a deficiency of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) qualified college graduates to meet current workforce demands (Carnevale, Smith, & Melton, 2011).  Further, there is a weak pipeline of STEM qualified educators, which are needed to help produce the skilled candidates necessitated by these demands.  One program aimed at creating highly qualified STEM teachers was the Raising the Bar for STEM Education in California: Preparing Elementary Teachers in a Model, Scalable, STEM-Rich Clinical Setting (Raising the Bar Program) (Symcox, L. & Benken, B., 2012.  The Raising the Bar professional development program focused on addressing deficiencies in elementary teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, specifically in science.  The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of the Raising the Bar professional development program on elementary master teachers’ sense of self-efficacy in teaching science.  Research shows there is a clear link between self-efficacy and outcome expectancy to improve student outcomes in STEM fields (Enochs & Riggs, 2006).    

This study utilized an explanatory mixed methods approach.  Specifically, a quasi-experimental design was followed to collect first, quantitative data, and then, qualitative data.  The quantitative data consisted of survey data collected from each of two groups: the treatment group of master teachers participating in the Raising the Bar professional development series, and the control group of master teachers not participating in the professional development.  The qualitative data was collected in the form of two focus group interviews, one from each group.  Further, two university student teacher coordinators were interviewed to add depth and perspective throughout the entire professional development process. 

Quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed to determine the effects of the Raising the Bar professional development on teachers’ sense of self-efficacy in teaching science.  The major research findings indicated that the STEM-rich professional development was successful in significantly increasing teachers’ sense of self-efficacy in teaching science.  Further, the findings of the study demonstrated that there is a clear need for focus on science across the curriculum, a clear need for a science-specific professional development model, and a clear need for inclusion of specific content courses as a requirement in administrative credential programs.  As a result of the research, a science-specific model of professional development was created.  The proposed model suggests that the science-specific professional development must be aligned, intentional, differentiated, ongoing, and purposeful.

Recommendations based on the findings of this study include further exploration of the factors that positively affect self-efficacy in teaching science.  Additionally, it is unclear if self-efficacy alone is sufficient to improve overall science teaching practice at the elementary level.  Research specifically aimed at the factors affecting teachers’ sense of self-efficacy in teaching science can help determine the best course of action for teacher credentialing programs, professional development programs, and instructional leaders working in the field.

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The Linked Leader: Principal Perception of Leadership in Linked Learning Pathways

Chandalee Wood

California State University, Long Beach 2015

Specialization: Elementary/Secondary Education

Chair: Scott, James

Abstract

With the adoption of the Linked Learning Reform Initiative and accountability measure of the Criteria for Certified Linked Learning Pathways, school leadership must address what it means to be a school principal within a system that is transforming key issues in school design, engaged student learning, systems of support, performance data monitoring, and building and sustaining high quality pathways.  This study attempted to inform school districts, current and future Linked Learning Pathway principals and community partners of the perceptions of current high school principals’ on school site leadership roles, responsibilities, and the impact of implementing and sustaining LLP’s on their leadership approach.  The primary question guiding this research study was: How has the transformation and sustainability of Certified LLPs impacted the leadership role, responsibility and approach of high school principals at those schools?  As a means to answer this question the researcher posed three sub questions. A) How do High School Principals’ perceive their role and responsibility as advocates for CLLPs and the students who participate? B) How do High School Principals’ perceive their role and approach to supervision of curriculum and instruction in CLLPs?  C) How do High School Principals perceive their role in and approach to building capacity in CLLPs?

This study employed a qualitative phenomenological research method with an in-depth interview.  Exploring the perceptions of acting principals in LLP high schools recognizes that this group has unique and firsthand knowledge of what it is to be a leader in a reform initiative educational context.  The participants were from school districts throughout California, and active principals of a high school implementing a Certified Linked Learning Pathways.

The stories shared by the participants display a principalship influenced by the context of LLPs.  This context creates a helix dynamic, intertwining transformation and sustainability into a never-ending perpetual motion.  Most of the Principals described years of LLP transition and evolution as their reality. While approaching the transformation and sustainability through this lens, the principals’ indicated three main roles critical to LLP success: community-bridge, risk-taker, and supporter.  While engaging in these roles the principal works out of a shared intention. The heart of LLP work, shared intention, was the outcome of the principals’ perceiving themselves as the right fit; a principal that believes they have a sense of purpose tightly aligned with the Linked Learning Initiative and the will to be a leading learner and buy-in to the Linked Learning Initiative vision.

 

last updated — Aug 28, 2015