Knowledge, skills, and dispositions influencing middle school teachers' decision making in planning social studies instruction in a Hispanic serving school
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The issue of highly qualified teachers as the key to improving the educational system in the United States has become a primary focus in education. The federal educational policy No Child Left Behind Act 2001, describes what it means to be a highly qualified teacher in core subject areas, and all states are required to use this criterion for defining what teachers should know, and be able to do. Accordingly, certified teachers in today’s public school classrooms must possess the knowledge, skills, and dispositions so that all students, including those students who have been historically disadvantaged and those who are culturally and linguistically diverse are offered equal opportunities for academic success. Teachers are continuously developing knowledge, skills, and dispositions to build their capacities (Grant, 2008). The purpose of this multiple-case study is to describe how these capacities influenced six middle school teachers’ decision making in planning social studies instruction in a Hispanic serving school over time. Henderson and Gornik’s (2007) concept of decision-making in planning curriculum goals served as a framework to conduct this multiple-case study. The data collected through interviews, followed the Seidman’s (2006) model of three-interview series. In addition, data were collected from non-participant observations, written field notes, and social studies lesson plans. The data were first analyzed using Yin’s (2009) case-by-case analysis framework, and then, by applying Stake’s (2006) cross-case analysis. Twenty thematic categories emerged as a result of the case-by-case analyses. These thematic categories served as a preamble for the cross-case analysis from which six themes and two atypical results emerged. The emerged themes across the cases are: (1) effective teamwork; (2) cultural awareness; (3) ownership in learning; (4) caring about student needs; (5) connecting lessons to everyday life; and (6) reflective practices. Implications for practices and further research are provided to help contribute to the body of knowledge regarding teacher capacity. These implications include strategies that can be developed to prepare teachers to effectively plan differentiated instruction for diverse students to help close the achievement gaps.