An Exploratory Factor Analysis of Teachers’ Beliefs, Attitudes, and Perceptions Utilizing the 1998-99 ECLS-K Spring 2004 Fifth Grade Teacher Questionnaire as a Secondary Data Source
AuthorAustin, Laura Elizabeth
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Abstract As public school teachers in the United States today confront unparalleled standards of accountability for student achievement and increasingly challenging working conditions, there is a need for a clear understanding of those factors that have the potential to impact teachers’ effectiveness and influence teachers’ decisions to remain in the workforce. Large national surveys such as the MetLife Survey of the American teacher (Met Life Foundation, 2013) have traditionally provided to professional educators highly accessible demographic, descriptive, and trend information about teaching from the teacher’s perspective. Results from these are accessible to the public by means of print and online media. This study posited that national datasets hold additional value as a secondary data source for educational researchers. The advantages of utilization of secondary data sources have been explicated in the literature (Crossman, 2014; Elder, Jr., Pavalko, & Clipp, 1993). With the application of exploratory analysis techniques, this study explored the potential to impute additional significance to an existing national education dataset. The purpose of this quantitative study was to seek empirically-determined factors associated with upper elementary teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about their work. Exploratory factor analysis procedures were conducted with selected elements of the existing dataset provided in the public-use file of the 1998-99 ECLS-K Spring 2004 Fifth Grade Teacher Questionnaire (ECLS-K 5th Grade ). Data pre-screening established a sample size of 1,314 teachers who met the study delimiters. Implementation of principal components analysis and exploratory factor analysis procedures resulted in 26 questionnaire items constituting a five-factor solution. Chronbach’s Alpha (α > .70) was conducted and established internal consistency among all items and among items related to the factors. The five factors were labeled Leadership and Professional Learning Community (PLC), Student and Parent Effects, Student Evaluation, Teacher Efficacy, and Teacher Collaboration Time. A follow-up MANOVA procedure was conducted to analyze responses based on the established demographic groups of Race, Age, Years of Teaching Experience, and Highest Education Level. Significant mean differences among the demographic groups were identified based on computed factor scores. Where applicable, post hoc analysis was conducted. Results indicated the existence of significant mean differences for all five factors with regard to the various demographic groups; however all significant effect sizes and pairwise differences for means were small. This study resulted in two key findings. The first key finding was the appropriateness of the use of the ECLS-K 5th Grade teacher survey instrument as a secondary data source with which to apply exploratory procedures to empirically identify underlying constructs (factors) of the teacher experience. Capitalizing on the large sample size afforded by the data set (N = 1,314), five factors were identified. The second key finding was the empirical identification of differences among selected demographic groups in relation to the identified factors. The data provided by this study, taken as a whole, provides educational policymakers and school leaders a multi-dimensional look at the interplay between research-based teacher factors and the implementation of activities associated with these factors by the diverse individuals that comprise a teacher workforce.