Teaching American History: The Influence of Professional Development on Elementary Teacher's Self-Efficacy and Classroom Practices
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This multiple case study examined the efforts of six elementary school teachers in their implementation of new instructional strategies in their fifth grade social studies classrooms following their participation in a weeklong Summer Institute focusing on American history. The study was guided by one grand tour question and one sub-tour question. The first question explored the classroom experiences of elementary teachers following their participation in the summer institute. The second research question delved into the internal and external influences for teacher change in the classroom. The data collection for this study included pre and post institute questionnaires, a History Teacher Beliefs Instrument, four classroom observations over a nine month period, lesson reflections, and teacher interviews. Three themes emerged from the data analysis. The first two themes, which addressed the first research question, suggest that teachers will implement new instructional strategies if they align with teachers' beliefs about student engagement and learning. In addition, teachers with collegial support, from planning through implementation and feedback are more likely to successfully implement new instructional strategies. The third theme, which addressed the sub-tour question, suggests that for teachers to change their classroom practice, they need collegial and administrative support at the school, as well as collective participation in a district wide professional learning community, in addition to continued participation in professional development. The results of this study show that in order for elementary social studies teachers to effectively implement new information (content and pedagogy) in the classroom, they need shared professional development experiences with their colleagues, opportunities for collaboration, and sustained support following the institute or workshop. A shared experience afforded the teachers an opportunity to check the fidelity of the instructional strategy or content knowledge as it was presented at the Summer Institute through regularly scheduled meetings with their colleagues over the course of the school year.