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Exploring the Mental Models of Early Adopters through Implementing a District Change Initiative
AuthorBurton, Amy D.
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Ongoing professional development for teachers has become a common expectation in school districts across the United States; however, those efforts are not always successful in changing teachers’ instructional practices in sustainable ways. There are often gaps in understanding the effects of professional learning efforts upon the beliefs and practices of teachers. Yet, that level of understanding is necessary for transformative learning to occur, a level of learning necessary to sustain shifts in practice.This study documented and analyzed the professional learning experiences of four middle school science teachers during a district Race-to-the-Top funded change initiative. The four participants volunteered to explore their thinking and learning while attempting to shift their instructional practice from a delivery-centered to a learning-centered stance. The participants also agreed to collaborate with their implementation specialist to study the potential cause and effect relationship of a learning-centered approach to their own professional development.The study revealed two themes representing the participants’ change experience. First, the four reflected on what changed in their mental models that resulted in changes in their instructional practice. Second, the participants studied why they were able to change their beliefs and assumptions and make those changes in their long-established practices.