Help writing a annotation for 10 articles

Anonymous
timer Asked: Nov 18th, 2016

Question description

Read at least 10 empirical articles

In the "Literature Review Resources" (See attached) document that you submitted in the previous course, provide the following for each source that you are adding to the document:

  1. The APA-formatted citation.
  2. A brief annotation of the key points of the source (200 to 250 words for each)

Teacher Understanding of Classroom Management and Application of Methods for Dealing with Student Misbehavior Submitted by Deonte’ Jamar Alexander A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctorate of Education Grand Canyon University Phoenix, Arizona September 30, 2014 © by Deonte’ Jamar Alexander, 2014 All rights reserved. Abstract The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies. An additional focus was on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager, and the training and support that teachers perceived they need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. The theoretical framework used for this study was based on social cognitive theory, person-centered theory, and the stimulus-response theory. The central question guiding this research focused on how elementary teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies to use in class. Data collection consisted of questionnaires and interviews as well as a researcher’s observations and focus groups over the course of four to six weeks in elementary classrooms at one school located in southern North Carolina. The results of the study included four key themes - noncompliant behavior, preparation, emotion, and training which helped to identify successful strategies and various obstacles in classroom management and student misbehaviors of these seven elementary school teachers. The results of this study provided education practitioners with ideas regarding how to benefit from helpful classroom management techniques and behavior approaches in order to increase the students’ success and effectiveness in the classroom of elementary school teachers. Overall, the study increased awareness, development, and implementation of classroom management techniques from the personal accounts of a sample of elementary school teachers and their perception of classroom management and dedication to improve the current situation and approach options. Key words: classroom management, elementary school, teachers, North Carolina v Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to numerous individuals, for all of them played an intricate part in the vision that has finally become a manifestation. I dedicate this dissertation to my mother and father, Arrita Alexander and Walter Patterson Jr.; they are the reason that I am the strong, consistent worker that I have become. I also dedicate this dissertation to my grandmothers, Sylvia Alexander and Mary Patterson. They instilled great value into me and have continued to be my life guide since I was born. I dedicate this dissertation to my sister and brother, Shaquana Alexander and Walter Malik Patterson III, who made me appreciate being a big brother. I dedicate this dissertation to all my aunts and uncles: Sutalia, Willette, Mary Jane, JoAnn, Lee, Marlon, and Malcolm. They always gave me encouraging words and were top supporters in whatever I decided to do. I dedicate this dissertation to my best friends, Tristan Williams and Danielle Allen. They both have always believed in who I was, not only to them, but who I was to the world. I dedicate this to my god brothers and sister Kimont, Kendrick, Otis, and Amanda. This group was by my side through my every high and my every low. I also dedicate this dissertation to my one and only niece, Malia, who is the light of my world. I dedicate this dissertation to all my spiritual leaders: Bishop Aaron and Lady Riley, Pastor Leroy and Lady Hamilton, Dr. James and 1st Lady Spence, and Dr. Pamela Herndon. I cannot forget Charles Caldwell who has been one of my best friends, wonderful inspiration, ideal example, and consistent leader in many ways. Finally, I dedicate this dissertation to all elementary school teachers striving to become better and more effective educators, but have not due to the lack of opportunity or information. We are a team! As one of my pastors would always say, “We do it better when we do it together!” vi Acknowledgments I have had such a wonderful support system throughout the doctoral process. First, I must thank God for all He was and still is in my life. There is no way I could have made it without the mercy and grace of God, especially during the time when I wanted to give up. I want to acknowledge a wonderful committee chair and members, Dr. Jason Ward, Dr. Gayle Grant, and Dr. Daniel Smith! They were definitely a group exuding excellence, knowledge, patience and wisdom. I wanted to also recognize those former chair and committee member on my team when I first began this journey: Dr. Cristie McClendon and Dr. Deborah Rickey. The doctoral team, as a team, pushed and stretched me in ways I did not think was possible. I must acknowledge my family praying for me and talking me through. I appreciate my friends as well as associates for having the patience with me and understanding when I could not participate in the normal ‘leisure’ activities. I must also acknowledge my former church families: Word Empowerment Church and Sacrifice of Praise Ministries. These two church families supported me and became listening ears when needed. I must also acknowledge Bright Horizons Family Solutions, who allowed extended break to prepare for my initial defense call and time off, if needed for research. Finally, I must acknowledge all the members of my cohort. Some of my colleagues have become doctors and some are almost at the finish line. Through this doctoral journey, I adopted an extended family and bond like never before. When no one around me understood what I was going through during the doctoral journey, this group knew hands on what to do and say to give me that push I needed to continue. This group will always be a part of my life, educational journey and I am forever appreciative for having people to walk this journey with me. vii It was an honor and privilege to have this opportunity to see other educators with such integrity, passion, character, and strength. It was interesting to hear various situations of behavior issues and how that dealt with them. However, it was even better to hear how they all were transparent and willing to learn from others. If I had to select one thing from this study to apply to my life now, it would certainly be that regardless how long I remain an educator and obtain various degrees, there is always something else to learn. viii Table of Contents List of Tables ..................................................................................................................... xi Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study....................................................................................1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................1 Background of the Study ...............................................................................................2 Problem Statement .........................................................................................................5 Purpose of the Study ......................................................................................................6 Research Questions ........................................................................................................7 Advancing Scientific Knowledge ..................................................................................8 Significance of the Study ...............................................................................................9 Rationale for Methodology ..........................................................................................10 Nature of the Research Design for the Study...............................................................11 Definition of Terms......................................................................................................12 Assumptions, Limitations, Delimitations ....................................................................14 Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study ........................................15 Chapter 2: Literature Review .............................................................................................16 Introduction to the Chapter and Background to the Problem ......................................16 Theoretical Foundations...............................................................................................18 Review of the Literature ..............................................................................................22 Classroom management defined. ...................................................................23 Components of classroom management. .......................................................25 Types of student misbehaviors .......................................................................29 Reasons students misbehave...........................................................................30 Ethnicity, gender, and student misbehavior ...................................................33 ix Teacher views on student misbehavior...........................................................35 Student misbehavior strategies .......................................................................37 Classroom environment ..................................................................................43 Understanding diversity in the classroom ......................................................47 Summary ......................................................................................................................49 Chapter 3: Methodology ....................................................................................................52 Introduction ..................................................................................................................52 Statement of the Problem .............................................................................................52 Research Questions ......................................................................................................53 Research Methodology ................................................................................................54 Research Design...........................................................................................................55 Population and Sample Selection.................................................................................57 Sources of Data ............................................................................................................59 Validity ........................................................................................................................60 Reliability.....................................................................................................................61 Data Collection Procedures..........................................................................................61 Data Analysis Procedures ............................................................................................62 Ethical Considerations .................................................................................................64 Limitations and Delimitations......................................................................................65 Summary ......................................................................................................................65 Chapter 4: Data Collection and Analyses ..........................................................................67 Introduction ..................................................................................................................67 Descriptive Data...........................................................................................................68 Data Analysis Procedures ............................................................................................70 x Results ..........................................................................................................................73 Research Questions ......................................................................................................79 Summary ....................................................................................................................106 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations ............................................108 Introduction ................................................................................................................108 Summary of the Study ...............................................................................................108 Summary of Findings and Conclusion.......................................................................110 Key Themes ...............................................................................................................112 Implications................................................................................................................114 Theoretical implications...............................................................................114 Practical implications. ..................................................................................115 Future implications. .....................................................................................116 Recommendations ......................................................................................................117 Recommendations for future research. ........................................................118 Recommendations for practice.....................................................................121 References ........................................................................................................................125 Appendix A: Questionnaire .............................................................................................147 Appendix B: Interview Questions ....................................................................................151 Appendix C: Classroom Management Observation Checklist ........................................152 Appendix D: Focus Group Session Protocol ...................................................................153 Appendix E: Site Approval Letter ...................................................................................154 Appendix F: Author Permission Letter 1 .........................................................................155 Appendix G: Author Permission Letter 2 ........................................................................156 Appendix H: Informed Consent Form .............................................................................157 xi List of Tables Table 1. Participants’ Education and Experience ..............................................................71 Table 2. Key Themes .........................................................................................................73 Table 3. Percentage of Students Identified as Noncomplaint Students ............................ 74 Table 4. Noncompliant Behaviors within the Class.......................................................... 75 Table 5. Number of Times Noncompliant Behaviors are Addressed ................................76 Table 6. Is your Response to Item #3 Reflective of the Past Year as well? ......................77 Table 7. Rated top Three Strategies ...................................................................................82 Table 8. Rate the Effectiveness of Classroom Management Strategies in General ...........83 Table 9. Indicate the Classroom Strategies used in the Classroom ...................................84 Table 10. How Teachers Develop their Classroom Strategies used in the Classroom ......85 Table 11. Opinions on Classroom Management Strategies and Behavior Approaches ....88 Table 12. Scores from classroom Management Observation Checklist ............................90 Table 13. Data in Correspondence to Selection, Development, and Implementation .....104 1 Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study Introduction An understanding of proper classroom management techniques is a critical tool for teachers to possess in order to be successful within the classroom in regard to the effectiveness of their instruction as well as to deter student misconduct that might interfere with that objective. Effective classroom management is an ongoing process that can be difficult to sustain because it requires attention to detail on a daily basis (Guercio, 2011). Teachers use diverse means to promote positive and appropriate conduct in the classroom; however, there is still a question as to which methods are the most appropriate (Guercio, 2011). By collecting data on student engagement during instruction, disruptive behavior, and teacher observations, teachers can determine if changes are needed in the physical arrangement of their respective classrooms. Changing the classroom environment can increase academic engagement and decrease disruptive behavior (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how elementary school teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. This study was a replication of a study conducted by Westbrook-Spaniel (2008) and focused on a diverse sample population and grade-level group that differed from Westbrook-Spaniel’s study. Targeting a younger grade-level group diversified the scope of information and offered a different set of approaches to controlling student behavior through classroom management. Guiding research questions spotlighted how teachers discovered, chose, expanded, and executed the classroom-management techniques they use. Additional questions focused on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager, and the training and support that teachers perceived they needed in order to feel more confident 2 in their approach to classroom management. The results of the study added to the existing body of knowledge by providing teachers with information that went beyond current classroom management research in the field of education. The results offered practitioners an understanding of how effective classroom strategies are implemented and who could implement them effectively. Additionally, the study provided information on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager and what training they need in order to continue to develop their skills (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008). Data collection in this study included the use of questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations. Participants included teachers in elementary classrooms at one school located in southern North Carolina. In this study, some questions were answered regarding what classroom management methods were known to work best in reducing incidences of misbehavior in elementary-school classrooms. Teacher awareness of the specific strategies that work at the school targeted for this study was heightened and may have helped teachers and leaders in other elementary-school settings. It was not clear how educators were using and applying current research on classroom management to their own instructional environments. This study helped fill a gap in the existing literature and research on classroom management to illuminate how teachers learn, select, develop, and implement effective classroom-management strategies. Background of the Study Classroom management is the ongoing process by which teachers seek to enhance students’ affective growth by creating and maintaining an orderly environment (Jones, Jones & Vermete, 2013). In education, teachers and administrators are obligated to remain aware of innovative classroom management techniques that will prevent or reduce 3 incidences of misbehavior in the classroom (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003). A well-managed classroom takes a good deal of effort to create and the person who is most responsible for creating it is the teacher (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003). There is mounting evidence that teachers can influence the classroom’s social climate through their behavior management skills and can directly affect students’ behavioral adjustment (Farmer et al., 2006). Quite often, teachers try to apply ready-made solutions to fit every difficulty raised by a child’s misbehavior, anxieties, conflicts with other children, or learning difficulties (Tal, 2010). Despite broad recognition that teaching excellence requires meeting students’ intellectual and social needs, teachers struggle to explain the interplay between the academic and social dimensions of classroom life (Walker, 2009). Classroom management has been studied from a variety of theories and perspectives. One popular method in the 1990s was Canter’s assertive discipline model which incorporated an authoritative approach using various parental styles for managing the classroom (Swinson & Cording, 2002). Applying parenting-style theory to teacher effectiveness is important. Such a cross-disciplinary approach potentially paints a holistic portrait of adult-child interactions as developmental contexts (Walker, 2009). Similarly, this management style can advance current understanding of teacher influence on student learning and development by reconciling the dichotomy between schools’ highly controlling zero-tolerance policies and other more humanistic approaches to teaching and learning (Walker, 2009). According to Swinson and Cording (2002), the Canter model has three components: clear requirements, continuous positive feedback when students are successfully meeting requirements, and a published hierarchy of sanctions that are applied consistently when rules are broken. 4 Another classroom-management approach used in past years was the tiered approach. This approach covered three tiers: Preventative Classroom Management, FirstLine Interventions, and Intensive, Individualized Interventions. During the first tier, anything the teacher does that establishes behavioral expectations in the classroom creates the core curriculum of highly engaging instruction by providing frequent opportunities for students to respond (Sayeski & Brown, 2011). With the second tier, teachers can look for a range of intervention options that compliment the standard core practices in their classroom (Sayeski & Brown, 2011). In the last tier, behavioral supports always begin with a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) that move beyond the environmental scan of Tier 1 and the surface management or reinforcement strategies of Tier 2 to focus on an individual student's behavioral needs (Sayeski & Brown, 2011). Savage and Savage (2009) defined classroom management as two levels of management: the prevention of problems and responses when problems do occur. Doyle (2006) added that classroom management revolves around teachers’ and students’ attitudes and actions that influence students’ behaviors in the classroom. Classroom management is not a gift bestowed upon some teachers and though it is true that some teachers adapt to classroom management techniques easily, classroom management is a skill that can be gained through training and many years of experience in the field (Bosch, 2006). In order to work with students, teachers must approach challenging situations with optimistic, caring, and positive attitudes. Yet, it was not known how teachers learn, develop, and implement effective classroom strategies with today’s changing student demographics. Further, it was not known how the teachers at the research site define an effective classroom manager and what training they needed in order to continue to develop their classroom management skills (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008). 5 This study extended the existing body of research in this area by going beyond a current summary of classroom management in the field of education. Instead, it offered practitioners an understanding of how effective classroom strategies are implemented and who can implement them effectively. It also provided information on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager and what training they needed in order to continue to develop their skills (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008). Problem Statement It was not known how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies. Many classroom teachers are faced with challenging student behaviors that influence their ability to facilitate learning in productive, safe environments (MacSuga & Simonsen, 2011). The need for successful classroom management skills has not diminished during a time when school reform has emphasized academic testing and student achievement (Allen, 2010). The general problem was that there was a lack of research on how teachers learned, developed, and implemented effective classroom strategies with student behaviors. Further, it was not known how teachers defined an effective classroom management and what training they needed in order to continue to develop their skills (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008). Proper classroom management methods are necessary for all teachers to become successful within the classroom. School reform that encourages learner-centered classrooms based on what is known about new developments in the learning sciences is a positive step (Allen, 2010). Dealing with student problem behavior is one of the most pressing concerns facing educators in the classroom (Ducharme & Shecter, 2011). Unless teachers came to the classroom with skills that establish a culture that proactively minimizes behavior problems and allowed them to intervene in positive, educative, effective ways 6 when students are disruptive, there was likely to be an environment that is predisposed to behavior problems. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this qualitative case-study research was to explore how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies. An additional focus was on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager, and the training and support that teachers perceived they needed in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. The researcher employed questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations over the course of 4 to 6 weeks in elementary classrooms at one school located in southern North Carolina. Data collection methods included questionnaires, face-to-face or telephone interviews, classroom observations, as well as focus groups facilitated by the researcher. The use of three forms of primary data collection for triangulation purposes contributed to the credibility and reliability of the study. According to Denzin and Lincoln (2003), triangulation is often employed by qualitative researchers to develop the accuracy and representation of data. Since no form of data can fully represent the phenomena explored in qualitative studies, triangulation is used to clarify the information revealed as it appears in more than one source (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). The target school for this case study was an independent, non-profit school accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It was a state-licensed college preparatory school for pre-K through grade 12. The school housed 85 students, and had 13 teachers with a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. The administration staff included three members, and the faculty had 16 members within the school. The composition of the student body was 94% African American, 5% Caucasian, and 1% other. Students 7 were allowed to bring their lunch, or order lunch through the lunch program offered by the school. During the 2011-12 academic year, the suspension rate of students was 1% and the average number of students sent to the principal's office daily varies from zero to one, and from none to three weekly. This particular study focused on teachers in grade levels Pre-K through Grade 5. The demographics allowed the researcher to get a clear scope of the research. The sample included a diverse group of students with different personalities, academic levels, economic brackets, and race. The classroom is a very different place than it was one or even five years ago. Teachers are faced with larger, more-diverse classrooms where teacher accountability is mandated as a result of the No Child Left Behind legislation (Kariuki, 2009). Research Questions The focus of the study was to discover the methods teachers in an independent school in southern North Carolina use in the classroom that deter student misconduct. In order to clearly narrow the scope of the study following research question was addressed: R1: How did elementary teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies to use in class? The current methods used by the participating teachers became evident in the classroom through the direct observation of the teachers. Only a limited number of teachers were selected for this study based on the grade level they teach. Since this study only focused on the elementary grade levels, only elementary teachers within the school were selected for sampling. Teachers instructing grades 6 through 12 were not included for this study. Data collection consisted of questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and 8 classroom observations for a period of four to six weeks in elementary classrooms at one school located in southern North Carolina. Advancing Scientific Knowledge This qualitative case study extended the current research by creating a model for future intervention for teachers within the classroom. The study is based on social cognitive theory, person-centered theory, and operant conditioning theory. A teacher may be labeled highly qualified, but can still benefit from learning additional ways to become more effective with classroom management. According to Tal (2010), to lead classrooms, teachers need conceptual tools to help clarify how effective classrooms work. Teachers also need to create a commitment to the welfare and learning of the children, and develop skills to apply these insights and commitment. Teachers often resort to reactive and punitive strategies that have many negative side effects and drawbacks because teachers lack specific training in managing problem behavior in the classroom (Ducharme & Shecter, 2011). The lack of training in managing student behavior may cause a gap in learning to the students' fullest potential. Ducharme and Shecter’s preferred approach to classroom management meets the clinical needs of children with challenging behavior while potentially serving as a more practical classroom alternative to commonly recommended strategies. This study was grounded in the field of education with research giving clear knowledge of teacher understanding of classroom management and the application of methods for dealing with student misbehavior. Therefore, understanding classroom management as it relates to the way students behave and perform in the classroom is important. As a result, this study advanced the scientific knowledge base by adding to the existing theories used as a foundation for teachers and other educators who are interested 9 in learning more classroom management and strategies for effectively preventing or reacting to misbehavior within their classrooms. These theories sustained how teachers select management strategies to use in class, the development of the strategies and skill sets they use in classroom management and the training and support teachers need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. This study also added to the limited knowledge elementary school teachers may have about classroom management and their perceptions and observations of student behavior. Significance of the Study There is mounting evidence that teachers can influence the classroom social climate through their behavior management skills and can directly affect students’ behavioral adjustments (Farmer et al., 2006). According to Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, and Sugai (2008), educators who follow current trends in educational policy, law, and research are guided to identify and implement scientifically validated or evidencebased practices, a standard that has gained popularity in the past decade. The interrelationship between teacher disciplinary practices and professional programs needs to be one where ongoing critical reflection, relevant discussions, and an ability to see various disciplinary approaches being practiced in classrooms are interwoven (Lewis & Burman, 2008). Studies are set in place to present the most pertinent information possible for other educators. The aim was not to provide an exhaustive list, but to outline those techniques that teachers believe are critical for creating contexts that foster positive and productive behavior from youths who tend to be challenging to teachers (Farmer et al., 2006). By collecting data on students' engagement during instruction, disruptive behavior, and teacher observations, teachers can identify which physical aspects of their 10 classroom may need to be improved (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). The results from this study were expected to extend more clarity to the classroom management approach and to inform the approach in order to counteract and prevent much of the misbehavior that occurs in the classroom. The study also promoted more teacher-to-teacher interaction as it pertains to making a collaborative effort to share various methods and techniques. Though the study only targeted one elementary school, the results and approach was useful to influence other elementary schools and higher grade levels as well. The positive outcome was that the school participating in this study was able to use the results as needed, and approach classroom management and student misbehavior accordingly with that particular school. In case the results do not meet the researcher’s expectations, the sample size could be increased, a certain additional grade level could be selected, or the researcher could increase the number of schools involved in the study. Rationale for Methodology This study employed a qualitative case study design. In qualitative research, the researchers explore the meaning as understood by the participants, in a natural setting (Arghode, 2012). Therefore, with this study, the qualitative research approach was more fitting because it offered an opportunity to investigate classroom management and students with a more hands-on approach rather than by statistics only as would be the focus of a quantitative study. Another situation is when the researcher cannot manipulate the behavior of those involved in the study. Also, when the researcher wants to cover contextual conditions because you believe they are relevant to the phenomenon under study. The last situation is when the boundaries are not clear between the phenomenon and context. Yin (2003) and Stake (1995) used different terms to describe a variety of case studies. Yin categorized case studies as explanatory, exploratory, or descriptive. He 11 also differentiates between single, holistic case studies and multiple-case studies. Stake identifies case studies as intrinsic, instrumental, or collective. Discovering the effective management strategies that teachers are using may lead to developing a methodology for teaching those strategies and changes necessary to better maintain discipline while increasing student achievement. The study also gave credence to the current status of teachers' understanding of classroom management and student misbehaviors. In either suggesting change or reinforcing the current state of classroom management and student misbehavior, the results were important for not only elementary schools in southern North Carolina, but for schools at-large as well. Nature of the Research Design for the Study The design selected for this qualitative research was a case study to explore the types of student misbehavior that teachers experience in the classroom, and to discover how teachers select their discipline techniques for handling or preventing those misbehaviors. According to Yin (2003), a case study design should be considered to address the problem and research question in several situations. One situation is when the focus of the study is to answer “how and “why” questions. Qualitative case studies allow the researcher to physically go into the environment and experience the results. The sample for this study included seven teachers from an elementary school in southern North Carolina. Data collection included a letter and questionnaire designed to describe the nature of the study and to solicit demographic information from the teachers in terms of degrees held, years of teaching experience, subjects taught, and grade levels taught. There also was a focus-group session centered on questions of classroom management training as well as definitions of effective classroom management and other techniques. The focus-group questions were listed in Appendix D of this document. From the initial 12 focus group, a subset of teachers was solicited for further participation in the study. The focus group allowed the researcher to gather additional face-to-face data from participants, and information from focus groups was immediately available to the researcher. Not all sources are essential in every case study, but the importance of multiple sources of data to the reliability of the study is well established (Stake, 1995). Yin (1994) suggested using multiple sources of evidence as the way to ensure construct validity. Qualitative research requires learned practice of active waiting, striking a balance throughout a research project between moving forward and advancing the research process, and allowing adequate time for the full development of each aspect of the research. Through this study, the frequency of student misbehaviors teachers encountered in their elementary classrooms; the strategies teachers reported to work to effectively deter student misbehavior in their classrooms; how elementary teachers defined an effective classroom manager; the difference in approaches to classroom management among the teachers; how classroom-management strategies are learned, developed, and implemented; and who was able to implement those strategies effectively. This research study was designed to benefit the teachers and principals of a school in southern North Carolina. Definition of Terms Terms that were used in this study are defined as follows: Classroom management. An effective plan of creating the classroom environment, setting up materials, being ready to teach before class starts, and continually analyzing how to make teaching more productive (Palumbo & Sanacore, 2007). 13 Misbehavior. Behavior that is considered inappropriate for the setting or situation in which it occurs (Allen, 2010). No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This act of Congress is intended “to hold educational agencies and states accountable for improving the quality of education for all students. It seeks to identify low-performing schools that have failed to provide a highquality education to their students and transform them into successful schools” (Maleyko & Gawlik, 2011, p. 600). Self-discipline. Determined by people’s perceptions (e.g. feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and aspirations); how the person positively sees himself or herself; and a feeling of belonging and oneness with others (Combs, 1985). Bandura’s social cognitive theory. This theory suggests that how people interpret the results of their own behavior informs and alters their environments and the personal factors they possess which, in turn, inform and alter subsequent behavior (Pajares, 2002). Person-centered theory. This theory creates a balance between the wants of the teacher and the efforts and needs of the students, forming a collective classroom, including all persons in a classroom. (Freiburg & Lamb, 2009) Lee Canter's assertive discipline. This model is a preventative approach to behavior management, as the teacher is responsible for redirecting unwanted behaviors before they become disruptive to the entire classroom (Canter & Canter, 2001). Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning. This theory uses the structure of teaching and subsequent learning is strictly architected to optimize the behaviors through reinforcement (Lineros & Hinojosa, 2012). 14 Control theory. This theory suggests that power sharing in the classroom is used to deal with any issues including rules, behavior, and discipline. Students are allowed to discuss any topic without fear of condemnation. The outcome should be an agreement of the solution(s) to the problems by both parties (Glasser, 1985). Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations Several assumptions were made in this study. First, all participants sampled completed and returned their interview questionnaires. Second, the instruments that were used during the data-collection process presented an accurate assessment of the sample. To validate the assumptions, the researcher initially explained to each participant the importance of fully completing and returning the questionnaires, and of giving honest responses to the posed questions and prompts. Several limitations were present in this study. The data collected were limited to seven teachers, which is 69% of the total teachers employed of the school. The selection process was open to all teachers working directly with or supervising the elementary grade levels. Therefore, the methods and perceptions documented did not represent all teachers within the school. This study was limited to one elementary school; therefore, it did not represent all schools in southern North Carolina. The researcher was not employed at the school where data collection occurred; therefore, the potential chance for researcher bias was minimized. The following delimitations were presented in this study: The study gathered qualitative data, drawn from a sample of seven teachers. The teachers instructed prekindergarten through fifth grade classes in a school located in southern North Carolina. The participants were purposefully selected and, for this reason, the results were not generalizable to any other school in North Carolina or the United States. 15 Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study This chapter explained how the researcher conducted the study and set forth the theoretical framework. According to Cohen, Pickeral, and McCloskey (2009), more districts, states, and networks of schools use data to help define school success. Chapter 1 included the significance, nature, assumptions, and limitations. Chapter 2 will present a literature review of information on classroom management and the effect it has on student behavior. The literature review will introduce the study background, present the conceptual framework of the study, and present in-depth information on classroom management and student misbehavior. Chapter 3 will discuss the methodology used throughout the study and state the instruments used, the participants in the study, and how the data was collected. Chapter 4 provides detail on how the data were analyzed including both written and graphic summaries of the study results. Chapter 5 is an interpretation and discussion of the results as it relates to the existing body of research related to the dissertation topic, the research questions, chosen theoretical foundation, and recommendations for future practice and research. 16 Chapter 2: Literature Review Introduction to the Chapter and Background to the Problem The purpose of this qualitative case-study research was to explore how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies. An additional focus was on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager, and the training and support that teachers perceived they needed in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. This section included a compilation of scholarly sources offering in-depth information on classroom management and student behavior. Sources were obtained in various formats, including peer-reviewed journals, doctoral dissertations, scholarly web sites, and textbooks. Scholarly electronic sources were used as well, including ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, EBSCOhost, Academic Search Complete, and Education Research Complete. Public opinion trends over former decades have shown that lack of discipline has been and continues to be one of America’s top public-educational concerns (Freiberg & Lamb, 2009). In recent years, awareness about the importance of having quality interpersonal relations both with and among the children for attainment of school goals seems to be growing (Sidorkin 2002; Evertson & Weinstein, 2006; Pianta, 1999). Disciplinary techniques are used to channel students' behavior into acceptable patterns and disciplinary policies function to bring order to the learning environment (Grubaugh & Houston, 1990). Changing the classroom environment can increase academic engagement and decrease disruptive behavior (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). Studies have been conducted to examine whether or not student teachers are adequately trained to use classroom management and are adequately prepared to face problems that may develop in the classroom (Pellegrino, 2010; Strett & Imig, 2011; 17 Folmer-Annevelink, Doolaard, Mascareño, & Bosker, 2009; Schmidt, 2010). Thus, understanding proper classroom management techniques is an essential tool for teachers to possess in order to be successful within the classroom as well as to prevent frustrations and problems with students. Appropriate classroom behavior should be maintaining for many students in the classroom by naturally occurring reinforcers such as positive attention from the teacher, grades, or self-reinforcement that results from task completion (Little & Akin-Little, 2008). Buck (1992) stated that teachers must be aware that students need continuous practice to fully understand and comprehend classroom procedures and routines. Yet, in order to prevent student misbehavior, understanding the relationship between classroom management and student behavior is imperative (Buck, 1992). The proposed study was designed to further define that connection. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies. The researcher did notice some diverse cultures from the students within the classroom. Current literature showed cultural variances between students and teachers was a source of stress leading to the gap of learning for the students. Additional areas covered in this study were defining an effective classroom manager and the training and support that teachers perceive they need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. It is evident that the lack of information on how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies has become more of an epidemic throughout many classrooms. Topics in the literature review included the existing research on classroom management and strategies, student misbehaviors and strategies, and understanding 18 diverse populations. The review included definition of classroom management; components of classroom management; types of student misbehaviors; reasons students misbehave; ethnicity, gender, and student misbehavior; teachers’ views on student misbehavior; student misbehavior strategies; classroom environment; and understanding diverse populations in the classroom including cultures, languages, race, economic differences, and personalities. Theoretical Foundations During research, it is important for the researcher to determine the theoretical foundation for the study. Classroom climate and school belonging lead to experiences and perceptions that influence academic self-efficacy, consistent with the tenets in Bandura's social cognitive theory (McMahon, Wernsman, & Rose, 2009). Sokal, Woloshyn, & Funk-Unrau (2013) suggested that teacher efficacy is another affective component frequently explored in relation to effective teaching practice and it refers to teacher’s self-perceptions of his or her teaching competence in a given situation. Research has shown that self-efficacy beliefs can help predict behaviors such as those related to whether one will engage, persevere, and accomplish one’s goals (Bandura, 1997; Pajares, 1996). Although theory and empirical research emphasize the importance of classroom climate and school belonging in relation to academic outcomes, few studies have examined connections among classroom climate, school belonging, and academic self-efficacy (McMahon et al., 2009). A study of classroom environment, perceptions of assessment tasks, academic self-efficacy, and attitudes to science revealed statistically significant links between classroom environment and academic efficacy (Dorman & Fraser, 2009). Veleyutham and Adridge’s (2012) recent study identified aspects of the psychosocial learning environment that influence student motivation including self- 19 efficacy. These results suggested that student cohesiveness, task orientation, and investigation are the most influential predictors of student self-efficacy. Pajares and Kranzler (1995) found that the influence of academic self-efficacy on performance such as mathematics was as strong as the influence of general mental ability. Roeser, Peck, & Nasir (1996) found that a greater sense of school belonging, as well as emphases on effort, understanding, and beliefs that all students can learn were associated with greater academic self-efficacy. Classroom climate has been associated with academic and interpersonal efficacy among urban youth, both directly (Cowen et al., 1991) and indirectly (Baker, 1998). Cowen et al. (1991) found that students who perceived high levels of classroom competition, friction, and difficulty felt less efficacious in managing rational problems and difficult situations. Self-regulated learning has been successfully applied to education (Clearly & Zimmerman, 2004; Zimmerman, 2000). Part of the research question guiding this study dealt with how teachers select their classroom management strategies. In order to facilitate self-regulated learning, teachers must consider the interactions of environmental influences, student perceptions, and learning behaviors (Shu-Ling & Lin, 2007). Selfefficacy beliefs and self-regulated learning can mutually enhance each other. Socialcognitive theory components have direct implications for structuring the student-learning environment so that desired learning outcomes are achieved (Erlich & Russ-Eft, 2011). Learners with a strong sense of academic self-efficacy will likely work harder and persevere longer when they encounter difficulties than will their peers with lower selfefficacy levels (Pajares, 1996). In contrast, struggling learners often resist or quickly quit activities they perceive as difficult or impossible for them (Wong, 1991). Therefore, it is 20 important for teachers to consider various types of learners in order to have the most effective approach to each student’s behaviors. Freiberg and Lamb (2009) suggested that by sharing control, learners begin the process of becoming self-disciplined. To facilitate a person-centered classroom, teachers should place themselves in the students’ condition. Person-centered approaches can be easily acceptable on ethical, humanitarian, and educational grounds (Doyle, 2009). Students often want to know how much the teacher cares long before they want to learn how much the teacher knows (Freiberg & Lamb, 2009). The Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline program (CMCD) is a classroom management model from the person-centered theory. The program was developed by two teachers from the middle- and high- school levels. The program has been researched by a teacher educator (Freiberg, 1999b). Research reports that CMCD schools have increases in student achievement (Slavin & Lake, 2007). Increased teacher and student attendance, reduced office discipline referrals, and improved classroom and school learning environments have also been recognized within the CMCD program (Eiseman, 2005; Freiberg, Connell, & Lorentz, 2001; Freiberg & Lapointe, 2006). Another part of the research question is recognizing how teachers develop their classroom management strategies. Teachers are encouraged to systematize their disciplinary role in order to minimize time spent on behavior problems. A person-centered educational experience is important in achieving the significant curricular outcome of a sustained life-long dedication to learning and responsible citizenship (Doyle, 2009). Person-centered practices are necessary, but insufficient, conditions for management success. By themselves, they will not forge productive context in the absence of attention to activities and programs of action (Doyle, 2009). Teachers may experience similar behaviors from their students. When teachers 21 become aware and educated about their past educational experience it can help them become more efficient with the students. Another approach used within the classroom is Skinner’s operant conditioning theory based on reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement refers to a consequence that influence the student to exhibit the behavior more frequently, while punishment refers to a consequence that causes the student to exhibit a behavior less frequently. Operant conditioning is not grounded in the belief that a stimulus is required to associate an unconditioned response with a new conditioned one. Instead, after a given behavior is observed, it is either rewarded or punished (Lineros & Hinojosa, 2012). These theories supported how teachers select management strategies to use in class, the development of the strategies and skill sets they use in classroom management and the training and support teachers need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. It is clear the study fits and aligns within other research based on existing theories and model on classroom management and teachers can benefits the additional updated research. When teachers make evidence-based changes to their classroom environments, these modifications are a preventative and effective strategy (Abboll, Walton, Tapia, & Greenwood, 1999; Fullerton, Conroy, & Correa, 2009). Current studies broadened previous research by examining several dimensions of classroom environment such as satisfaction, cohesiveness, difficulty, competitiveness, friction, sense of school belonging, and academic self-efficacy (McMahon et al., 2009). Reflecting back on various similar theories helps understands the relevance of a child’s purposes and goals which could be difficult unless the basic concept that all behavior is goal-oriented is accepted, thus producing a better environment throughout the classroom. 22 Review of the Literature It is important to recognize various components that are factors in the way student behave and learn within the classroom. Classroom management has become a large problem with questions and concerns regarding how to develop new teachers into experienced teachers (Strett & Amiga, 2011). Lack of preparation and the ensuing frustration with student misbehavior often leads teachers to become disillusioned with teaching and more prone to burnout (Evans, Lester, & Anfara, 2010). A knowledgeable teacher may fail in teaching due to inability to work effectively with students (Ediger, 2013). To address this challenge, teachers and administrators must collaborate and communicate, forming strong partnerships to set and enforce classroom management policies (Grode, 2009). Positive discipline has long been an essential dimension of school connectedness (Strahan, Cope, Hundley, & Faircloth, 2005). The qualitative case study design is the most befitting approach. The case study design allowed the researcher to go within different classrooms to experience how teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. Everything that happens in the classroom will affect the student and his future. Research findings continuously have shown that one of the keys to success in teaching is the teacher's ability to manage the classroom and to organize instruction (Brophy, 1988; Cakmak, 2008; Emmer, Evertson, & Worsham, 2000). Therefore, ensuring the classroom and the classroom climate are conducive to student learning is vital (Kariuki, 2009). When teachers combine effective teaching behaviors with specific behavior-management techniques, educators can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of disruptive behavior (Buck, 1992). 23 Classroom management defined. Researchers generally described classroom management as the full range of teacher’s efforts to oversee classroom activities, including learning, social interaction, and student behavior (Burden, 2005; Good & Brophy, 2006). According to Rekabdarkolaei (2011), classroom control and management has become more frustrating and difficult for teachers of all grade levels. Teachers view both control and management as manifestations of the social problems of the outside world that have found their way into the schools (Rekabdarkolaei, 2011). Yet, classroom management is a task that every educator must face on a daily basis (Backes & Ellis, 2003). According to Clement (2010), without sufficient knowledge of classroom management strategies, new teachers may begin using strategies from other teachers in the past. As for the support of this study, classroom management is as a cyclical process that includes advance planning, implementation, assessment during the implementation, and a final evaluation that takes into account factors related to the children and their environment, intended to bring about progress in the activities carried out for the emotional well-being and learning of the children in the class (Tal, 2010). Classroom management is the ability of the teacher to lead the class, both children and staff, toward achieving the socio-emotional welfare and learning of the students. Embedded in the definition of classroom management is a moral orientation being the pursuit of well-being and learning opportunities for every child (Tal, 2010). Classroom management is a critical area for teachers because classroom management skills are related to pupil achievement (Yilmaz, 2009). Regardless of differences in the definition, the value of classroom management knowledge for teachers has been consistently supported through research literature (Shinn, Walker, & Stoner, 2002; Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993) 24 and classroom management strategies have been referred to as “the most valuable skills set a teacher can have” (Landau, 2001, p. 4). In addition to the conventional measures of classroom management (involvement of all the children in learning, on-task behavior, and cooperating with the rules), studies propose a dynamic measure of effective classroom management, including the ability to modify classroom activities in the wake of difficulties in order to facilitate the children’s learning and well-being (Tal, 2010). Many teachers first have to experience the classroom and then learn how to deal with students and their behaviors (Clement, 2010). Teachers face challenges to find classroom management strategies that are proactive, relatively easy to implement, and which provide minimal disruption to the classroom (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). Management skills of teachers are one of the main factors in the classroom, since classroom management style is parallel with classroom management efficiency (Yilmaz, 2009). Yilmaz presented styles of classroom management that range from authoritarian to laissez-faire. “Authoritarian classroom management is based on teachers’ control over pupils and the restrictions imposed by teachers. Laissez-faire classroom management is where teachers display little action to control pupils and demand little from them” (p. 158-159). Therefore, teachers must discover what classroom management style they are considered to be and begin to develop their style. Palumbo and Sanacore (2007) conducted a case study of two teachers that offers a glimpse into the characteristics of effective classroom management. In the study, data collection consisted of observing two teachers (Teacher X and Teacher Y) teaching the same grade at the same school with nearly identical demographics in the classroom. In the classroom of Teacher Y there was chaos. Instruction was stopped to address students that arrived late. Students absent the day before had to wait for the teacher to find 25 yesterday's worksheet and hand it out. Teacher X, however, did not experience the same issues. In this classroom, expectations were clear and students began quietly working upon arrival in the classroom. Students that were absent knew where to find yesterday's worksheets. Tardy students quietly came in and added their own name to the detention list on the board and then took a seat. Teacher X also used student leadership as part of classroom management. (Palumbo & Sanacore, 2007, p. 68) In the case, the student was responsible for assisting the teacher within the class and helped to keep the class focused and on task. Teacher Y realized that she was not prepared for the arrival of the students, giving her less of a chance to gain their initial attention. Teacher X reflected on management problems. She planned not only what she wanted to teach, but also how she wanted to teach it. She anticipated that with thirty students, minor problems would occur, and she dealt with them easily (Palumbo & Sanacore, 2007). The study showed that with proper classroom management techniques, such as preparation, many student misbehaviors were prevented. The results of that study outlined characteristics of effective classroom management. These included helping students become academically engaged, organizing instruction to accommodate students’ strengths and needs, and motivating students to be interactive during instructional activities (Palumbo & Sanacore, 2007). Additionally, effective classroom managers establish clear preparation, expectations, rules, procedures, and routines. Components of classroom management. According to Trussell (2008), classroom management is a complex task consisting of planning lessons, providing a safe learning environment, teaching students, and, perhaps the most daunting task of all, appropriately responding to student behavior problems. Although teachers do not have 26 the power to control the number of students assigned to their classrooms, they do have control over the way in which the classroom is set up, and this consists of a safe classroom environment (Trussell, 2008). Classroom space can be modified in a variety of ways including arranging classroom furniture to define learning areas, improving accessibility and availability of materials, delineating traffic patterns, improving organization of materials (Bullard, 2010; Guardino, 2008; Lawry, Danko, & Strain, 1999). This section of the literature review covered classroom rules, classroom environment, and the structure of effective lessons. Classroom rules. In addition to effective lesson planning, classroom management also consists of rules. The primary purpose of classroom rules is to provide for positive interactions between teachers and students (Hardman & Smith, 1999). Teachers are expected to follow a set of procedures that should help maintain order in the classroom and involve both proactive and reactive procedures that can be combined to provide a comprehensive approach to classroom management (Little & Little-Akin, 2008). Teachers should ensure the classroom rules are clear, simple, number no more than five, and are stated in a positive layout. In other words, tell students what to do rather than what not to do. This allows for a focus on praise rather than on punishment (Babkie, 2006). Buck (1992) stated that teachers whose students exhibit better classroom behavior set and maintain clear and concise classroom rules. They keep the rules simple and limited in number. Further, they post the rules and review them routinely. Teachers should be consistent both in enforcing rules and in managing the classroom. Being consistent allows students to feel comfortable knowing that behavior and responses are predictable (Babkie, 2006). Allen (2010) expanded on this by elaborating that rules should be stated positively, and role-played and practiced so that students know what to 27 do to follow them. What happens in the classroom immediately prior to the lesson can have a tremendous impact on the amount of learning that takes place (Veverka, 2011). The goal of classroom management is to help students develop and shape their character, as well as to promote self-discipline (Garrett, 2003). Rules and routines helped accomplish this. Teachers should make sure to reinforce all boundaries on an ongoing basis so that students are sure about class expectations for interactions. Teachers are not their students’ friend; they are the teacher (Babkie, 2006). Classroom structure and environment. Another part of management is for the teacher to plan the structure of the classroom and establish an environment conducive to learning. Additionally, modifying the classroom environment may serve as a direct intervention for children who demonstrate ongoing disruptive behavior (Conroy, Davis, Fox, & Brown, 2002). Schools should set rules that are enforceable and reasonable, a process that means balancing legal obligations with the realities of student culture and tools (Diamantes, 2010; Humble-Thaden, 2011). Successful teachers prepare the room to minimize disruptions, plan lessons to flow smoothly, and design routines to maintain momentum (Strahan, Cope, Hundley, & Faircloth, 2005, p. 26). While preparing the classroom, teachers should use routines for all classroom activities so students know what to do at all times. Students should be certain where to put materials, when to transition, what the schedule is, and so forth, (Babkie, 2006). Additionally, effective teachers respond to teachable moments. When disruptions occur, successful teachers think about the causes of misbehavior and respond to students as individuals, using disruptions as teachable moments and opportunities to model self-discipline (Strahan et al., 2005). Teachers who use planned seating arrangements reduce opportunities for misbehavior (Buck, 1992). They observe the students within the classroom environment, noting where 28 and when disruptive behavior is occurring and how different areas of the classroom were utilized (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). Arranging the class is helpful so that students who are in the immediate vicinity of a student with challenging behaviors are not provoked and are less likely to be pulled into a problem (Farmer et al., 2006). Teachers should organize the classroom and materials in a way that avoids clutter and that allows students to know where to find items and where to return them (Babkie, 2006). Babkie (2006) also suggest teachers to cue students as to what comes next, teaching them a set of cues to let them know when they want a certain response. Structure of lessons. Buck (1992) suggested structuring the curriculum for learning. The key to good classroom management is the use of techniques that increase student cooperation. Essentially, teachers should teach students how to change from one activity to another and from one location to another. Transition goes back to the concept of having routines, but beyond that, it involves teaching a set of skills for students to use (Babkie, 2006). Another technique is involvement in classroom activities, thus averting problems from occurring such as reducing downtime to help maintain discipline in the classroom as well as helping set limits on what all the students can or cannot do (Rahman, Jumanl, Basit, Chishil, & Ajmal, 2010). Teachers can reduce misbehavior by helping students become academically engaged, organizing instruction to accommodate students’ strengths and needs, and motivating students to be interactive during instructional activities (Palumbo & Sanacore, 2007). Maximizing the time that students spend in academic activities could minimize the problems of discipline. When a teacher provides well-planned lessons that provide a smooth flow of instruction delivered at a sustained pace, it helps to prevent off-task behaviors (Unal & Unal, 2012). Therefore, the manner in which tasks are managed contributes to the general classroom atmosphere and 29 classroom management style (Burden, 1995; Weinstein & Mignano, 1993). Teachers should pace lessons on the basis of student needs and responses. If students are clearly struggling with a concept, it may be necessary to change the planned lesson and reteach in a different way (Babkie, 2006). Issues can also be improved by resolving incidents of minor inattention before they develop into major disruptions (Rahman et al., 2010). Babkie suggested ensuring active engagement by making learning purposeful. Teachers are expected to provide a rationale for real-world use, match the content taught to students’ levels, consider students’ interests in planning instruction, and plan activitybased instruction rather than worksheets or lectures (Babkie, 2006). Most problems with discipline could be prevented by efficient teaching, in addition to a relevant curriculum that corresponds to students’ ability levels (Weishew & Peng, 1993). If students are demonstrating off-task behavior, teachers should consider either increasing or decreasing the pace, depending on the consistency and content of student responses (Babkie, 2006). Preparation and proper training are two themes that were extracted from the literature. It is evident that these themes can help teachers become well aware of their classroom environments. Having the proper tools and training to manage within the classroom can help students will become more effective. Types of student misbehaviors. Classroom misbehavior is taken as any activity which (a) annoys, upsets or distresses teachers, (b) is disorderly of good order in the classroom and causes trouble, and (c) leads teachers to comment frequently (Houghton, Wheldall, & Merrett, 1988; Ding et al., 2010). Students misbehave for a variety of reasons, and knowing the underlying cause of a student's misconduct can help the teacher to determine which intervention strategies may or may not be successful (Buck, 1992). Some behavioral problems are often the result of the teacher's failure to adapt their 30 instruction to their pupils' abilities (Palardy, 1995). Additionally, teacher expectations can predict student behavior as well. If teachers believe that pupils can and will act in socially acceptable ways, pupils will tend to do so. But if teachers believe, for any number of reasons, that pupils neither can nor will behave appropriately, they will tend not to (Palardy, 1995). Four top categories of challenging behaviors have emerged over the past few years. One category is physical behaviors including temper tantrums, kicking, pushing, hitting, and running away. Another category is verbal behaviors including screaming, yelling, swearing, and lying. Academic disengagement is the next category which includes lack of time management and no priorities. The last category is miscellaneous non-compliance including opposition, social conflicts, and stubbornness. (McCready & Soloway, 2010, p. 117) Misbehavior is further classified into one of five different types: Aggression, immorality, defiance of authority, class disruptions, and behaving mischievously (Durmuscelebi, 2010). Another type of misbehavior a teacher may face in the classroom is lack of respect. Teachers should consider the possibility that the way teachers behave in class can cause students to behave in ways that diminish our respect for them (Giampetro-Meyer & Holc, 1997). Reported problems included noncompliance, defiance, teasing and bullying peers, and disruptive behaviors such as talking out of turn or being out of seat without permission (Anderson & Spaulding, 2007). These noncompliant behaviors are just a few of many behaviors that teachers may encounter during the day in the classroom. Reasons students misbehave. On a daily basis, students bring many complicated issues to school (Durmuscelebi, 2010). Students with challenging behavior tend to be 31 skilled at getting under the skin of adults (Farmer et al., 2006). There are many students coming from home environments where they are not receiving adequate support to develop the social skills for interacting appropriately in school (Durmuscelebi, 2010). Family related reasons are one of the most prevalent reasons of inappropriate behaviors (Atici, 2007; Weishew & Peng, 1993). Beginning teachers showed that they favor shared responsibility for classroom control, shared work on developing classroom rules, focus on not only behaviors but also feelings, and paid attention to what the student does to alter the external environment, as well as what the environment does to shape the student (Cakiroglu & Gencer, 2007; Martin & Baldwin, 1992). According to Anderson and Spaulding (2007), discipline problems in the classroom occur with alarming frequency. Disruptive behavior, such as speaking without permission and getting out of one’s seat, often interferes with students' engagement in the learning process (Guardino & Fullerton, 2010). Associating with the right or wrong peers can greatly affect students’ status; improving and protecting their position in the social structure is a common concern for many youths. Therefore, conflict and aggression can build as individuals and groups jockey for power within the social structure (Farmer et al., 2006). Durmuscelebi (2010) observed 245 teachers working in state primary schools and private primary schools. Results from this study showed similarity between these two types of school according to the most encountered and the least encountered misbehaviors. The most encountered misbehaviors were complaint about friends, talking without permission, studying without a plan, not listening to the teacher, doing other things during the lesson, and fighting with friends (p. 380). Durmuscelebi also stated that “the least unwanted behaviors that the teachers faced with were cheating, eating 32 something during the lesson, coming late to school, not respecting to teacher, taking and using friend’s equipment without permission, and despising and excluding friends” (p. 380). Students may or may not perceive misbehavior in the same ways as their teachers, so it is worthwhile to learn more about misbehavior from student perspectives (Supaporn, 2000). If a student’s disruptive behavior is assumed to serve an escape function during difficult tasks, then the contextual modification might involve reducing demands to determine the effect on the misbehavior (Ducharme & Shecter, 2011). Students with challenging behavior tend to view behavior intervention in a negative manner. This can impede helping them to learn positive alternatives (Farmer et al., 2006). Teachers must realize that there is always a reason behind a student’s behavior. Children rarely act appropriately simply because the teacher expects them to act in that manner. Rather, children act appropriately because of what they have learned either at home or in the classroom (Almeida, 1995). Students who misbehave are usually trying to establish control in inappropriate ways. One way is avoiding schoolwork such as protecting self-esteem by not trying, rationalizing failure, and fear of ridicule from classmates. Another way is seeking attention such as clowning around, and learned helplessness. The next way is creating diversions such as poking fun at tasks or classmates. The final way is playing power games such as playing tough and choosing resistance as an identity. (Strahan et al., 2005, p. 26) According to Farmer et al. (2006), youth form peer groups with others who are like them. Students who associate with each other tend to have one or more similar social characteristics (i.e., level of aggression, popularity, academic ability, and athletic ability). 33 Students may also associate with peers who complement their behavior (e.g., followers with leaders). Students who are actively engaged are less likely to be off task or to present management problems. Ethnicity, gender, and student misbehavior. Students with challenging behaviors often come from nondominant racial or ethnic, economic, or cultural backgrounds (Thompson & Webber, 2010). The change in the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the student population is not the main problem with students behaving in the classroom; rather, the way educators have responded to that change is perhaps the largest component of the problem (Brown, 2007). However, there are barriers and challenges that are common to teachers including difficulty with communicating and interacting with students, a lack of resources, a restrictive or overloaded curriculum, and establishing relationships with parents (Humphrey et al., 2006). This difference in socialization can increase barriers for these nondominant students as they negotiate unfamiliar expectations at school (Thompson & Webber, 2010). Many teachers are inadequately prepared to teach students from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds (Brown, 2007). Differences in how teachers respond to students can be explained in part by racial/ethnic differences in family backgrounds and school bonding (Sung Joon, 2002). For instance, past studies have noted that African American students’ classroom behavior is rated more favorably by African American teachers than by White teachers (Downey & Pribesh, 2004). This racial comparison is evident in the education community and could be a function of White teachers’ bias rating African American students more harshly than they deserve or African American students’ acting out more when placed with White teachers than African American teachers (Downey & Pribesh, 2004). Racial 34 comparison is evident in other races as well. Asian-American adolescents commit less deviance in the form of school misbehavior than White, African American, Hispanic, or Native-American adolescents (Sung Joon, 2002). In these diverse groups, gaps in learning could contribute to classroom management issues. The disruptive behaviors of a few difficult students often interfere with instruction practices, leaving both the noncompliant students and their classmates without adequate exposure to the curriculum (Canter & Canter, 1993). According to Downey and Pribesh cultural differences between students and teachers are a source of strain and have been modified by some scholars. The outcome for some students could be gaps in learning, and could enable existing gaps to plague learners and their teachers in the future. Gender is frequently associated with the amount and quality of teacher-student interactions (McClowery et al., 2013). When dealing with gender, one should consider the influence of feminism on the classroom interactions between teachers and their students (Beaman, Wheldall, & Kemp, 2006). Beaman, Wheldall, and Kemp stated that boys have a higher tendency to display disruptive behaviors in the classroom. Research also demonstrated that male behaviors are perceived as more serious, even when both genders engage in the same behavior (Borg, 1998; Kokkinos, Panayiotou, & Davazoglou, 2004). In one study, 153 diverse preschool children and their teachers were observed; the researchers noted that girls received more positive interactions (Dobbs, Arnold, & Doctoroff, 2004). Greater teacher experience would be likely to reduce the amount of time spent on student misbehaviors, and boys would be more likely to be seen as exhibiting misbehaviors than girls (Jiliang et al., 2009). McClowery et al. observed 883 children and results explicate the critical need to untangle temperament from gender when studying child disruptive behavior. When the effects of gender were examined 35 alone, boys were, as expected, more disruptive than girls. However, when temperament was also taken into account, the effect of gender on student disruptive behavior reduced to non-significance. In other words, temperament was a stronger predictor of student disruptive behavior than child gender. These studies demonstrated that while teachers are gentler toward girls, they interact with boys in a more robust way (Erden & Wolfgang, 2004). Within the classroom, gender differences in attention distribution appear more in Puerto Rican, African American, and White students (Dobbs et al., 2004). Therefore, being aware and prepared for the various backgrounds of students within the classroom is important. Teachers’ views on student misbehavior. Overall, studies showed that elementary school teachers provide much more negative than positive feedback to their students. When provided, positive feedback is associated with good academic performance (McClowery et al., 2013). Teachers set themselves up for disappointment when viewing challenging student behaviors as technical problems (McCready & Soloway, 2010). These problems are solved through professional development led by experts who are unfamiliar with the social and cultural context of the school community (McCready & Soloway, 2010). Successful teachers can help students understand that they choose their behaviors and guide them in accepting responsibility for their choices (Strahan et al., 2005). Researchers have also found that teacher perceptions tend to be influenced by classroom setting (Jiliang et al., 2009). Erden and Wolfgang (2004) studied 130 female prekindergarten, kindergarten, K/1, and first-grade teachers employed in public schools located in a mid-sized southeastern city with a population of approximately 239,000. Erden and Wolfgang’s study explored the differences in teachers’ beliefs related to discipline, stating that 36 student behavior is major component of education for two reasons. First, if the teacher does not maintain discipline in the classroom, teaching and learning are not accomplished. Second, as socialization agents, teachers have to teach students which behaviors are expected in which situations (Erden & Wolfgang, 2004). With the assistance of the Beliefs about Discipline Inventory (BADI), the researchers were able to find the teachers’ beliefs related to discipline philosophies while disciplining male and female students (Erden & Wolfgang, 2004). Teachers often experience habitual patterns of reacting to challenging behaviors in the classroom (McCready & Soloway, 2010). Episodes of misbehavior are fraught with complications. Setting events, stimulus complexity, and the availability of competing reinforcements are just a few of the factors that confound clear analysis (Morin & Battalio, 2004). Teachers should be respectful at all times toward students. According to Babkie (2006), respect given leads to respect gained. For example, a teacher should use quiet individual discussion with students but don’t call out students on their misbehavior in front of the class, use appropriate language when speaking with students, avoid sarcasm, and speak to students at their physical level (e.g., crouching down rather than looming over). The circumstances heighten episodes of misbehavior, the student’s social and emotional orientation toward these circumstances, a teacher’s professional attitude about personal responsibility, and a teacher’s skill in managing such episodes are all part of the construal process (Morin & Battalio, 2004). An important finding of research was the consistency in both teacher and students’ perceptions concerning the promotion of prosocial skills in their classrooms, such as attentive listening, mutual respect and working together creatively, skills considered to be fundamental for healthy classroom interactions (Goleman, 1998; Poulou, 37 2005). Knowing how to control emotions from perspectives is an important trait to adopt within the classroom in order to have a clear focus on effectively teaching the students. Student misbehavior strategies. Although many strategies are available for educators' use in schools to manage students whose challenging behaviors present frequent disciplinary problems, the most familiar disciplinary methods are punitive (Thompson & Webber, 2010). Studies have shown that the predominant teacher response to disruptive student behavior is reactive and punitive rather than proactive and positive (Thompson & Webber, 2010). Identifying what a student learns from the behavior can help a teacher be more strategic in dealing with the behavior. If the function of a student’s behavior can be identified, then identifying an alternative, replacement behavior is possible (Mitchem & Downing, 2005). In the classrooms, students not only learn more about the subject matter and performed better on tests, they also learned more about how to understand themselves and make better decisions (Strahan et al., 2005). According to Babkie (2006), teachers should use antecedent control by changing the environment and other variables identified in the analysis of the function of the behavior. For example, if teachers have determined that a student misbehaves during math time, perhaps the content is too easy or too difficult, the surrounding students may bother the student, or the time of day is the problem. Preventive strategies can reduce the probability that students will misbehave. The teacher should be a role model for students; instead of using extra work, fines, and verbal abuse as punishment technique in the classroom, they should focus on motivational techniques (Rahman et al., 2010). Reactive classroom management involves use of techniques focused on immediate termination of problem behavior, typically by means of consequences assumed to be aversive to the student (Ducharme & Shecter, 38 2011). Many teachers use reactive techniques, such as reprimands and classroom ejections, to manage misbehavior in their classrooms (Clunies-Ross, Little, & Kienhuis 2008; Infantino & Little, 2005; Maag, 2001). Considering the disadvantages and negative side effects of reactive approaches, research has increasingly promoted the use of more proactive methods to manage student problem behavior, particularly those involving functional assessment (Ducharme & Shecter, 2011). Research and experience showed that students are likely to cease misbehaving when a different response more effectively and efficiently satisfies the same need (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Both general and special educators consistently report that they have children in their classes who have challenging behaviors; such students are defiant, throw tantrums, and make verbal and physical threats (Peterson, 2007). If the student’s mistaken goal is to gain a sense of power, then teachers should look for productive ways to allow that student to feel powerful and, consequently, valued and recognized (Malmgren, Trezek, & Paul, 2005). Attempting to put a student in his or her place will only increase that student’s feelings of neglect or inferiority and lead to increased acting out (Malmgren et al., 2005). When teacher-student relationships improve, concurrent improvements in classroom behavior such as reductions in aggression and increases in compliance with rules can be expected (Alderman & Green, 2011). Teachers must remain cognizant of their student and what works within that particular classroom and the possible cause of the behavior. Popular and conventional peers that are often viewed as good students by teachers may use social aggression (i.e., covert and concealed tactics such as gossiping, starting rumors, triangulating friendships) to manipulate others. Such tactics can be highly provocative for youths with challenging behavior. Several techniques can be used to promote positive classroom communities. 39 According to (Cartledge & Loe, 2001; Farmer, 2000; Lo et al., 2002), one technique is monitoring classroom social dynamics (i.e., become aware of the social hierarchy and the strategies that students use to preserve the boundaries of their peer groups, including bullying and social aggression). The second technique is to develop and enforce meaningful social consequences for social aggression and bullying (e.g., students must have an adult escort during hall transitions, student must have lunch at an adultmonitored table) and apply these consequences in ways that foster positive alternative behaviors. The next technique is to create a climate that downplays social status by promoting activities that positively reinforce students’ acceptance and tolerance of each other. In addition to this technique, teacher can provide positive social consequences (e.g., free time, special activities) for exemplary displays of favorable inter and intragroup relationships. Lastly, teacher can identify peer groups that routinely engage in activities (e.g., testing, bullying, social aggression) that promote interpersonal conflict. An adult “mentor” (i.e. teacher, administrator, counselor) should be assigned to each problematic group and should work to develop a positive rapport with the group (pp. 4243). Teachers’ managerial abilities have been found to positively relate to student behavior and achievement in the most recent process-product study (Little & Akin-Little, 2008). Researchers consistently identified the components necessary for effective classroom management (Little & Akin-Little, 2008). Classroom organization combined with an effective discipline plan is important and helps the teacher to see important steps in dealing with discipline problems that may arise in the classroom. Texts on classroom management and discipline often suggest strategies that are organized into models that reflect philosophical approaches (Allen, 2010). Some 40 researchers suggest programs to assist with various types of behavior and how to selfmanage them. Additional qualities of effective self-management programs included the gradual shift from external process instruction to hands-on that affords students opportunity to learn problem-solving skill and to target behavior training that addresses specific skill deficits (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Effective intervention strategies can be thought of as points along a continuum. Each choice of a strategy to use for an individual student or group of students is, however, highly individualized (Buck, 1992). A variety of strategies can help to foster positive social relationships for youths with challenging behavior (Farmer et al., 2006). More helpful strategies include giving students’ leadership responsibilities, developing mindfulness and empathy, engaging parents beyond traditional parent–teacher conferences, making time to connect with students in and out of class, and developing cultural awareness (McCready & Soloway, 2010). On the other hand, if a student likes his teacher, he or she will enjoy spending time with the teacher and will want to please the teacher by doing what is requested (Mitchem & Downing, 2005). The importance of teaching students the rules lies in providing a definition and rationale for each rule, and then providing students with many of opportunities to practice saying and doing examples of rule-following behavior (Mitchem & Downing, 2005). For example, Slider, Noell, and Williams (2006) showed various types of instruction-giving and their operational definitions. The first type is to get the child’s attention, provide a clear instruction, and wait 5 to 10 seconds. Then, the teacher models the appropriate response and waits for the child to respond. Thereafter, the teacher physical guides the student to comply with the request and then provide feedback following the student’s response to the teacher’s request (p. 218). 41 Some of the strategies Mitchem and Downing (2005) provided are to help students develop affiliations with peers who are supportive of positive social behavior, anticipate and avoid placing bullied students in situations that promote being picked on. These strategies also provide students who are frequently picked on with opportunities that highlight social strengths. Teaching strategies that are less intrusive require the teacher to directly intervene with the disruptive student (Buck, 1992). Teachers need to feel effective in order to act in ways that will likely result in positive student outcomes, yet teachers also need the confirmation that these same actions will result in positive outcomes in order to feel efficacious (Morin & Battalio, 2004). Effective teachers must provide instruction in the step-by-step process, model each of the steps for the student, and train across multiple stimuli (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Cognitive mediation strategies enable students to take responsibility for their behavior and, through identification and analysis of problem situations, self-instruction, and selfevaluation, increase the likelihood of maintenance of positive changes in their behavior (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). In order to remain effective, teachers should be proactive, organized, and always uphold a level of professionalism in the classroom. Effective teachers decrease student disruption by starting class on time, conducting themselves in a professional manner, and setting clearly defined goals for each class lesson, usually communicated to students through the use of an advance and post organizer (Buck, 1992). Studies have shown that the predominant teacher response to disruptive student behavior is reactive and punitive rather than proactive and positive (Thompson & Webber, 2010). The Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) program encourages teachers to be proactive and positive rather than reactive and negative with regards to behavioral management strategies (Allen, 2010). 41 Babkie (2006) suggest designing contracts, if necessary, in which the teacher and the student examine the behavior of concern and determine together how to change it. Contracts should specify not only what a student will do but also what the teacher will do to assist the student in meeting his or her goals. While many great teachers are confident that they have the resources, knowledge, and energy needed to handle misbehaviors, other teachers indicate that they have received relatively little training and support to handle them (Almeida, 1995). In fact, to assume that only behavior management strategies that incorporate punishment will be capable of managing student behavior can be extremely naive (Buck, 1992). Sometimes no matter how interesting or stimulating teachers think their lesson is, competing with peer attention can be difficult (Buck, 1992). Misbehavior of students interferes with the learning of others, and it prevents the student who is misbehaving from doing what he or she is supposed to do in order to learn (Morin & Battalio, 2004). Two approaches that have proven effective in teachers' dealings with student misbehavior are the diagnostic approach (preferred), and the behaviorist approach, which fails to treat the causes of misbehavior and does not emphasize prevention (Palardy, 1995). Dealing with disruptive students can be a challenge for any teacher. If students are off task, for example, the teacher can move quietly to where they are (proximity control) or provide information if they need assistance getting started or returning to work. It is important for teachers to redirect students without embarrassing or calling attention to them (Babkie, 2006). When teachers confront frequent discipline problems that disrupt their teaching activities, stress and burnout are inevitable consequences (Buck, 1992). Babkie suggested redirecting students by prompting appropriate behavior using the cues 42 and strategies, as well as intervening as soon as potential problems develop. Responding predictably to inappropriate behavior is the key to consistency in the classroom. One way to accomplish this is to have a set routine for responding to students who behave inappropriately (Mitchem & Downing, 2005). Mitchem and Downing suggested what is called Planned Ignoring. For example, the first time a student calls out, it makes sense to ignore the behavior. By this, teachers do not call on the student. Another response is called Prompt when teachers look to prompt a student to be quiet or raise his or her hand. The look refers to a person who can communicate with another person simply by using their eyes without verbalizing. Praise Around is another response when other students who are following rules are praised as another method of prompting the student who is not following the rules. The last response is called Catch Student Being Good when a student who typically always calls out actually raises his hand, catching him or her being good is important so that you increase the chance of him doing it again. (Mitchem & Downing, 2005, pp. 189-190) Although many strategies are available for educators' use in schools to manage students whose challenging behaviors present frequent disciplinary problems, the most familiar disciplinary methods are punitive (Thompson & Webber, 2010). Results from completed studies are published for teachers to read concerning classroom management and how an educator can learn to become more efficient in that area (Farmer et al., 2006). Deciding which variables changed and changing them allows teachers to handle the problem behavior by preventing it from happening rather than having to react after it has occurred (Babkie, 2006). The aim was to outline those techniques that are critical for 43 creating contexts that foster positive and productive behavior from youths who tend to be challenging to teachers (Farmer et al., 2006). Classroom environment. Student misbehaviors can threaten the effectiveness of a class learning environment (Kulinna, 2007). Rather than structuring the school environment to prevent problem behavior, many school discipline systems continue to rely on consequences, depending on punitive or reactive strategies such as detention and suspension to curb behavioral violations (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 2001; Kincaid, Childs, Blasé, & Wallace, 2007). With knowledge of the motivation for student misbehavior, modifying one or more aspects of the physical or social environment to facilitate maintenance and generalization of behavior changes can be useful (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Creating a learning environment where all students can thrive academically requires an understanding of the complexities of classroom management (Jones, Jones, & Vermete, 2013). Positive classroom climates also reduce disruptive behaviors in two ways: The teacher’s use of effective discipline and management strategies that discourage student misbehavior and via the instruction and modeling teachers provide to help students manage conflicts adaptively, including support for appropriate emotional expression and social problem-solving skills (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; Howes, 2000). In primary school, students are not able to concretize abstract concepts in their minds. It is much easier to concretize abstract concepts by using materials. Thus, primary school teachers need materials for an effective teaching process (Akbulut & Tatli, 2013). This environment should produce creativity, cooperation, individual growth, social development, parent communication, student interaction, and good behavior (Rahman et al., 2010). 44 Instructional materials play an important role in teaching and learning environments. Instructional materials can be a tool, a source or equipment used to develop students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values during instruction (Akbulut & Tatli, 2013). Compelling empirical research shows that a positive and sustained school climate promotes students' academic achievement and healthy development (Cohen et al., 2009). Visual elements enlist students’ interest, activate students, develop their creativeness, increase their success, give importance to students’ individual learning, facilitate teaching in the lesson and give opportunity to organize the lesson better (Akbulut & Tatli, 2013). To facilitate maintenance and generalization, teachers need to blur the distinction between treatment and natural environments to teach students specific behavioral exception (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Buck (1992) suggested structuring the environment for learning. For example, many educators feel increased pressure to employ drill-and-practice strategies to ensure that every student succeeds on high-stakes assessments. In this climate, teachers must find strategies that facilitate a positive, caring classroom environment (Paciotti, 2010). For example, initially, students and teachers work collaboratively to write an agreement of classroom rules, which students and teachers sign and post. Then, teachers and students work together to establish positive reinforcers to nurture a caring atmosphere (Paciotti, 2010). Classes are the most important places for the educational processes because all the educational events take place in them (Durmuscelebi, 2010). Research has shown that schools implementing supportive and positive school climate strategies are more successful in creating environments conducive to learning (Safe and Positive School 45 Climate, 2008). Classroom climate and classmate aggression levels should be similar, given prior evidence that positive classroom climates are associated with reduced levels of classroom behavior problems (Hamre & Pianta, 2005; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2005). Classrooms are complex societies where students and teachers live and interact with each other (Ratcliff, Jones, Costner, Savage-Davis, & Hunt, 2010). Other peers play a known active role in the environment for students. In exploring other ways to maintain positive behavior change, knowledge that attention is the motivation for student misconduct is especially relevant to the roles of peers (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Studies of school climate confirm that school climate affects student behavior (Haynes, Emmons, & Ben-Avie, 1997). Peers engage in both contiguous and more continuous interactions with age mates than adults and, once a behavior-changes program has put into place, research has shown that peers can effectively model, prompt, and reinforce appropriate responses (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Teachers should build an effective rapport with their students which will help tackle and understanding some ongoing behavior problems. Researchers further revealed that classroom management should take a partnership approach between teacher and students, and should satisfy the needs of both (Lewis & Burman, 2008). The interrelationship between teacher disciplinary practices and professional development program should be one where ongoing critical reflection, relevant discussions, and an ability to see various disciplinary approaches being practiced in classrooms are interwoven (Lewis & Burman, 2008). A teacher who focuses on nurturing relationships can better teach and motivate students, for by understanding their organization (both individually and collectively), the teacher can connect with the students with more 46 informed and possibly effective ways (Burris, 2005). Classrooms should have a positive environment that supports certain values, such as respect and equality, and makes students feel welcome and effective (Durmuscelebi, 2010). Through consistent application of positive reinforcement, teachers facilitate a positive, helpful atmosphere by praising students who comply with classroom rules and/or participate in learning tasks (Paciotti, 2010). Teachers can be proactive in implementing positive responses to student behaviors by planning, creating an environment where positive interactions set the mood for the classroom (Hardman & Smith, 1999). The teacher’s role is important to successful teacher-student interaction and creating an encouraging classroom climate (Miller & Pedro, 2006). School climate helps improve academic achievement and reduce discipline problems, and thus is often a target of school improvement initiatives (Mitchell, Bradshaw, & Leaf, 2010). It is important to create a classroom environment that uses innovative materials, methods, and knowledge in a positive manner and is able to incorporate new advances in education and learning (Rahman et al., 2010). Classroom strategies not only are influential initial interventions, but arranged to sustain targeted replacement behaviors across time and location (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Although the well-designed classroom has proven benefits, there is little research on the impact environmental modifications have on behavior and learning (Guardino, 2009; Schilling & Schwartz, 2004). Effective teachers who create positive learning environments develop not only a classroom setting, but also an emotional setting that enhances student performance, making the learning environment a key focus in educating students (Swafford, Bailey, & Beasley, 2014). 47 Understanding diversity in the classroom. It is important for teachers to understand that students within the classroom exude various races, genders, personalities, and learning abilities. Understanding diversity is especially important when dealing with English language learners (ELLs) because this population is growing at a rapid pace (Glaeser, Haas, & Szabo, 2012). When viewing with special education, educators are not all knowledgeable in their approach with certain races. Often, due to biased assessment procedures and general lack of knowledge about diverse cultures and languages, African-American and Hispanic students are overrepresented in special education (Sung Jik & Clark, 2005). In urban schools, increased numbers of culturally linguistically diverse students with disabilities create challenges (Sung Jik & Clark, 2005). The increased diversification of classrooms in recent years has placed additional demands upon teachers who strive to facilitate the learning and participation of all pupils (Humphrey et al., 2006). Students with challenging behaviors often come from nondominant racial, ethnic, economic, or cultural backgrounds (Thompson & Webber, 2010). The development of a respectful classroom leads to a greater understanding of and appreciation for diverse populations within a school community (Miller & Pedro, 2006). A teacher that is sensitive to the needs of his or her children and strives to create a positive environment may be more likely to be sensitive to the diversity present in the classroom, and/or broader society (Perlman, Kankesan, & Zhang, 2010). In order to meet the unique academic needs of each student, teachers should value the differences each child brings to the classroom (Compton-Lilly, 2008). Teachers who are flexible with their children, and understand the value of 48 teaching through a variety of modalities and perspectives, may be more likely to incorporate diversity-sensitive materials and activities (Perlman et al., 2010). Teachers should become more aware in recognizing various themes of development that arise within the classroom. Teachers cannot always immediately see the developmental differences with each student as they enter the classroom Therefore, it takes many forms and needs to be understood in order to support a child and his/her family (Miller & Pedro, 2006). American and Canadian populations are changing and are becoming more diverse, and diversity is an issue that has gained prominence in the last decade for both researchers and policy-makers (Perlman et al., 2010). Themes that emerged included development of awareness of socioeconomic differences, development of empathetic rapport and caring attitudes, and development of a commitment to culturally responsive teaching (Bennett, 2008). Students from diverse backgrounds are disproportionately identified for special education in the most restrictive placements, and such students tend to have the least access to the general education curriculum as well as experiencing the greatest levels of school failure (Cartledge, Singh, & Gibson, 2008). In the United States, there are large numbers of low-income African American and Hispanic children in comparison to other races. Racial and ethnic minorities make up the highest percentage of low-income children (Bennett, 2008). These students would benefit most from positive interventions that enable them to adjust to their school’s culture and to master the requisite behaviors leading to their success in school (Cartledge et al., 2008). Responsive teaching involves recognizing and capitalizing upon the vast range of differences that students bring to classrooms. It is crucial that teachers attend to all of 49 these differences (Compton-Lilly, 2008). A respectful classroom environment decreases the fear of the unknown and unexplored. Therefore, children are encouraged to become acquainted and share ideas with the feeling of safety and appreciation (Miller & Pedro, 2006). Summary There are a host of management strategies that can help teachers promote appropriate classroom behavior (Algozzine & Kay, 2002; Johns & Carr, 1995; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Learning occurs in contexts, and school is a context where adults as well as students learn from one another (Allen, 2010). According to Guardino and Fullerton (2010), teachers are not trained in modifying the classroom environment to encourage academic engagement and discourage disruptive behavior. To manage successful group processes and general classroom social dynamics, teachers often need collaborative support to develop comprehensive skills and strategies that can enhance children’s social growth by promoting a behavioral context that supports prosocial patterns (Cartledge & Loe, 2001; Lo, Loe, & Cartledge, 2002; Lonczak, Abbott, Hawkins, Kosterman, & Catalano, 2002; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Elementary teachers often cite challenging student behaviors and classroom management as areas of concern, and therefore priorities for professional development (McCready & Soloway, 2010). It was not evident how elementary school teachers chose, improved, and implemented classroom management strategies. Using the qualitative case study approach explored the types of student misbehaviors that teachers experience in the classroom, and to discover how teachers select their discipline techniques for handling or 50 preventing those misbehaviors. Due to the various ethnic backgrounds and possible language barriers within the classroom, students faced various missing components in learning within the classroom. In these diverse groups, gaps in learning could contribute to classroom management problems. Supporting teachers’ capacity to manage a classroom with positive behavior management strategies, to deliver a curriculum designed to promote social competence and emotional regulation, and to encourage teacher– parent involvement will lead to fewer conduct problems, increased school readiness and eventual academic success (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Stoolmiller, 2008). The theories supported throughout this study helped support how teachers select management strategies to use in class, the development of the strategies and skill sets they use in classroom management and the training and support teachers need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. Providing specific approaches as a foundation helped value the research and various classroom management strategies presented helped to enable students to behave in an organized fashion which increases the likelihood of effective learning environment. Each specific source of data responded to a certain part of the guided research question throughout the study. The interviews focused on how teachers selected and developed strategies within the classroom. The questionnaires and observations focused on how teachers implemented the classroom strategies. Lastly, the focus group focused on how teacher selected, developed, and implemented strategies within the classroom. This study advanced the scientific knowledge base by adding to the existing research for teachers and other educators who are interested in learning more classroom 51 management and strategies for effectively preventing or reacting to misbehavior within their classrooms. In Chapter 3, the researcher will introduce the method used throughout the study. Chapter 3 will also address the instruments used, the participants to be involved in the study, and how the data will be collected. There will be a clear, concise plan presented to select the study sample and gain consent from participants. The researcher will gather all necessary data from participants to help offer proper results to the current study. 52 Chapter 3: Methodology Introduction Classrooms are complex societies where students and teachers live and interact with each other (Ratcliff et al., 2010). Ratcliff et al. (2010) stated that teachers are the leaders of these societies, and the ways they exercise their leadership abilities greatly affect the quality of interactions between teachers and students. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom-management strategies. The guiding research questions focused on how teachers learn, select, develop, and implement the classroommanagement strategies they use on a daily basis. The particular research focus was extracted from Westbrook-Spaniel’s (2008) study and further enhanced by the research focusing on grades Pre-K through 5. Additional questions focused on how teachers defined an effective classroom manager, and the training and support that teachers perceived they needed in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. This chapter presents information related to the methods that was used to collect and analyze the data in this study. This section describes the participants, the participating school, details regarding of the methods of data collection, details regarding the sources of data, and the analysis of data. Statement of the Problem It was not known how elementary school teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom-management strategies. Further, how the teachers at the research site defined an effective classroom manager, or what training they needed in order to continue to develop their skills is not evident (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008, p. 34). Since 53 proper classroom-management methods are a necessity for all teachers to become successful within the classroom, teachers should be linked with the opportunities that nurture their classroom management skills. Although research has been conducted on classroom management, few studies have yielded information about the classroom management practices of teachers. Yet, these factors can affect children’s behavior and their school performance (Berry, Hoke, & Hirsh, 2004). Research Questions The target sample for this case study included elementary-level teachers in one school located in southern North Carolina. The following research question guided this study: R1: How do elementary teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies to use in class? Data collection in this study included the use of questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations. In order for the data required to these research questions to be reliable, each participant responded to the questionnaire with honesty and integrity, return questionaires in a timely manner, actively participate in the interviews and focus groups, and be themselves during the observation period. The qualitative case study design is the best approach. The case study design allowed the researcher to go within various classroom environments to extract effecttively experience how teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. As a result, the current classroom-management methods used by the participants helped other teachers in the building create more effective classroom management plans. 54 Research Methodology This study proposed a qualitative approach as the method for this particular case study. In case-study research, focusing on meaningful phenomena in ways that examine how those phenomena appear differently in different contexts is important (Westerman, 2009). Data come largely from documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation and physical artifacts (Yin, 1994). Qualitative work using focus groups, unstructured interviews, observation, or other techniques can help the researcher to identify the key issues (Bamberger, 1999). Yin recommended the use of case-study protocol as part of a carefully designed research project that would include an overview of the project (project objectives and case study issues), field procedures (credentials and access to sites), questions (specific questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection), guide for the report (outline, format for the narrative) (p. 64). Yin (1994) offered a very straightforward protocol approach for case-study research emphasizing field procedures, case-study questions, and a guide for the final write-up. The goal of collecting data through a variety of means is both to enhance the theory generating capabilities of the case, and to provide additional validity to assertions made by either the researcher or the participants in the case itself. There is also discussion in the field about how much a researcher is part of any particular presentation of a case study, an effort to manage researcher subjectivity as well as to let the case speak for itself (Stake, 2005). One can view discipline statistics in terms of office referrals, but the reasons why students are misbehaving in the classrooms was better gleaned from a qualitative methodology. Actually discovering what teachers within the school are 55 educated in the area of classroom management caused more receptivity to new techniques in their classroom. This study was proposed to give credence to how teachers understand classroom management and their approach to student misbehaviors. In either suggesting change or reinforcing the current state, the results were important for not only elementary schools in southern North Carolina, but schools in general. Through the use of questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and classroom observations, this qualitative approach produced results that satisfy many principals, and enhance the understanding and skills of classroom management and how to manage student misbehavior. The questionnaire, interview questions, observation form, and focus-group questions came from instruments used in prior studies by Todras (2007) and Gilpatrick (2010). From all the sources of data, various types of data was collected including: written definitions, list of misbehaviors recognized by teachers, management techniques used by teachers, behavioral methods teachers currently use, and any trainings needed dealing with classroom management and student behavior. Once the research methodology and protocols was approved and informed consent was obtained from the participants, the researcher began researching within a set period and gathered all necessary information needed for the study. Research Design A research design is like a blueprint for a study (Gillis & Jackson, 2002). A research design provides a detailed plan for data collection and analysis, and is the critical element linking the theoretical framework and questions with the resultant data (Gillis & Jackson, 2002). The blueprint or qualitative design for this study is a case study. 56 A case study is a necessary and sufficient method for certain vital research tasks in the social sciences and holds up well when compared to other methods in the range of socialscience-research methodology (Brown, 2007). There are various types of research approaches that can be used within qualitative studies. According to Doerr (2004), a phenomenologist frees himself or herself of everyday biases and beliefs in order to observe the essence of some phenomenon and attempt to understand the meaning or essential nature of that phenomenon. Phenomenon research carries out in a rational, investigative manner, and studies awareness, aims, meaning and personal and social experience. Phenomenology gives equal attention to both the personal and social aspects of communal life (Owen, 1994). Therefore, phenomenology would not be a suitable fit here. According to Thomas and James (2006), there is also another approach researchers use called grounded theory. The ultimate goal of a grounded theory study is to generate a new theory (Charmaz, 2008). The researcher observed the teachers and precisely recorded what is occurring in the classroom. The researcher was able to see a clearer scope of how each observed teacher manages their classroom and handles student misbehaviors. While collecting data, the researcher had the chance to get a sense of the classroom environment. Glaser (1992) stated that grounded theory renders a theory discovered in the data which explains the subjects’ main concerns and how they are processed. Creating a theory was not the goal of this research. Case study is known as a triangulated research strategy. Stake (1995) stated that the protocols that are used to ensure accuracy and alternative explanations are called triangulation (Stake, 1995).The need for triangulation arises from the ethical need to 57 confirm the validity of the processes. Yin (1994) suggested three principles of data collection for case studies which are the use multiple sources of data, creating a case study database, and maintaining a chain of evidence. In Yin’s (2003) view, rigorous data collection follows carefully articulated steps: the use of multiple sources of evidence, the creation of a case study database, and the maintenance of a chain of evidence. The use of multiple sources of data enable the researcher to cover a broader range of issues, and to develop converging lines of inquiry by the process of triangulation. This design is intended to assist the researcher to carry out the study of understanding teacher classroom management strategies and its effect on student behavior while increasing the overall reliability of the research. Population and Sample Selection The researcher studied a small sample of elementary level teachers. The school had 13 teachers employed, but only seven teachers taught at the elementary level. The specific sample of this qualitative case study included seven elementary school teachers. All the teachers were from an elementary school in southern North Carolina. The total sample size consisted of seven participants of the school. The researcher was looking at specific grade levels throughout the study period. If the researcher chose to use the entire teacher population of this school, the sample size would have been six additional teachers. The teachers excluded from this study sample were teachers who taught at the middle and high school grade level, which was not appropriate for this particular study. The researcher did not teach at the school where observations were taken. In Appendix E, the researcher received approval to use research documents and to facilitate research at the study site. The researcher contacted the principal to set up a time 58 to introduce study to the elementary teachers. From that point, the researcher introduced the study at one of the faculty meetings. Each participant was asked to sign a consent form (Appendix H) before the study began. Each research participant's privacy and confidentiality were protected. Every participant’s name remained unknown. The data collected did not request a name and were collected in an unmarked, sealed envelope when returned to researcher. Names remained anonymous and data collected was safeguarded. The participants were able to withdraw without penalty or consequence and their identities were not be used. Once teachers gave proper consent, the researcher scheduled time with teachers and gave them a questionnaire before leaving. Elementary teachers were given questionnaires, set up observation times and dates with the researcher, scheduled interviews with teachers. Then, the elementary teachers from grade levels Pre-K through 5 participated in a focus group session facilitated by the researcher. The researcher did not observe and collect data based on the students and their behavior patterns, but rather observed how the teacher manages his or her classroom in order to prevent these misbehaviors. The researcher also observed how the teacher responded to these behaviors, and the strategies used to address the misbehaviors. The primary investigator was the only one collecting data throughout this particular research study. Those excluded from the study equaled approximately 31% of the total school faculty and staff. The principal was used for clearance and gathering any additional items needed to assist in validating the research (e.g., school behavior policies). Having the participants observed teachers helped guarantee first-hand responses. The teachers varied from primary teachers who were directly responsible for the students most of the day, to others who were not, including library, technology, and art teachers. The researcher 59 directed teachers to focus on how they managed the classroom and their experiences with various types of misbehaviors as well. Sources of Data The instruments that were used in this study were previously created by other researchers in a former study and are located in appendices A, B, C, and D. The questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and observations were used to examine the different methods used by public elementary school teachers in a southern North Carolina school for handling student misbehavior in the classroom. Instructions for completion were placed at the top of the questionnaire. The questionnaire had a section where teachers can report descriptive information (i.e., educational degree earned, years of experience, and grade level that they currently teach). The questionnaire consisted of 26 questions. Some questions asked participants to list methods and misbehaviors, and some asked general questions regarding classroom management and their experiences regarding student behavior. The questionnaires took no more than 15 to 20 minutes to complete. The researcher also requested an interview with all elementary teachers at the school and scheduled a time during the 4 to 6-week period during which this study took place. The teacher interviews and a focus group facilitated after the school instruction day has ended. The classroom observations were during instruction time during the school day. Each of the seven teachers was observed for a one to two hour period during instruction and transition times during the day, with each teacher being observed on 2 days. The researcher sat in the back of the classroom to view, and record observations. During transition times, the researcher moved with the class, when necessary. 60 Each specific source of data answered a certain part of the guided research question throughout the study. The interviews focused on how teachers selected and developed strategies within the classroom. The questionnaires and observations focused on how teachers implemented the classroom strategies. Lastly, the focus group focused on how teacher selected, developed, and implemented strategies within the classroom. Validity Validity could use a wide variety of forms of data (words, pictures, videos, etc.) as the basis for descriptions, explanations, or theories. This re-widening of the definition of validity provides a way to talk about qualitative studies as having validity means that researchers can draw meaningful and justifiable inferences from scores about a sample or population (Creswell, 2009). The validity of the questionnaire, interview questions, observations, and focus-group questions was determined by using instruments used in prior studies by Pia Todras (2007) and Robin Gilpatrick (2010). This study gained quality by triangulating the data using the open-ended questionnaire, observations, and face-toface interviews. Questionnaires and interviews determined the classroom management strategies and student behavior techniques that teachers experienced. This information was used to determine distinguishing strategies and approaches among the teachers who participated in this study. The process of individual interviews and focus groups were useful in obtaining additional information, and discovering more detailed information on the strategies and approaches that teachers use. The questionnaires focused on identifying the strategies each teacher uses. Observations allowed the researcher to gather pertinent information while the teacher is instructing. Triangulation was used to correlate the findings. 61 Reliability The reliability of the questionnaire and observation outline was determined based on the evaluation of the principal for the selected school. Reliability means that individual scores from an instrument should be nearly the same or stable on repeated administrations of the instrument and that they should be free from sources of measurement error and consistent (Creswell, 2009). The principal reviewed the sources of data and approved them by concluding that it has reliable content and he or she did not recommend making any changes before conducting the research. Data Collection Procedures The sources used to collect the data included the interview questionnaires and the direct classroom observations. The following steps were prepared for data collection. Per the principal’s approval, the recruitment process began at a faculty meeting to introduce the study, gathered all the elementary teachers, and asked for volunteers who would like to participate in the study. The participants were given consent forms. Once consent forms were collected, questionnaires were distributed at the beginning of the four- to sixweek research period. Data from questionnaires from the seven teachers were collected throughout the course of the four- to six-week period. During the same period, seven teachers were interviewed by the researcher. The researcher requested an interview from seven teachers at the school and schedule a time during a two- to three-week time period. The interview was facilitated either before or after the school day. Data were collected by the researcher from each participating teacher from grades pre-K to fifth. Data observed from seven teachers was collected within the selected school. Each of the teachers was observed for a one- to two-hour time period at least 62 twice throughout the research period. With the approval and assistance of the principal, data was collected from school policies regarding student misbehaviors and/or student conduct for the principal's use, in-classroom teacher preparation, and/or informative educational trainings. All data collected were organized by coding the questionnaires and observations. Interviews and focus-group sessions were recorded and then transcribed. Data was only kept during the duration of the study. Upon completion of the study, the questionnaires and observations were shredded. All electronic files and data will be secured and stored for at least five years after the publication date of this study before being discarded or deleted. Data Analysis Procedures All focus groups and interviews were recorded. The researcher typed, reviewed, and then summarized all information from focus groups and interviews. Overall, the researcher analyzed the data using transcription, assessment, and recapping. Utilizing multiple methodologies for information gathering allowed the researcher to gain deeper insight into the manner by which the new teachers and their more-experienced colleagues learned, selected, developed, and implement effective classroom management strategies (Westbrook-Spaniel, 2008). In this case, qualitative data analysis began with labeling or coding each item of information so that differences and similarities between all the items could be found. The qualitative researcher needed a system of identifying and coding data that show in the transcript so that all of the items of data that appeared in one dialogue could be compared with data collected from other participants. 63 In order to maintain appropriate focus, the research study was crafted based on the research question it most effectively helped to answer: R1: How do elementary teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies to use in class? In order to discover the methods used by teachers in the classroom, the questionnaires listed the various methods (e.g., remove from, warnings, ignore the behavior). While observing, different methods that various teachers used for different behaviors became evident. The interview also allowed the researcher to determine strategies that teachers used in the classroom. The interviewer allowed the various teachers an opportunity to express what methods actually worked for them in the classroom. Teachers also explained how they developed these types of strategies. Teachers were able to include more information in the additional comments section or verbally during the interviews and/or focus groups. The teacher interviews and focus groups were recorded and information was transcribed. Individual interviews were coded as Teacher A through Teacher G. A copy of each of these sources of data (questionnaire, interview questions, observation outlines, and the focus group) was included in the appendices. Once all data was collected, the researcher reviewed the information. All questionnaire questions and responses from participants were entered into an electronic table to clearly view comparisons of responses. The researcher listened to recorded responses from interviews as well as focus groups. The researcher transcribed and typed all responses from the interview and focus groups in an electronically formatted table. All notes from classroom observations were organized in table format to clearly view all notations during the 64 observation period. In order to align this data with the research question, the researcher ensured all classroom management techniques and student behavior strategies were in a well-organized form to help understand common factors, reoccurrences in behavior, and what seems to work best for teachers in the classroom in alignment to their students’ behaviors. Ethical Considerations The participants in this study included seven elementary school teachers from a school in southern North Carolina. This study ensured that each research participant's privacy and confidentiality were protected. Every participant’s name remained unknown. The data collected did not request a name and were collected in an unmarked, sealed envelope when returned to researcher. Names remained anonymous and data collected was safeguarded. The researcher ensured that all parties involved are comfortable participating in the study. Students were not recorded or taped throughout this study. To assist in eliminating bias throughout the research, the researcher ensured that participants were given enough time to complete the questionnaire and the results were accurately recorded. Precautions were taken to ensure that the participants were treated with respect and dignity. Another ethical consideration was avoiding cultural bias and racism. All teachers participated in the same questionnaires and focus groups. Participants were informed of their right to not participate in the research study, or to withdraw from the study at anytime without penalty. The right to not participate from the research study at anytime was clarified to the participants before the start of the research study. This study will be published via ProQuest as an approved dissertation while additional data 65 completed by participants remained confidential for 5 years in a locked receptacle and then destroyed via shedder later that time. Limitations and Delimitations The researcher was aware of the following limitations that may interfere with the results and outcome of this study. The data collected in this study were limited to seven teachers within the elementary school; therefore, classroom management methods and perceptions were not representative of all grade level teachers within the school. As a result, this case study focused on seven teachers within one elementary school in southern North Carolina. This study was limited to elementary classrooms in one school; therefore, the results were not a representative of all schools in southern North Carolina. This qualitative case study was completed in elementary classrooms in one school. As a result, one school was different when compared to various schools in southern North Carolina or outside the area. It was assumed that the use of a questionaire was a suitable instrument to obtain the subjective data associated with school classroom management practices, attitudes, and behavior to which participants would respond. However, while a span of information was obtained, the data lacked depth. To ensure limitations did not affect the proposed study, the researcher remained consistent throughtout interviews and focus groups. The researcher emphasized to the participants the importance of completing the questionnaires. Summary Through the use of a qualitative study, the author focused on how data from seven teachers in an elementary school in southern North Carolina employed classroom 66 management strategies. By using sources of data such as questionnaires, interviews, focus groups and classroom observations, the researcher was be able to determine the effects that those strategies have on student behaviors within the classroom. Teachers used consent forms to participate in the study and names of teachers remained anonymous throughout the data collection period. Upon completion of data collection, the researcher organized all information into multiple tables to clearly view the various strategies used, reoccurring behavior issues, and how teachers ultimate view classroom management. This chapter presented multiple methodologies for information gathering allowing deeper insight throughout the research. This chapter also listed some ethical considerations to ensure confidentiality throughout the study. Chapter 4 will discuss the data collection and analysis more in-depth including thorough descriptions of the study sample and participants, identified themes and patterns that emerged from the study. 67 Chapter 4: Data Collection and Analyses Introduction The purpose of this qualitative case-study research was to explore how elementary school teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. Using the replication approach allowed the researcher to repeat the study using similar methods but different subjects and participants. An additional focus was on how teachers define effective classroom management, and the training and support that teachers perceive they need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. One research question guided data collection for this study. The central question gathered information related how elementary teachers in southern North Carolina schools select, develop, and implement management strategies to use in class. Using Westbrook-Spaniel’s (2008) study was possible because the original research question was essential and could contribute to the existing body of information supporting the discipline. Classroom observations, questionnaires, face-to-face/phone interviews, and a focus group were used to collect data. Chapter 4 presents the data collection and data analysis of these participant’s perspectives of this study through summaries and textual descriptions. This chapter contains the analyzed data, often presented in both text and tabular or outline format. To guarantee readability and precision of findings, organization is vital in this chapter. Adequate guidance in the description should be provided to highlight the findings of utmost significance for the reader. Most researchers begin with an explanation of the model and the applicable demographic characteristics obtainable in manuscript or tabular format. 68 Descriptive Data Participant recruitment plan and participation. For the purposes of this study, the teachers selected were from the elementary level only. The target sample size used for this study was seven elementary teachers and all seven teachers agreed to participate in the study. In the original study by Westbrook-Spaniel (2008) the research focus was similar, but the research participants were different and sample size was larger. The school principal contacted the teacher who taught at the elementary level face-to-face. The principal notified the researcher via e-mail of all the teachers agreed to participate in the study. After receiving e-mail with a list of names, each participant received a consent form directly from researcher to sign. All consent forms were signed by each participant within three days. The questionnaire consisted of 26 questions (see Appendix A). Some questions asked the participants to list methods and misbehaviors, and some asked general questions regarding classroom management and their experiences regarding student behavior. The questionnaires took approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete. All questionnaire questions and responses from participants were entered into an electronic table to clearly view comparisons of responses. Any additional information noted in the ‘comment section’ was recorded as well at the conclusion of the table. Data were also collected through individual interviews with the use of an interview guide consisting of 14 questions (see Appendix B). The participants were very knowledgeable and willing to answer the interview questions. All interview questions were answered with no difficulty. The average time of each interview was approximately 30 minutes; however, one of the interviews took almost one hour. Additionally, field 69 notes were taken from researcher observations in the classroom to capture the skills and management strategies of each teacher. The researcher did not teach at the school where observations were taken. Classroom observations were another form of data collection. The researcher was positioned strategically in a certain area of the room away from the teachers and students, but able to easily see all areas of the room. The researcher also followed teachers and class during any transitions that occurred during the observation period. The field notes were entered into a separate electronic table to view comparisons of the researcher’s field notes. Any additional information noted by the researcher during the observation was recorded in writing as well as at the end of the table. Observations were pertinent to the process of triangulation in this study. Observations allowed the researcher to gather pertinent information while the teacher is instructing and associate the findings in connection to the questionnaires and interviews. Observations were documented using a checklist (see Appendix C) and additional notes made by the researcher during the observation period. The researcher observed how each teacher managed his or her classroom, including the approaches used with students misbehaving, techniques used during transition periods between lessons, and systems used to reward students. The classroom observations were during instruction time. Each of the seven teachers was observed for a one to two hour period during instruction and transition times during the day, with each teacher being observed on two separate days. The researcher sat in the back of the classroom to view and record observations. Through the observations, it was evident that some teachers chose to react to their classroom as the misbehaviors arose while other teachers were more prepared and proactive. The researcher noticed a 70 consistency of reoccurring acts of preparedness from some teachers even on day two. This observation showed that some teachers’ strategies were natural to them, whether it was from training or simply intuition. During transition times, the researcher moved with the class, when necessary. The researcher and the teachers observed were not co-workers prior to or during the study period. Lastly, a focus group (see Appendix D) was formed including elementary school teachers. The forum was set up as a question and answer format. Teachers were divided into groups and given select questions to answer. Each group had approximately seven minutes to answer the set of question as one unit. Each group was asked to record each answer in writing. After seven minutes expired, a representative from each group read the questions and presented the answers. The remaining groups were given the opportunity to comment on questions as well. The focus group was audio recorded and transcribed within three days after focus group was completed. Upon completion of focus group, researcher collected written answers from each group as a form of data for the study. The questions asked in the interview, questionnaires, and focus group originated from instruments used in prior studies by Pia Todras (2007) and Robin Gilpatrick (2010). Descriptive data of study participants. In total, seven elementary school teachers, with various ages and education backgrounds, participated in the study. The population in the study ranged from age 39 to 62. Out of the total population of participants, 60 percent were over the age of 50. The following table shows the various levels of educational degrees and years of experience of each participant. 71 Table 1 Participants’ Education and Experience Teacher Code Experience Highest Degree National Board Certified A 4-6 years Bachelor’s No B 10-12 years Master’s No C 4-6 years Bachelor’s No D over 12 years Doctorate No E over 12 years Master’s No F over 12 years Master’s Yes G Over 12 years Bachelor’s No The age range and educational experience of the participants were significant in the fact that some of the study participants revealed strategies, and approaches that were practiced during the 1960s and before. It should also be noted that due to some of the generational differences between some of the participants, responses to interview questions may have differed slightly due to the age and generational differences. Some of the participants were practicing the same strategies and behavior approaches that they used when they began teaching such as time out. Data Analysis Procedures Groundwork for the data analysis process included transcribing the audio recorded interviews and organizing classroom observation notes that were taken during the interviews. All interviews were completed over a three week span. Thereafter, interviews were transcribed within two weeks. For member checking purposes, the transcripts were returned to each participant via email including a thank you for 72 participating. The email requested each participant to check the transcripts for accuracy and precision. In the case of errors, the participants were asked to respond with any proposed additions or corrections or additions that needed to be made. Each participant was asked to reply to email within five days from which the email was received. It was stated that in the case of ‘no reply’ in the five days, the researcher would proceed with the current data as is. Out of seven participants, only one replied with corrections or additions to the transcribed interview content. The validity of the sources of data used throughout this study was determined by using instruments used in prior studies by Todras (2007) and Gilpatrick (2010). This study gained value by triangulating the data using the open-ended questionnaire, observations, and face-to-face interviews. The principal reviewed the sources of data and approved them by concluding that they had reliable content and she did not recommend making any changes before conducting the research. There was no source of error that may have impacted the data. Upon gathering all information from each source of data the researcher began to transcribe the data. First, each transcript was read through two times looking for comparable words, responses and techniques. To help keep group all similar items, a color coding method was used. Secondly, all information that was irrelevant noted and discarded from the study. After the color coding method was complete, all reoccurring relevant information was counted manually. Thereafter, the information was placed in similar categories and/or personality themes or patterns grouped into themes based on similar words, responses, or techniques. The data were aligned with the field notes from the observations of specific behaviors, dealings, and occurrences that support the 73 individual participant interviews and comments. Field notes were coded based on similarities to already recognized words, responses, or techniques. Results Through transcribing, coding, and analyzing the responses from the questionnaires and interviews, four themes emerged. The themes were (a) noncompliant behaviors, (b) preparation, (c) emotions, and (d) training. Table 2 Key Themes Theme Definition Noncompliant Behavior Failure to comply, refusing to cooperate Preparation Timeliness, knowledge, foundation Emotion Any strong agitation of the feelings actuated by experience Training Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or Instructions to improve the recipient's performance ________________________________________________________________________ Noncompliant behavior. Of the participants, four experienced many instances of misconduct within the classroom with their students. Some teachers felt that before a teacher can deal with the students’ misbehaviors he or she must first recognize the types of behaviors. Throughout the study, the participants concluded that they experience various types of misbehaviors within the classroom. Most behavior patterns were similar; however, there were many behavior issues that were different. 74 Below is a description of the emerging themes and supporting words, responses and techniques. The first set of tables (3-6) show questionnaire results emerging from the noncompliant behaviors: Table 3 Percentage of Students Identified as Noncompliant Students Participant Code Response A 15%-20% B 1%-5% C 1%-5% D Depends on the school. 15%-20% E 1%-5% F 15%-20% G 6%-10% 75 Table 4 Noncompliant Behaviors within the Class Participant Code Response A Inattentiveness, lack of motivation B Speaking when others are speaking C Speaking out, argumentative, out of seat D Active – shutting out, fighting, insulting other students, crazy jokes; Passive – uncooperative, but silent E Speaking out of turn, Inattentiveness F Inattentiveness, getting out of seat G Speaking when others are speaking, getting out of seat 76 Table 5 Number of Times Noncompliant Behaviors are Addressed Participant Code Response A up to 3 times B none C up to 3 times D Depends on the school. 10 or more times E 4-6 times F up to 3 times G up to 3 times 77 Table 6 Is your Response to Item #3 (see Table 3), Reflective of the Past Year as well? Participant Code Response A Yes. Students sleeping in class, not paying attention B Yes (No explanation given) C Yes (No explanation given) D No (No explanation given) E No. This year is easier with Kindergarten. Last year I started teaching the class in February and there was no classroom management in place. F No. Because I had fewer girls in my class G Yes (No explanation given) Preparation. Of the participants, 100% (7 out of 7) felt that being prepared and organized was one of the key factors to effective classroom management. The participants felt that in order to advance and become better as an educator one must always be prepared for any behavior situation that may arise throughout the school day. All of the study participants concluded that preparedness was one of the most significant factors in effective approaches to student misbehaviors. However, they often noted that there were some teachers who may need help in the area of classroom management, but may be afraid to reach out to their counterparts with the school who may be dealing with similar issues. When speaking about of preparation, some participants were straightforward and clear in their statement, while others seemed a little more hesitant to voice their opinion about the issue. 78 Emotions. Many participants were vocal about how these various noncompliant behaviors made them feel. One participant, in particular, stood out when she said that “It lets me know that this is an area that this child needs help in developing. I typically don’t get upset; I just change gears to quickly address the issue”. Another participant was very straight forward and stated that his feeling was simply sadness. Training. All, with the exception of one participant, agreed that additional training was needed in classroom management and student behavior. One participant, in particular, stated that most teachers depend on ‘old’ strategies to have the same affect one this ‘new’ society of students. “Some techniques may need to be revisited and others should not be used at all in the classroom”. There was one participant who was solely behind his statement saying “Trainings are not effective.” He believed that more practice within the classroom is the best approach of learning how to become better at classroom management and student behavior approaches. One participant suggested that mandatory trainings should be reoccurring throughout the school for new and tenured teachers. She stated that she would be open to administrators coming in the classroom to observe her current classroom management skills. She felt being observed would help her get feedback about what areas she could improve in to become a better educator. One participant did not prefer anyone observing her classroom. She felt it would cause more of a distraction in the class. Majority of the participants, with the exception of one, felt that additional training classroom management is needed and effective for to improve student behaviors within the classroom. It is evident that teachers desire to be trained and more developed in classroom management. Effective classroom management is a necessity for teachers to become more effective within the classroom. 79 The researcher discovered the differences in perception among the teachers who participated in this study. From the responses, the researcher perceived that teacher trainings should be done during and outside of instruction time. For example, observations from administration or co-teachers followed by meeting to discuss what was observed or traditional trainings during teacher workdays. Research Questions The following discussion and analysis pertains to how the research question was answered by the data. This section shows how the question was synced with the themes that emerged from the data analysis. Central research question. The central research question (R1) focused on how the elementary teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies to use in class. Some of the participants had additional comments to share about the experiences that they had while managing the classroom. Sharing related issues, the participants felt that being aware of management strategies helped manage various misbehaviors from students. TEACHER A mentioned insight about experience within the classroom with the students how she manages disruptive behavior: Major disruptive behaviors are inattentiveness, getting out of their seats and becoming argumentative. In response, I immediately make sure I take control of the classroom and situation. It teaches the student that there is order in the classroom. I realize that through experience these strategies work pretty well for me. TEACHER C gave more of a step-by-step approach to classroom management 80 and student behavior she uses: Most of the disruptive behaviors I see in the classroom are talking out during classroom discussions, being off task, and fidgeting; primarily the boys. Be clear and detailed. Explain classroom expectations at the beginning of the year. I very comfortable in the classroom and when disturbances arise, I may move closer to the student. I may say “You are not meeting our expectations.” From years of teaching, I found these strategies to be effective through experimentation. Reading ‘Classroom Discipline 101’ by Craig Seganti gave direction and instruction in how to approach various types of behavior that may occur within the classroom. Some of the techniques were more effective than other, especially when dealing with many personalities within the classroom. TEACHER D was detailed in sharing his view of classroom management strategies and misbehaviors in his classroom throughout his experience: Students seem passive and aggressive throughout the day. Many students seem to shout out and began goofing around with other peers. As teachers, we should engage the students, keeping in mind that each student is different. Therefore, the approach and how I engage a student is different. Private chats with the disruptive student, away from the other students, are always good approach. I believe cooperation and compromise is key with the student. I learned to give a little power to the students throughout the day making the class more theirs than mines. I manage disruptive behaviors by setting up circumstances that encourages cooperation, learn to earn students respect, and stay clear and constant. 81 TEACHER G talked about her first year teaching at a new school and gave her view on management strategies within the classroom and the misbehavior she has encountered at a new school: The most behavior problem I deal with in classroom is when the students simply not following directions. I found that allowing students to be classroom helpers, line leaders, assistants, and head up class for morning assembly really minimizes a lot of behavior issues. The next of set of tables (7 through 8) show questionnaire results emerging from the classroom management strategies: 82 Table 7 Rated Top Three Strategies Participant Code A Rating: #1 2 3 Verbal Reminders Parent Telephone Note to the Parents of Appropriate Calls Behavior B C Loss of Privileges Verbal Reminder of Parent Telephone (esp. participation in Appropriate Calls discussions) Behavior Clearly Defined Seating Parent Classroom Arrangements Communication Expectations D Conversation Cooperation Compromise E Reward System Parent Notes or Verbal Reminders Emails of Appropriate Behavior F Reward System Parent Notes or Loss of Privileges Emails G Verbal Reminders Parent Telephone of Appropriate Calls Behavior Reward System 83 Table 8 Rate the Effectiveness of Classroom Management Strategies in General Rating of Effectiveness Participant Code Very Effective A, B, C, D Effective D, E Sporadic Effectiveness F Inconsistent --- Ineffective --- ________________________________________________________________________ 84 Table 9 Indicate the Classroom Strategies used in the Classroom. Participant Code Response A Office referrals, parents notes or emails, parent telephone calls, verbal reminders or appropriate behaviors B Reward system, office referrals, time out in classroom, time out in another classroom, parent telephone class referral to school counselor, seating arrangements, name on board, detention or after school consequence, verbal reminders of appropriate behavior, contracts, loss of privilege (recess, etc.) C Parent notes or emails, parent telephone calls, notes in agendas, seating arrangements, detention or after school consequence, verbal reminders of appropriate behavior, loss of privileges (recess, etc.), clearly defined classroom expectations and consequences. D Parent notes or emails, parent telephone calls, seating arrangements, verbal reminder of appropriate behavior, ignore misbehaviors, talk to the student E Reward system, parent note or emails, parent telephone calls, notes in agenda, seating arrangement, verbal reminders of appropriate behavior, loss of privileges F Reward system, time out in classroom, parent notes or emails, parent telephone calls, seating arrangements, verbal reminders of appropriate behavior, loss of privilege (recess, etc) G Reward system, office referrals, parent notes or emails, parent telephone calls, seating arrangements, verbal reminders of appropriate behaviors All of the participants briefly shared how they developed these strategies. They also stated skills they choose to use in the classroom. Table 10 shows how each participant’s develop their classroom management strategies: 85 Table 10 How Teachers Develop their Classroom Strategies used in the Classroom Participant Code Response A Remain attentive to class as a whole. There may be times throughout the year when students will need a different seating arrangements or even better preparation from me. B Allowing the students to assist within the classroom. Making them a part of the planning process. C Simply by experiencing different situations day to day. Sticking to what work and not reinventing the wheel. D Making sure I am prepared at all times because the students know when I am not on my game. E Treating each student as an individual and using strategies that meet that. Maintaining expectations and remind students of those expectation throughout the school year. F Keeping an open and listening ear. G Getting advice from other teachers that may have similar issues with behaviors and management. Talking to the students more about their needs. Tables 7-10 showed the selection and implementation of all the participants within the study. Each teacher stated various types of strategies used in the classroom and had a different approach to how they developed their classroom strategies. Some teachers felt their strategies were more effective than others. Being prepared and involving the students seem to be common in many responses from the teachers. The researcher was not surprised that only one teacher was open to getting advice from other teachers. 86 This study also supported what teachers needed in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. Teacher B stated that back in college she thinks she had some basic psychology classes, but for the most part, learned to deal with inappropriate behavior on the job. She did not receive any specific training in handling disruptive behaviors from students. She stated that “You can never really prepare for everything you will face in a day. I think the best training would be to be preemptive in your expectations and consequences.” She thinks herself, along with most teachers, could benefit from more training. “I think on the one hand, everyone would like more training. However, sometimes trainers are met with resistance because teachers take critique personally.” She feels stress management training would be beneficial to her and her peers. Teacher D did not receive specific training in handling disruptive behaviors or classroom management. He stated that he does not think he could not benefit from additional training because it is not effective. “More practice instead of theory.” He thinks his co-workers would be passive and suffer through the admin-forced trainings. The kinds of training that would be more beneficial would be simply watching other teachers and talking with each other. Teacher F has not participated in any additional training. The teacher felt she could benefit from more training in classroom management and student behavior. “I feel that my-coworkers would be open to more training because it would help them develop a positive learning environment.” 87 Participants’ opinions. During the study, all participants gave their opinions of various statements dealing with classroom management and behavior approaches. The table below shows the responses of each participant: 88 Table 11 Opinions on Classroom Management Strategies and Behavior Approaches (SA-Strongly Agree, A-Agree, N-Neutral, D-Disagree, SD-Strongly Disagree) Opinions Disruptive student behavior interferes with learning SA Teacher A, C, D, G A Teacher F, E N Teacher B Disruptive student negatively affect the overall classroom climate Teacher C, D, G Teacher A, E Teacher B, F Student achievement scores would increase if there were fewer discipline issues in the classroom Teacher C, D, F Teacher A, B, E, G Instructional time is lost due to student behavior problems Teacher C, D Teacher B, E, G Teacher C, D Teacher A, B, F, E, G All students lose opportunities to learn because of discipline problems Teacher C, D, E Teacher A, G Teacher B, F Teachers experience stress because of daily interactions with noncompliant student Teacher E, G Teacher A, B, C Teacher F Teachers can get discouraged because of ineffective classroom management strategies Teacher C, E Teacher A, B, D, F, G There is a relationship between time learning and academic success Teachers receive adequate training in dealing with difficult students Current strategies are effective in minimizing student disruptions Teacher B, F Providing professional development opportunities in classroom management strategies is a good idea Teacher C, D, G Teacher A, B, E Allotting time for teachers to enhance classroom management skills through mentoring, collegial coaching, of study group is a good idea A desktop reference manual with research-based classroom management strategies would be a beneficial tool for teachers Effective classroom management strategies would improve teachers’ job satisfaction Teacher C, D, F, G Teacher A, B, E Teacher C, F Teacher A, B, E, G Teacher C, D Teacher A, B, F, E, G Improved classroom management strategies would improve student academic success Teacher B, C, D, F Teacher A, E, G SD Teacher A, F Teacher B Teacher D, G D Teacher D Teacher A, F, E, G Teacher A, E Teacher C, D Teacher C Teacher F Teacher D 89 This table showed the variation of opinions between the participants. Each teacher had similarities as well as difference in the way they approach various types of behaviors and manage their classroom. All teachers agreed that disruptive students negatively affect the overall classroom climate. The researcher learned that all teachers were discouraged because of their ineffective classroom management strategies. As expected, current strategies used by some teachers are not effective and most teachers agree with the necessity of future training to improve their management skills. Researcher observations. The researcher did classroom observations through the research period. During this period, it was evident that each participant approached classroom management and student behavior various ways, some similar and some different. The researcher used a classroom management observation checklist to help capture various behaviors areas that may be seem during the observation period. The checklist included the rating scale: 0 = None, 1 = Some, 2 = Extensive for observed behaviors. Each participant was observed on 2 separate days (2 hours each day). With the help of the rating scale the researcher was able to better understanding regarding the types behaviors that actually occur in the classroom. From the results of the observation checklist the researcher was able to narrow the 32 behavior areas down to the following 11 behavior categories: On Task, Gives Directions, Rules Posted, Gives Rewards, Procedures, Small Transitions, Proximity, Knowledge, Positive Attitude, Interaction, and Climate. The researcher used a classroom management observation checklist (Appendix C) from a prior study by Robin Gilpatrick (2010). The following table shows the scores from all participants (P = participant). 90 Table 12 Scores from Classroom Management Observation Checklist Behavior Category On Task # of P 7 Gives Directions 7 Rules Posted 7 Gives Rewards 7 Procedures 7 Small Transitions 7 Proximity 7 Knowledge 7 Positive Attitude 7 Interaction 7 Climate 7 (N=None, S=Some, E=Extensive) Day 1 Day 2 N=0% S=0% E=100% N=0% S=57.1% E=42.9% N=14.3% S=0% E=85.7% N=42.9% S=14.3% E=42.9% N=0% S=28.5% E=71.5% N=0% S=57.1% E=42.9% N=0% S=28.5% E=71.5% N=0% S=14.3% E=85.7% N=0% S=42.9% E=57.1% N=0% S=14.3% E=85.7% N=0% S=28.5% E=71.5% N=0% S=28.5% E=71.5% N=0% S=42.9% E=57.1% N=14.3% S=0% E=85.7% N=42.9% S=14.3% E=42.9% N=0% S=0% E=100% N=0% S=14.3% E=85.7% N=0% S=14.3% E=85.7% N=0% S=0% E=100% N=0% S=14.3% E=85.7% N=0% S=0% E=100% N=0% S=28.5% E=71.5% 91 Field notes: Observations. During the observation period, the researcher compiled additional notes while in the classroom. The researcher captured in-depth notes on each participant based on their classroom management skills and behavior approaches. During the observation, various management skills and behavior approaches were captured. While observing TEACHER A, the researcher immediately recognized the participant complimenting students. “You are doing a great job!” Lesson plans were located on the dry erase board before students entering the class. As noted in the literature review, when teachers provide planned lessons that provide a smooth flow of instruction and helps prevent off-task behaviors. Class instructions began on time. A parent dropped one student off late to the class, but student fell in the normal routine smoothly with the other students. Students were given a heads up of the lesson plan for the next day. Student expectations were evident and the students were asked to recite the post expectations. Items posted on the classroom wall were aligned with the subjects being taught in class allowing student to see them clearly. The teacher gave specific direction and repeated them to students for clarity As far as size, the classroom was fairly smaller than normal, but the teachers’ use of desk and table placement was used well. Students were still sitting close to each other. The behavior of students seemed to be more regulated during group discussion as oppose to the typical seating format in the classroom. The literature review shows that modifying the classroom, for a variety of developmental and educational levels, may serve as a direct intervention for children who demonstrate ongoing disruptive behavior. The literature reviews also states that successful teachers think about the causes of 92 misbehavior and respond to students as individuals. When teachers learn to use disruptions as teachable moments and opportunities to model self-discipline, the teacher begins to develop similar management approaches in the future. The teacher asked many questions to the student and praised them when they were correct. If students were incorrect, the teacher challenged them to dig for the answer. The researcher noticed one student who seemed out of the loop and somewhat drowsy. The teacher did not notice the student immediately, but eventually saw her and addressed the student to sit up. The researcher observed a teacher discussing homework that was given the previous day. The teachers acknowledged students who brought in completed homework daily in front of the class. The classroom went over homework together. Even though it took additional time to go over incorrect homework answers the teacher made it a teachable moment by working the problems. The teacher matched students with correct answers with those who had incorrect answers. Once students were done with the homework problems they walked over to teacher to check answers. Some students became frustrated when they did not understand, but the teacher encouraged them to keep working. The teacher verbally ‘in front of the class’ stated that a particular student could not seem to get answer correct putting the student on the spot. The student seemed somewhat embarrassed in front of his peers. As stated in the literature review, some behavioral problems are often the result of the teacher's failure to adjust their teaching to their students’ abilities. During another situation, the teacher called on one of the students and the student responded “yeah.” The teacher immediately corrected the student excuse me and the student said quickly responded “yes maam.” 93 TEACHER B was very proactive with the students by having additional tasks ready when some student finished early. The teacher had an independent teaching style. Students worked in separately, but could ask the teacher if they had questions. The teachers walked around the class and praised students for their focus as well as correct answers. The students, overall, seemed very on task and well behaved. The teacher noticed one of the students, who did not ask for help, was struggling with the assignment. The teacher asked the student if he needed help and he actually did. There was a smooth transition between each lesson. The students seemed to know exactly what to do next. The researcher noticed the classroom desks were decorative which can become a distraction to some of the students. The teacher allowed students to help created and implement classroom rules together. As noted in the literature review, classroom rules provide positive connections between teachers and students. The researcher noticed multiple sets of rules posted which can become confusing for the students. After almost an hour of sitting, the teacher allowed the students to stop, stand, and shake themselves off. During the observation period, the researcher walked in on TEACHER C speaking with a student about a behavior issue. The student seemed very stubborn and began talking back. The teacher used the classroom phone to contact the student’s parent. The other students were busy doing activities while the teacher dealt with the behavior problem. This issue stemmed from the student not completing homework again, which seemed to be a reoccurring issue. At the same time, the teacher told another student to throw away gum in a stern voice and student stormed to the trash can. The teacher reminded one student that “When I have to stop and deal with your issues I cannot move 94 on with the rest of the class.” None of the additional students were off task. The teacher began to go over homework with a student and noticed the student becoming frustrated and disrespectful because he did not understand the assignment. The teacher immediately informed the student that “I am not entertaining your behavior” and told the student to focus and continue working. The teacher did not allow the student to continue making excuses to why the work was not done or why he did not understand the assignment. The teacher challenged the student and let him know “You can do it!” The student was irritated that he had to do the math problem a certain way. The teacher told him “Because that is the way it is done” and then she told him that he needed to show his work in the math problem in order to find the answer. After 45 minutes, the teacher finally got through to the student and the he smiled once he understood the math problem. The teacher presented sarcastic moments with some students. At one point during the observation, one of the school administrators walked into the class to talk to the teacher and the student began to get rowdy and noisy. The teacher immediately turned around and gave the class ‘the look’ and the student quickly got quiet. The student seemed very comfortable and the classroom climate was very family oriented. It was evident that the teacher had a great relationship with her student in her classroom. She really knew how to engage her students and had a fun teaching delivery using the computer as a part of her teaching tool. Students seem to be having so much fun learning through various activities. The teacher would actually sit and participate with the student in some of the activities and games. The teacher was pulled out in the hall of the classroom briefly and the students were so captivated in their activity that no one noticed the teacher had left the room. 95 Lastly, the teacher noticed one of the students’ head on the desk. She immediately addressed the student in a friendly way by saying “I always heard that the brain works better when it is up” and the student quickly sat up. The teacher used a different approach rather than simply saying ‘sit up’. The teacher continued to praise the student throughout the classroom. When the researcher walked in the classroom of TEACHER D the students were on task and surprisingly quiet for an elementary age. The teacher was putting a problem on the dry erase board to solve as a class. When students were asked to independently work on another problem and the teacher walked across the classroom to grab something off the table the students remained quiet and on task. As shown in Table 12, being on task was evident in the researcher observation in the classroom. Once the teacher retrieved the items she began walking around the class. It is good to walk around the class at least once to see if any students need assistance. The teacher originally told the students they had 5 minutes, but noticed they were still working around the 5 minute mark and gave them more time. Upon completion of the problem, the teacher gained the students attention and they all begin ‘walking through’ the problem together. It appeared that a few students were more involved; answering questions more than others. Therefore, the teacher immediately began to call on the students who seemed ‘out of the loop’ instead of calling on those who were raising their hands. The climate of the classroom was somewhat ‘dry’ and the teacher’s voice tone was very monotone. The student, overall, were quiet and only 2 or 3 students really seemed interested; answering questions. During the transition from one assignment to the next the teacher clearly stated directions for the next activity. The one situation that stood out the most was when the teacher asked a question and none 96 of the students said a word. The researcher noted that the students seemed perplexed by the assignment given. The teacher stated that “the winning person will get a prize, but I’m not sure what the prize will be yet.” Preparation is key even in rewarding students. The classroom had a job chart visible showing leadership opportunities within the classroom. The classroom had a posted list of AM and PM procedures such as unpack bookbag, sharpen pencils, pack bookbag, etc. The class schedule was also posted on the board. The desks were placed in a good distance from one another and the white board. The teacher made it her duty to ensure the student understood all assignments and directions throughout the day. Being clear and concise in direction helps eliminate many behavior issues such as unnecessary chatter, joking, and frustration. During another observation time, the researcher was able to observe the students entering the classroom and they were asked to look at the board, which directed them to read over their notes for a small quiz. Some students walked in the classroom talking to friends and laughing and others were quiet. Students seem to know the routine and begin working. The teacher was also grading papers before the students walked in, but once she noticed the students were coming she stopped and said “Good Morning” to each of the students. The tone of the teacher seemed very relaxed. The way a teacher begins a day has a major impact on the way the rest of the day even down to the morning greeting. During instruction time, the teacher did not request the students to raise their hands. The students simply shout out the answers to the teachers. This type of approach works in classrooms, but not in all cases. Allowing students to shout can become noisy and some students came become disruptive in other ways as well. Teachers must know 97 what works to ensure they do not give any loopholes for misbehaviors. The teacher had total control over her class and misbehaviors were minimal. TEACHER E ensured she controlled her classroom by including breaks, songs, and wiggle moments. As shown in Table 12, small transitions were less evident in day one of the researcher’s observation, but were more evident on the next day of observations. Incorporating moments within the instruction that allows students to get all their jitters out prevents some misbehaviors and disinterest. During carpet time, some students became talkative because they were attempting to get the teacher’s attention or talking to other students. The teacher immediately, in a nice stern tone, redirected the students. She continued to encourage the students throughout activity use statements like “You can do it!” or “I have such smart star students!” The teacher did not talk ‘at’ her students but ‘to’ students. The researcher also noticed TEACHER E observing her students during one of the classroom activities. During the handwriting activities the teacher walked around to each table monitoring the students writing their names. The teacher gave directions of what she wanted them to do once they are done writing their names. For example, she had the students get a book from the baskets that were located on each table. The students quietly picked up a book and begin reading independently. The teacher ensured her students knew the expectations of the classrooms. The students read and repeated classroom rules. The teacher even took it a step further by having the students explain the classroom rules so that the students understand what they are reciting. During group time, the students were asked to stand and the teacher had the students repeat the following class pledge: 98 “I pledge today to do my best in reading, math, and all the rest.” “I promise to obey the rules in my class and in our school.” “I’ll respect myself and others too.” “I’ll expect the best in all I do.” “I am here to learn all I can.” To try my best and be all I am.” This pledge placed responsibility on each student to own up to their individual behavior and task in class. The teacher gave warnings when students broke the rules. The researcher noticed that the teacher used a traditional ‘name on the board’ approach when the students misbehave. Whenever students became rowdy and inattentive, the teacher would automatically become silent. This method seemed to work well and students began to regroup. To praise students, the teacher used a ‘dollar’ reward system. Most teachers, as shown in Table 9, used reward system within their classroom. When students did something good and remained focused they were rewarded a dollar which they could redeem at the end of the week for a prize. One statement that stood out regarding the reward system was when the teacher said “Here’s a dollar for sitting like a scholar!” The researcher observed TEACHER F leading assembly during group time. Assembly consists of singing the ‘Good Morning’ song, doing the calendar, checking the weather, and more. One of the songs during group time dealt with following directions (similar to Simon Says). The student who followed directions the best became the new leader. The teacher even played with the students. The researcher noticed one child crying because he wanted to become the leader and the teacher initially ignored him. 99 Eventually the student stopped crying (after about 2 minutes) and began to participate in the activity. Some students left the group without permission for various reasons (i.e. going to the bathroom, walking to cubby) and the teacher immediately redirected students asking “Do you have permission to leave the carpet?” This statement did not give the student information and direction of what to do if they need to leave the carpet. One student hit another student during group time and when the teacher began to walk towards the student, he began to cry. Students know when they are in trouble and the teacher’s approach has to be ‘tailor made’ for each student, making the moment teachable. When the students were asked to line up, one by one, the teacher continue to redirect a particular student (sitting on the carpet) about keeping his hands behind his back before being called to get in line. One instance of the teacher addressing one of the student misbehaving was a simple statement; “You’re a first grader!” She explained to the student that he is an example and leader now; no longer in Kindergarten. The student began to smile and teacher gave him a high five. TEACHER G was doing a writing assignment about leaders and Martin Luther King Jr. became to subject. The teacher adjusted the writing assignment based on the student’s interest and had the student write a brief paragraph describing the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. The teacher encouraged the students; “Students do your best writing!” Because of the interest the student were very focused in the assignment. No time limit was given on the assignment which can prevent nervousness and pressure for the students to speed through the assignment. When the students feel pressured they tend to not be as effective with the task at hand. Most students who finished early remained quiet while other finished while some whispered to others. The teacher passed out the 100 next assignment when the student finished early. The teacher read each paper as students finished them and praised each student for their work. Some students were asked to read their work aloud if the teach felt it was great writing sample. When those students felt appreciative and happy, selecting certain students could cause other students to become upset, embarrassed, and not smart enough. Field notes: Focus group session. All 7 participants were invited via email to participate in the focus group. The focus group was facilitated by the researcher outside of the normal school instruction period. Out of the 7 participants who were invited, 4 (TEACHER B, D, E, F) agreed to participate. The focus group was structured as a question, answer and discussion forum. The session lasted only 1 hour. Therefore, 2 questions were eliminated out of the 10 listed in Appendix D. The questions eliminated were questions 8 and 10. Both questions were infused within the overall discussion during the session. Each participant was given 2 questions and given 10 minutes to write a brief response to each question to present to researcher and rest of the participants. After each question was presented (in no particular order) the responses was discussed with the entire focus group. Other participants were able to add to the original response, creating one solidified response as a group. The researcher posed a question from the synthesis activity for each participant to answer based on their opinion. Upon the completion of the discussion, the researcher ended the session with a closing statement and all participants had the opportunity to give any last statements on the topic. During the session, researcher took notes as well as collected written answers from each participant. Researcher reviewed and transcribed notes and participant responses for the use of the study. 101 TEACHER B was asked to speak to the topic of classroom management in her classroom: Simply knowing how to manage your classroom based on the type of students that you have. Be able to think ‘outside of the box’ of traditional learning and meets the needs of every student in one set learning environment. Another participant stated that it was a teacher’s control of their learning environment. The next question was to explain the relationship between students’ noncompliant behaviors, teachers’ stress, student success, and teacher efficacy: They all work together as a unit. There is always reason behind a student acting out. If teachers are not properly trained or using old, traditional techniques they may not be as effective as they need to be which will affect student learning. Ultimately, the students become frustrated because they do not understand assignments and test questions. They then start getting bored and talkative with others. The teacher can become stressed from all the misbehaving and not knowing all the answers to why they are acting out. No other teacher responded to this question. TEACHER D was asked to describe the classroom management strategies he employed and how effective he thought they are with which types of behaviors. He was asked to offer an example of a classroom behavior experience, in that caused great stress: Changing the desk around, notifying parents if behavior continues, remind the students about correct behaviors, try to ignore it. In one instance, one of my students decided to storm away from the desk and made scene. I ignored it and continued teaching. Once the class began their assignment I walked over to 102 student and simply as what is going on. The student began to discuss some issues at home that had nothing to do with me or the class. TEACHER D was also asked to explain how his ability to execute effective instruction was influenced by student behaviors: My theory has always been if the teacher is lost, the students will be lost.” In addition, another participant stated that preparation is vital. TEACHER E was asked how she feels her students are affected by the noncompliant behavior of the few disruptive students and your need to address the behaviors and in what ways: When a student acts out, other students get off task because they begin looking. The misbehaviors become a distraction. Students may talk to other students when they are done early. I quickly get the students of task be either reminded them of the time limit, moving the disruptive student, and having directions for the students who finish early. Others stated that their students tend to have a hard time refocusing and others never fully understand the assignment. She also asked how effective classroom managers meet the needs of difficult students: Being prepared as much as possible, showing students that you care about their well-being, and being loyal to your students. This will help touch places within a student that is beyond the surface. An additional response was making you available and consistent to the student. TEACHER F was asked what impact does effective classroom management behavioral interventions have on overall student achievement: 103 Training is good, but you can never really prepare for everything you will face in a day. I think the best training would be to be anticipatory and expected the unexpected. One participant stated that we must set students up for success and that start in the classroom. Another stated that you must present quality to receive quality. TEACHER F was asked if she would embrace a professional development opportunity to build a repertoire of research-based proactive classroom management strategies. If so, how would she like the training delivered: Yes. Professional development forums or trainings would be beneficial.” The rest of the group agreed with ‘Yes’ with training focusing on emotional management, stress management, and technical training in dealing with disruptive students. One response, in particular, opposed to direct training and stated that learning by experience or from each other is the best training. It is evident that there were various types of data collection used to ensure proper alignment with the central research question. The following table explores the data collected within this qualitative case study corresponding to the selection, development, and implementation of the classroom management strategies. The table also gives some examples from the participants aligned with each particular strategy. 104 Table 13 Data Collection in Correspondence to Selection, Development, and Implementation Responses from: Corresponds to: Strategy Examples: Interview Questions Selection Teacher A: Trial and Error Teacher C: Chose strategies from various textbooks Teacher E: Watching other teacher during beginning years of teaching Development Teacher A: Better teacher preparation Teacher B: Creating helpers within the classroom Teacher C: Daily experience Questionnaires Implementation Teacher B: Reward system Teacher E: Seating arrangement Teacher G: Office referrals Implementation Observations Teacher A; Teacher’s positive attitude Teacher C: Supplies available Focus Group Teacher F: Praising students Selection Teacher B: Learn how to manage the classroom based on the type of students in the classroom Teacher D: Teacher preparation Teacher E: When a student begin misbehaving, addressed the behavior immediately Development Teacher B: Always think outside the box Teacher D: Build a relationship between the teacher and student Teacher F: Look for trainings Implementation Teacher D: Changing desks around Teacher E: Moving the disruptive student 105 Table 13 helps to explain that this replication study, if carried out, carries the potential to empirically support the outcomes of the original study, either by clarifying issues raised by the original study or extending its generalizability. Theoretical framework. The theoretical framework used for this study was built with several theories in mind. One theory was Bandura’s social cognitive theory which deals with classroom climate and school belonging lead to experiences and perceptions that influence academic self-efficacy (McMahon et al., 2009). Throughout the study, the researcher was able to decipher the various approaches the each participant use to approach various misbehavior. The person-centered theory by Freiberg and Lamb (2009) suggested learners’ sharing control beginning the process of becoming selfdisciplined (also compared to Lee Canter’s assertive discipline model). At least half on the participants ensured that they allowed students to become an intricate part of the class by placing them in various leadership roles as well and them creating the rules for the classroom. Lastly, Glasser’s (1985) stimulus-response theory has been accepted as common sense since formal education began. In other words, teachers attempted to motivate challenging students to follow the rules and/or work harder by doing something to or for those students. It was evident that most teachers used reward system and prizes to motivate their students to stay on task and remain well behaved during the day. This study confirmed that the participant’s need additional training in classroom management skills and behavior approaches. Appropriate classroom management methods are required for all teachers to become successful within the classroom. Each participant selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies differently and could benefit from each other. It is also evident that each participant had a 106 different view of classroom management, and the training and support they need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. These theories were, collectively, a good choice to frame this study, especially for those participants who were employed as an elementary teacher in southern North Carolina schools. These theories support participants’ individual and collective attitudes toward classroom management and student behavior. The majority agreed that classroom management has a direct impact on student behavior. Summary The study consisted of seven participants who met the participant inclusion criteria for the purposes of this research. After the participant recruitment letters were presented, 7 participants agreed to participate. Upon participants’ approval, the researcher began distributing questionnaires, scheduling classroom observation and interviews, and facilitating a focus group. By the seventh interview, the interview process was concluded, and the transcription process began. Data were coded, transcribed, and the transcripts were sent to the participants for verification of accuracy of content (member checking). Once verification was received and the member checking process was concluded, the initial color-coding of the data as themes and patterns emerged. All data and data analysis results were related to the guiding research question. The interviews focused on how teachers selected and developed strategies within the classroom. The questionnaires and observations focused on how teachers implemented the classroom strategies. Lastly, the focus group focused on how teacher selected, developed, and implemented strategies within the classroom. The researcher discovered that all participants felt that being prepared and organized was one of the most key 107 factors to effective classroom management. All but one agreed that additional training was needed in classroom management. All the participants had various opinions about classroom management and student behavior, but all response led to the common factor that teacher need adequate support and consistent development in classroom management. Four themes emerged from the data: noncompliant behaviors, preparation, emotions, and training. These themes are important because each of the participants felt that either one or a combination of them played some part in their current classroom management skills, approach to student behaviors, or the lack thereof. These themes directly related to the elementary teachers who participated in the study, but it is assumed that similar feelings may be shared among all elementary teachers who are pursuing becoming an educator in public school education system. These themes will be discussed in light of the existing body of literature and research in the next chapter. Chapter 4 presented data collection, data analysis of results, and how the outcome supported the original study. Chapter 5 provides a (a) summary of the study, (b) summary of findings and conclusions, (c) theoretical implications, (d) practical implications, (e) future implications, (f) recommendations for future research, and (g) recommendations for practice. Chapter 5 also presents the researcher’s perception about the study, data collection, and analysis process. 108 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations Introduction An understanding of appropriate classroom management skills is critical for teachers to acquire in order to be successful within the classroom as well as for preventing possible frustrations and problems with students. Teachers should be afforded with various opportunities that cultivate their classroom management skills and approaches to misbehavior within the classroom. Although there are many strategies used to handle misbehavior in the classroom, there should be an obvious focus on the methods that various teachers use that successfully deal with the problem, as well as an examination of the techniques used by those whose students exhibit frequent misbehaviors in the classroom (Guercio, 2011). Collecting data on student engagement during instruction, misbehaviors, and teacher observations can help recognize which physical aspects of their classroom need to be enhanced. The remainder of this chapter includes discussion of findings, conclusions, limitations, and recommendations of this qualitative case study. The chapter is structured as follows: (a) summary of the study, (b) summary of findings and conclusions, (c) theoretical, practical, and future implications, and (d) recommendations for future research and practice. Summary of the Study The purpose of this qualitative case study explored how elementary school teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. This study was a replication of a study conducted by Westbrook-Spaniel (2008) using a different grade-level group. One research question guided this particular study. The central research question focused on how the teachers selected, developed, and implemented 109 classroom management strategies to use in class. The study also addressed the training and support teachers needed in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. The target population of this study included 7 teachers in elementary classrooms at one school located in southern North Carolina. The data collection in this study included the use of questionnaires, interviews, classroom observations, and focus groups. The researcher initially contacted the principal to set up a time to introduce study to the elementary teachers. From that point, the researcher introduced the study at one of the faculty meetings. Each participant was asked to sign a consent form (Appendix H) before the study began. The participants were able to withdraw without penalty or consequence and their identities were not used. Once teachers gave proper consent, the researcher set up a time with teachers and gave them a questionnaire before leaving. Elementary teachers also set up observation times and dates with the researcher, and scheduled interviews with teachers. Then, the four of the seven elementary teachers, from grade levels Pre-K through 5, agreed to participate in a focus group session facilitated by the researcher. The researcher did not observe and collect data based on the students and their behavior patterns, but rather observed how the teacher managed his or her classroom in order to prevent those misbehaviors. The researcher also observed how the teacher responded to those behaviors, and the strategies used to address the misbehaviors. The primary investigator was the only one collecting data throughout this particular research study. The researcher did not teach at the school where observations were taken. The questionnaire consisted of 26 questions. Some questions asked participants to list methods and misbehaviors, and some asked general questions regarding classroom 110 management and their experiences regarding student behavior. The classroom observations were done during instruction time during the school day. Each of the seven teachers was observed for a 1 to 2-hour period during instruction and transition times during the day, with each teacher being observed on two different days. During transition times, the researcher moved with the class, if necessary. The teacher interviews and focus group were scheduled after the school instruction day has ended. All focus groups and interviews were recorded. All information from focus groups and interviews was typed into the computer then reviewed and summarized. The researcher analyzed the data using transcription, assessment, and recapping. In this case, qualitative data analysis began with labeling or color coding each item of information so that differences and similarities between all the items can be found. Through transcribing, coding, and analyzing the responses from the questionnaires and interviews, four themes emerged. The themes were: (a) noncompliant behaviors, (b) preparation, (c) emotions, and (d) training. Summary of Findings and Conclusion After the data analysis process was complete, the results were critiqued in relation to each research question, the theoretical framework, and how the results contributed to the existing body of knowledge in this area. A descriptive analysis of participant demographics yielded a thorough description of the study participants and their educational experiences. Participant’s ages ranged from 39-62. They all had various years of experience ranging from 4 years to over 12 years. Participants also had varied education levels including Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees. One participant was National Board Certified. 111 The findings of this study were grounded in the field of education with research giving clear knowledge of teacher understanding of classroom management and the application of methods for dealing with student misbehavior. Therefore, understanding classroom management as it relates to the way students behave and perform in the classroom is imperative. As a result, this study advanced the scientific knowledge base by adding to the existing research for teachers and other educators who are interested in learning more classroom management and strategies for effectively preventing or reacting to misbehavior within their classrooms. This study also added to the limited knowledge elementary school teachers may have about classroom management and their perceptions and observations of student behavior. In case the results do not meet the researcher’s expectations, the sample size could be increased, a certain additional grade level could be selected, or the researcher could increase the number of schools involved in the study. Four major themes emerged in response to the data collection and analysis procedure and were aligned directly with the selected research questions. The themes identified were as follows: 1. Noncompliant Behavior - Failure to comply, refusing to cooperate 2. Preparation - Timeliness, knowledge, foundation 3. Emotion - Any strong agitation of the feelings actuated by experience 4. Training - Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve the recipient's performance The four major themes recognized helped to answer the central question and the secondary questions that guided the study by identifying perceptions and observations of participants about classroom management skills and student behavior approaches. The 112 study was able to support standing research as identified by primary researchers in this area of study such as McMahon, Wernsman, and Rose (2009) about the obstacles and challenges that elementary teachers face daily with classroom management and their students’ behaviors. The study also identified similar themes as the studies of Shu-Ling and Lin (2007), Freiberg and Lamb (2009), and Glasser (1985). The research was also successful in providing individual accounts of the reoccurring themes and patterns that the data discovered. The following section will provide an assessment of the study results and the significance of each finding in relation to what is known in the literature. Key Themes Noncompliant behavior. Based on the data presented, noncompliant behavior was a very important aspect of classroom management for elementary school teachers in public schools. According to Canter & Canter (2001) the assertive discipline approach states that the teacher is responsible for redirecting noncompliant behaviors before they become disruptive to the entire classroom. Lack of knowledge in classroom management and miscommunication between teachers and their students were identified as obstacles that could have a direct impact of student learning and success. Many participants believed that effective classroom management and environment were imperative to tackle student misbehavior. There must be an opportunity to dialogue with other teachers and educators so that information can be transferred from one to the next. The participants did agree that noncompliant behaviors were very important to recognize and approach correctly, but it was not always easy to prevent. Knowing that other teachers may be experiencing similar situations can help the teacher tremendously. 113 Preparation. The data identified a fundamental need to strategically prepare the classroom for students. Elementary teacher cannot wait until students to enter the class; they have to have everything in order and set before the students arrive for the day; keeping all the students in mind. This was confirmed in the study when all participants agreed that it was important to be prepared before good behavior and student success actually happens. Preparation covers everything from furthering their education, having obtained certain degrees, and being educated about various classroom management skills and student behavior approaches. Preparation aligns with Shu-Ling and Lin’s (2007) theory that teachers must consider the interactions of environmental influences, student perceptions, and learning behaviors when preparing their classroom. Emotion. It was clear that some participants approached student behavior based on emotions. Some teachers react to a student’s behavioral issue instead of considering the possible factors and then responding the student accordingly. Bandura’s social cognitive theory suggests that teachers interpret the results of their own behavior informing and altering their environments and the personal factors they possess which, in turn, inform and alter subsequent behavior (Pajares, 2002). It is easy to take a student’s misbehavior personally causing the teacher to react in a personal manner which is often the incorrect approach to the particular behavior. Teacher emotions can link with preparing for the student’s behavior issues. Taking the time to think and consider what the student may be going through and taking more of a parent approach when responding to the student gives a more effective solution. Training. Another major theme identified by the data was the importance of training. According to Almeida (1995) many great teachers are confident that they have 114 the resources and knowledge needed to handle misbehaviors, while other teachers indicate that they have received relatively little training and support to handle them. Some participants in the study believed that training in classroom management and student behavior approaches was minimal to nonexistent. With the lack of training, teachers have no opportunity to collaborate with other teachers. Other participants stated that there is so much focus on curriculum and student achievement that the obstacles and challenges that teachers may face while on the journey is overlooked. The study concluded that many of the participants gained their training through hands on experience while they are in the classroom. Other participants felt that their training is somewhat trial and error, in hopes that their approach was and is effective. Most teachers stated that faculty meetings and teacher workdays are the only opportunities they received that would be considered close to training. Implications Theoretical implications. The theories supported throughout this study helped support how teachers select management strategies to use in class, the development of the strategies and skill sets they use in classroom management and the training and support teachers need in order to feel more confident in their approach to classroom management. Research Question R1 asked, “How do teachers select management strategies to use in class?” Part of the research question guiding this study dealt with how teachers select their classroom management strategies. According to Shu-Ling & Lin (2007) teachers must consider the interactions of environmental influences, student perceptions, and learning behaviors. Elementary school teacher base their knowledge of classroom management on past classroom experiences. Some of the participants associated their 115 experiences to their former students from the previous years. For example, teachers often experience usual patterns of reacting to challenging behaviors in the classroom (McCready & Soloway, 2010). In the data, some differences were noted depending upon grade level as well. These differences were particularly spotted on the types of noncompliant behaviors the teacher experienced. The data show that elementary school awareness of classroom management in public schools in southern North Carolina is formed based on their experiences. The participants often answered questions based on situations that previously occurred in their classroom which showed their current thoughts and beliefs; even those to come in the future. Elementary school teachers would benefit from opportunities to collaborate with other elementary school teachers who are interested in becoming better classroom managers in order to effectively approach student misbehaviors. The participants may already have general support such as administration, co-teachers and district systems that provide a wealth of information to the participants, but having a collaborative community of elementary teachers would create a stronger foundation for those seeking to absorb more about classroom management and student behavior. Practical implications. Practical implications that resulted from this study are as follows. It is important that the administration team create multiple opportunities for elementary teachers to connect with other elementary teacher through team meetings, faculty meeting or conferences as model and mentors. Teachers and administrators must collaborate and communicate, forming strong partnerships to set and implement classroom management strategies (Grode, 2009). 116 The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools should be encouraged to create teacher leadership workshop and/or conferences exclusively elementary school teachers to network with other elementary school teachers with similar educational challenges and situations. Next, the workshops could be for independent school as well as other surrounding school districts in North Carolina. These forums could be created to provide an environment for elementary school teachers as a resource for each other, soon becoming a major annual conference within the area or across other regions. Lastly, other colleagues and researchers, interested in studying elementary school teachers and classroom management, should join forces on future studies on ways to improve future practice in North Carolina. Positive discipline has always been an important element of school connectedness (Strahan, Cope, Hundley, & Faircloth, 2005). Through research it is evident that many classroom management strategies and theories exist, but all do not work for every teacher within the classroom. Therefore, practical implications are great to close the gap and provide resources for teacher to adopt and implement in their classroom. These practical implications can help those teachers experiencing misbehaviors within their classroom, but do not know exactly what to do. Future implications. These practical implications can make quite an impact on education advancement for elementary school teachers in public school education in North Carolina. However, on an individual basis, elementary school teachers can be proactive in seeking training and additional classes by taken to account personal goals based on the four key themes. Studies have been conducted to examine whether or not student teachers are adequately skilled in classroom management and are prepared to face 117 problems that may develop in the classroom (Pellegrino, 2010). Therefore, elementary school teachers should begin to create discussion among themselves even when there are not trainings and concrete resources available. It is vital to converse with other educator in hopes that something will soon change. Elementary school teachers can also begin to create small collaborative communities that may become greater in the future. Creating collaborative communities with other teachers is a part of the preparation process. Preparation is one of the key themes in this study. The teachers will learn to deal with their emotions through speaking with other teachers and their situation, realizing that it is nothing personal. Through the collaboration with others, it will become evident and clear the other teachers are experiencing noncompliant behavior as well; some different from others. With that in mind, teachers will be able to share their approaches in hopes that it will help another teacher with a similar situation. Through meeting with other teachers and educator provides a program or a base within the education and become a valuable resource for elementary teachers located in southern North Carolina and the surrounding school districts. Researchers and colleagues that are interested in this particular study will have the opportunity to add to the already deficit information that exists. Future study by researchers and colleagues will allow those who are trying to move forward with more information that can get them started on their study. Recommendations Based on the findings of this study, the researcher was able to create recommendations for future research as well as recommendations for practice. The recommendations were based on the data collected from the participants. The 118 recommendations also show the significance of this study as it relates to those participants and connect to the study’s research questions. Recommendations for future research. Upon the completed study, the researcher discovered other areas of study that could be researched. The researcher believes that any one of the following recommendations would add to the limited body of research that already exists that pertain to a teacher’s understanding of classroom management and the application of methods used for dealing with their student’s misbehaviors in an elementary setting. The researcher also believes that if any combinations of the recommendations occur, then obstacles of classroom management and student misbehaviors for elementary teachers in public schools will be identified. Therefore, those challenges will decrease gradually and thus close the gap that has been evident for years in education. Future research may explore the following paths: 1. Expanding the current study’s population to include teachers who are first year teachers. First year teachers may have a different perspective of the classroom and may come with more or less training as well as more behavior issues then experienced teachers. Questionnaires and interview questions can capture this information. 2. Limiting the current study’s population to include veteran teachers who have been teaching for over 10 years. Veteran teachers may have a different perspective of the classroom and may come with more or less training and expertise as well as more behavior issues then less tenured teachers. Questionnaires and interview questions can capture this information. 119 3. Focusing on other grade levels other than elementary level teachers. Middle or High school teachers may experience different types of behaviors problems than those in lower level grades. The researcher can gain consent from grade level above elementary grades. Questionnaires and list Middle or High school grades only. 4. Replicating study to include teachers from other elementary schools outside of southern North Carolina. The geographical area could extend beyond southern North Carolina schools; outside counties, cities, even states. Broadening the scope could show more dynamics of information regarding teacher perspectives and approaches. 5. Researching the perspectives held by administrators regarding teachers’ various classroom management methods and the impact that a school wide behavior plan might have on individual teachers and students. Interviewing administrators may allow the researcher to see the view on classroom management and student behavior. The interview also may capture how much time administrator put into training their teacher on the topic. The results identified that some gaps were evident during the research period. According to the literature review, the lack of training in dealing with student behavior may cause a gap in learning to the students' fullest potential. Most teachers made it clear that there was a lack of training in classroom management and student behavior. With the lack of training, most teachers designed their class in a traditional way, offered traditional classroom systems, and approached misbehaviors the same for all students. When teachers began to take advantage of the practical implications of training workshops and 120 networking with other educators will help to close the gap in learning caused by the lack of training. Therefore, the central research question on how teachers selected, developed, and implemented classroom management strategies are clearly answered. As noted in the literature review, diverse groups can cause a gap in learning contributing to classroom management problems. During the observation, the researcher did not notice any language barriers. All students varied in race, but all spoke the English language. Even though language can cause a huge gap in learning, there was no language barrier issue discovered during this study. The researcher did notice some diverse cultures from the student within the classroom. According to the literature review, cultural variances between students and teachers are a source of stress. The outcome for some students could enable gaps of learning for the students. Teachers can help close this gap by figuring out how other teachers deal with possible similar situation. Teachers can also seek trainings dealing with how to approach the classroom with a variety of cultures. To forward this line of research, the researcher suggest administrators to take research data information and implement a plan of action for the school to ensure teachers have various opportunities or trainings. In connection with the research question, teachers can take in information and be open to try new classroom management strategies and behavior approaches and collaborate with other teachers and educators to share ideas. Teachers can also take the initiative to seek out training opportunities and literatures to become a more effective classroom manager. The strengths of this study included having open-ended questions that permitted the participants to speak freely about their classroom experiences. During the focus 121 group, the study opened up an opportunity that many of the participants felt did not exist for them to speak out about the issue. Another strength of the study included the opportunity to each participant to be observed by the researcher. Through observations, the participant was able to show the researcher how he or she manages the classroom, the types of strategies used, and what areas the teachers is well-trained in. The observations allowed the researcher to clearly answer the research question and understand what strategies elementary teachers are using mostly or not at all as well as the areas of training needed. The study placed a spotlight on areas that elementary school teachers felt were sometimes ignored, due to the lack of training. Weaknesses of the study were that there were a restricted number of participants and only covered one geographical location. It was instantly known that some participants in one area or school had a different working relationship with elementary school teachers than other participants located in another area or school. Another weakness of the study is that because of the limited amount of participants, the range of the study did not cover or represent a wide spectrum of teacher. Recommendations for practice. The results of this research are too preliminary to recommend concrete implementation steps, but this study suggests that the following considerations be evaluated for their practical value for practitioners: 1. School districts re-evaluating their training and professional development trainings prior to hiring teachers and throughout the academic school year. It is the researcher’s belief that based on the data collected, that the primary reason for hiring teachers are due to demand, and not necessarily what they know or their qualifications. 122 2. Teachers communicating and partnering with co-teachers or others educators to obtain new classroom management ideas and student behavior approaches. It is the researcher’s belief that based on the data collected, interviews and the focus group support the need for the collaboration. 3. More family-oriented approaches within the classroom. It is the researcher’s belief that based on the data collected, that students are willing to receive criticism and/or reprimand from teacher when they feel the teacher ultimately cares and have their best interest at heart. 4. Ensuring teachers separate teaching and their person emotions. It is the researcher’s belief that based on the data collected, that in order for a teacher to effectively discover the root to a student’s behavior the teacher must remember that the behavior may be deeper than what the teacher assumes; nothing personal toward the teacher. If these practices were implemented, there may be a greater chance that classroom management strategies and student behavior approaches will improve for elementary school teachers. These practices could be creative and cost effective, but would require total commitment. Implementation of these practices could lay the foundation for elementary teachers in southern North Carolina education to become more confident and feel more appreciated. Implementation of these practices will also give clear answers to all research questions presented in this study. Reflecting on the theories presented in the literature review and the prior study by Westbrook-Spaniel (2008), it was evident that teachers needed guidance and a more clear focus as an effective classroom manager. There was also a lack of training necessary for 123 teachers to continue to develop their skills. Therefore, this particular study was able to help bridge the gap with the previous study by extending qualitative information such as additional management strategies and in-depth sources of data to help gain quality within the classroom and education for teacher in general. Both studies may have focused on different grade levels, sample sizes, and geographical locations, but replicating the prior study was well worth the research reaching elementary school teachers. Teachers may be highly experienced and grounded in some of their traditional theories, but can still benefit from learning additional ways to develop more effective classroom management strategies. Many encounters with the participants left the researcher pondering and reflecting on past teaching experiences. The researcher was forever touched by the teachers’ desire for teaching, dedication, and commitment. The researcher learned that reinventing the wheel was not necessary for the study, but instead taking a prior research model and applying it to another grade level. When expanding the original scope of study to another sample population it allows the researcher to see other teachers’ views and perspectives in how they select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies. By replicating this study, the researcher was able to support the results of WestbrookSpaniel’s (2008) study by extending its’ generalizability. Once the study was completed, the researcher was able to not only see results from the higher primary grade level, but now the lower primary age group. Both studies are now able to complement each other by having a more depth and offering more information on how to select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies for teachers in grades Pre-K through 12. The researcher also learned that there are many teachers that desire more information to 124 make them a better classroom manager, but either they do not know how to obtain them or simply feel the current techniques are working just fine. The researcher believes that the elementary is such a pivotal place to begin when dealing with classroom management and student behavior. The researcher was surprised, but appreciative by the teachers’ willingness for allowing observations during instruction times. Some teachers felt that during the observation, the researcher would find negative components within the classroom that the teacher did not want to go beyond the classroom. 125 References Abboll. M.. Walton. C. Tapia, Y., & Greenwood. C. R. (1999). 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If noncompliant behavior includes, acting out verbally and/or physically, getting out of seat, speaking out, argumentative, disruptive actions, inattentiveness, and lack of motivation; then what percentage of your students (over the years of your experience) could be identified as noncompliant or difficult students? 1.___ 0% 2.___1% - 5% 3.___ 6% -10% 4.___ 11% -15% 5.___ 15% - 20% 6.___ More than 20% 3. Please list the noncompliant behaviors you deal with in your class. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ 4. During a typical school day, how many times do you address noncompliant behavior? 1.___ None 2.___ up to 3 times 3.___ 4 – 6 times 4.___ 7 – 9 times 5.___ 10 or more times 148 5. Is your response to item #3, reflective of the past year as well? ___yes___no (Briefly explain the differences). __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ 6. Indicate the classroom management strategies used in your classroom. (Check all that apply) 1. ___ Reward system 2. ___ Office referrals 3. ___ Time out in classroom 4. ___ Time out in another classroom 5. ___ Parent notes or emails 6. ___ Parent telephone calls 7. ___ Notes in agendas 8. ___ Referral to school counselor 9. ___ Seating arrangements 10.___ Name on board 11.___ Detention or after school consequence 12.___ Verbal reminders of appropriate behavior 13.___ Ignore misbehaviors 14.___ Contracts 15.___ Loss of privileges (recess, etc) 16.___ Other, specify_______________________________________________ 7. Please name and rate your top three strategies. 1. ________________________________________________ 2. ________________________________________________ 3. ________________________________________________ 8. How would you rate the effectiveness of your classroom management strategies in general? 1. ___ Very effective 2. ___ Effective 3. ___Sporadic effectiveness 4. ___Inconsistent 5. ___Ineffective Please indicate your opinion to the following statements. Circle the best choice. The choices are SA (Strongly Agree), A (Agree), N (Neutral), D (Disagree), and SD (Strongly Disagree). 9. Disruptive student behavior interferes with teaching quality lessons. SA A N D SD 10. Disruptive student behavior interferes with learning. SA A N D SD 149 11. Disruptive students negatively affect the overall classroom climate. SA A N D SD 12. Student achievement scores would increase if there were fewer discipline issues in the classroom. SA A N D SD 13. Instructional time is lost due to student behavior problems. SA A N D SD 14. There is a relationship between time in learning and academic success. SA A N D SD 15. All students lose opportunities to learn because of discipline problems. SA A N D SD 16. Teachers experience stress because of daily interactions with noncompliant students. SA A N D SD 17. Teachers can get discouraged because of ineffective classroom management strategies. SA A N D SD 18. Teachers receive adequate training in dealing with difficult students. SA A N D SD 19. Current strategies are effective in minimizing student disruptions. SA A N D SD 20. Providing professional development opportunities in classroom management strategies is a good idea. SA A N D SD 21. Allotting time for teachers to enhance classroom management skills through mentoring, collegial coaching, or study groups is a good idea. SA A N D SD 22. A desktop reference manual with research-based classroom management strategies would be a beneficial tool for teachers. SA A N D SD 23. Effective classroom management strategies would improve teachers’ job satisfaction. SA A N D SD 150 24. Improved classroom management strategies would improve student academic success. SA A N D SD 25. What is the highest level of formal education you have achieved? 1.___ Bachelor’s Degree 2.___Master’s Degree 3.___Doctoral Degree 4. ___Other, specify ______________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________ 26. How many years of classroom teaching experience have you completed? 1.___0 – 3 years 2.___4 – 6 years 3.___7 – 9 years 4.___ 10 – 12 years 5.___More than 12 years Feel free to use this space to express your thoughts and feelings about classroom management issues and their influence on student achievement and teacher efficacy? __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ 151 APPENDIX B Interview Questions 1. What kinds of disruptive behavior do you see in your classroom? 2. Who engages in them? 3. How comfortable do you feel when you intervene with students who display disruptive behavior? 4. How do you manage disruptive behavior in the classroom? 5. Where did you learn these techniques? 6. How effective are they? 7. How do you feel when a child is disruptive in your class? 8. How do you handle these emotions? 9. What kind of training did you receive in classroom management? 10. Did you receive specific training in handling disruptive students? 11. How sufficient was your training in handling disruptive behavior for the situation you face in your classes? 12. Do you think you could benefit from more training? 13. Do you think your co-workers would be open or somewhat resistant to more training for dealing with disruptive students? 14. What kinds of training would be beneficial to you or your peers? 152 APPENDIX C: Classroom Management Observation Checklist 153 APPENDIX D Focus Group Session Protocol Research Questions: For facilitator’s use R1: How did elementary teachers select, develop, and implement classroom management strategies to use in class? Focus Group Session Guide: Following introductions and goal setting statements, the focus group sessions began with the use of a digital voice recorder. Field notes were taken. Questions and Prompts: Focus Group Session…Leading Questions Please take a few minutes to contemplate these questions prior to the session. In this way, you can formulate responses in advance. Thank you. 1. Can you speak to the topic of classroom management in your classrooms? 2. Explain the relationship, as you understand it, between students’ noncompliant behaviors and teachers’ stress, student achievement, and teacher efficacy. 3. Describe the classroom management strategies you employ. How effective do you think they are with which types of behaviors? Can you offer an example of a classroom behavior experience, in your tenure that caused you great stress? 4. Explain how your ability to execute effective instruction is influenced by student behaviors. 5. Do you feel your students are affected by the noncompliant behavior of the few disruptive students and your need to address the behaviors? In what ways? 6. How can effective classroom managers meet the needs of difficult students? 7. What impact does effective classroom management behavioral interventions have on overall student achievement? 8. Given your personal experiences, how do you think AYP scores might be affected by improved classroom management practices? 9. Would you embrace a professional development opportunity to build a repertoire of research-based proactive classroom management strategies? If so, how would you like the training delivered? (mentoring, collegial coaching, study groups) 10. How might a desktop reference manual be helpful in building and sustaining your proactive responses to student noncompliance? Synthesis Activity: Please respond to following prompt by answering: “Yes”, “No”, or “Unsure”. Then briefly explain your response. Prompt: Given what we have heard and discussed about classroom management’s role in teaching and learning, do you feel that teachers’ acquisition of sustainable classroom management strategies via professional support, such as a desktop manual of research-based strategies could have a positive impact on academic outcomes? 154 APPENDIX E: Site Approval Letter 155 APPENDIX F Author Permission Letter 1 March 19, 2013 To: Deonte’ J. Alexander Doctoral candidate, Grand Canyon University Re: Permission request To Whom It May Concern, I, Robin S. Gilpatrick, Ed.D., grant permission to Deonte’ J. Alexander, for the use of the survey instrument and Focus Group protocols as written in my dissertation entitled, Classroom Management Strategies and Behavioral Interventions to Support Academic Achievement (Gilpatrick, 2010). These resources are accessible via the appendix of the document named above. The complete work is published at ProQuest.com. It is my understanding that the materials will be used to conduct research necessary for the completion of a doctoral study in classroom management at Grand Canyon University, under the direction of Dr. Jason Ward. Best Wishes, Robin Gilpatrick, Ed.D. Robin S. Gilpatrick, Ed.D. robingilpatrick@ymail.com 156 APPENDIX G Author Permission Letter 2 157 APPENDIX H Informed Consent Form 158 159
Creating Meaning from Collaboration to Implement RtI for At-risk Students Submitted by Julia Ann Diakakis A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctorate of Education Grand Canyon University Phoenix, Arizona April 29, 2014 UMI Number: 3619403 All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. UMI 3619403 Published by ProQuest LLC (2014). Copyright in the Dissertation held by the Author. Microform Edition © ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106 - 1346 © Julia Ann Diakakis 2014 All rights reserved. Abstract The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study based on Danielson’s (2002) assertion that when teachers learn, student achievement improves was to examine how teachers created a collaborative learning experience through Professional Learning Community (PLC) concepts to implement Response to Intervention (RtI) with at-risk students. The setting was a combination junior and senior high school. Eighth grade teachers, an RtI trained guidance counselor, and a reading instructor provided the sample for the study. Reading assessment scores of lowest 25% eighth grade students provided the data for participants. This study is significant due to the need for research on shared accountability and collaboration initiatives to increase student achievement. The following research questions guided the study: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? and How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Based on data analysis and results from journals, Concerns Based Adoption Model instrument, interviews, and researcher journal, participants constructed meaning from experiences and shared knowledge through collaboration to learn RtI implementation. The findings of this study supported and expanded research on teacher learning through collaboration and the value of PLCs along with growth in student achievement resulting from RtI implementation. Keywords: Professional Learning Communities, Response to Intervention, Middle School, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Teacher Learning, Student Achievement, Differentiated Instruction, Qualitative Methodology, Exploratory Case Study v Dedication “Knowledge is pleasant to your soul . . . ” (Proverbs, 2:10) I dedicate this dissertation to my husband, Saki, who has been my support, strength, and motivation to pursue a doctoral degree. I know that this journey has not been easy, and no words can express my gratitude for all you have endured and for your never-ending patience throughout the entirety of the doctoral process. Your belief in my abilities when I felt discouraged pulled me through countless moments of frustration in the iterative practice of the dissertation journey. To say “thank you” seems trivial in light of all the dedication you have provided me. My gratitude is endless, as is my love. I also owe much to my beautiful daughter who has provided me with direction and resolve to pursue higher education. Always remember dear Loula, knowledge is power and to that end, I hope I have set an example for you. Education is something you do for yourself that stays with you permanently. Use education to grow in knowledge. Always believe in yourself to pursue dreams and realize potential with determination and faith—especially in the face of the challenges and the trials of life. Challenges and trials are great opportunities to grow in spirit. I would be remiss not to include my family in my dedication. Without them, I would not be who I am. Truly, my parents, sister, and brother have shaped me and have provided the means to pursue my dreams. Thank you for providing a loving family full of multiple opportunities and a wealth of experience. Also, thank you for believing in me. My parents were my first teachers and their lessons are present every day of my life. vi Acknowledgements There are many to acknowledge who have been instrumental in my dissertation journey. To say that my dissertation committee provided encouragement, support, and opportunities for growth is an understatement. I was blessed to have Dr. Erich Randall as committee chair, Dr. Daniel Smith as methodologist, and Dr. Marjeneh Gilpatrick as content expert. Dr. Randall pushed me to look deeper and reach higher. His patience and attention to detail enabled me to realize more than I thought was possible. Dr. Smith’s encouragement and expertise provided continual guidance throughout my doctoral journey. Dr. Gilpatrick’s words of encouragement and excitement for my research provided me with the drive to keep moving forward. I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Gayle Grant for her bits of wisdom and words of encouragement. I learned much from her direction and example. Thank you for taking the time to provide tips and sharing experiences. Finally, yet important, I wish to thank the late Dr. Ron Dougall for his support in the final stretch of my dissertation journey. I cannot thank everyone enough for the dedication to my dissertation and the reassurance throughout the process. Thank you to Mr. Timothy P. Cool for endless support, mentorship, and encouragement, as well as Brevard Public Schools for supporting my research and allowing the opportunity to grow as an educator. Thank you to all of the teachers who gave of their precious time to participate in my study. I am eternally grateful to all for your dedication to the education and future of our students. To be an educator is a calling to which you all have answered enthusiastically. vii Table of Contents List of Tables ............................................................................................................... xi List of Figures ............................................................................................................. xii Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study..............................................................................1 Background of the Study .........................................................................................5 Problem Statement ...................................................................................................9 Purpose of the Study ..............................................................................................10 Rationale for Methodology ....................................................................................13 Advancing Scientific Knowledge ..........................................................................14 Research Questions ................................................................................................15 Significance of the Study .......................................................................................17 Nature of the Study ................................................................................................21 Population and Sample ....................................................................................21 Data Collection ................................................................................................22 Definition of Terms................................................................................................23 Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations ........................................................26 Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study ..................................30 Chapter 2: Literature Review .......................................................................................32 Background ............................................................................................................33 Theoretical Foundations.........................................................................................39 Review of the Literature ........................................................................................44 Themes and Trends in Research. .....................................................................45 Methodology. ...................................................................................................46 viii Professional Learning Communities. ...............................................................51 Response to Intervention..................................................................................64 Reading and Academic Achievement. .............................................................81 Summary ................................................................................................................89 Chapter 3: Methodology ..............................................................................................93 Statement of the Problem .......................................................................................96 Research Questions ................................................................................................98 Research Methodology ..........................................................................................99 Data Collection ....................................................................................................101 Preditcted Results Related to the Research Questions. ..................................102 Research Design...................................................................................................103 Population and Sample Selection.........................................................................104 Setting and Sample Size Rationale. ...............................................................107 Sources of Data ....................................................................................................109 Validity and Reliability ........................................................................................112 Validity and Qualitative Design Instruments. ................................................113 Reliability and Qualitative Design. ................................................................115 Data Collection Procedures..................................................................................115 Approvals to Conduct the Study. ...................................................................115 Data Collection Sources and Instrumentation................................................116 Data Collection Procedures............................................................................121 Qualitative Validity for Participant Interviews and Interview Questions. .....124 Qualitative Validity for Researcher Observations and CBAM......................124 ix Qualitative Validity for Participant Journals and Collection of Journals. .....125 Qualitative Reliability and Participant Interviews and Interview Questions.125 Qualitative Reliability and Researcher Observations and CBAM. ................125 Qualitative Reliability and Participant Journals and Collection of Journals. 126 Data Analysis Procedures ....................................................................................126 Qualitative Analysis and Participant Interviews and Interview Questions. ...129 Qualitative Analysis and Researcher Observations and CBAM....................129 Qualitative Analysis and Participant Journals and Collection of Journals. ...130 Ethical Considerations .........................................................................................131 Limitations ...........................................................................................................134 Summary ..............................................................................................................135 Chapter 4: Data Collection and Analysis ...................................................................137 Research Questions ..............................................................................................139 Descriptive Data...................................................................................................140 Data Analysis .......................................................................................................142 Observations of Professional Learning Community Collaborative Meetings148 Participant Interviews. ...................................................................................158 Participant Journals. .......................................................................................168 Results ..................................................................................................................170 Research Question 1 (RQ1). ...........................................................................170 Research Question 2 (RQ2). ...........................................................................170 Emerging Themes. .........................................................................................183 Summary ..............................................................................................................187 x Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations ......................................188 Summary of the Study .........................................................................................189 Summary of Findings and Conclusions ...............................................................190 Research Question 1. ....................................................................................190 Research Question 2. ....................................................................................193 Implications..........................................................................................................194 Theoretical Implications. ..............................................................................195 Practical Implications....................................................................................196 Future Implications. ......................................................................................197 Recommendations for Future Research ...............................................................198 Recommendations for Future Practice .................................................................200 References ..................................................................................................................202 Appendix A: Recruitment Letter ...............................................................................219 Appendix B: Informed Consent Form .......................................................................220 Appendix C: Permission to Conduct Study ...............................................................222 Appendix D: Permission to Use Premises .................................................................223 Appendix E: Qualitative Interview Questions ...........................................................224 Appendix F: Observation Instrument.........................................................................225 Appendix G: IRB Approval .......................................................................................226 xi List of Tables Table 1. Exploration of Teacher Learning and Student Achievement.......................104 Table 2. Relationship of Research Question, Instruments, and Analysis ..................130 Table 3. Lowest 25% Eighth Grade Students Based on FCAT Reading Scores .......141 Table 4. Teacher Participant Descriptors ...................................................................142 Table 5. Comparison of Themes from PLC Collaboration Meetings Based on Occurrences................................................................................................................153 Table 6. Comparison of Stages of Concern from PLC Collaboration Meetings Based on Frequencies ...........................................................................................................156 Table 7. Interview Questions and Responses Related to Themes .............................159 Table 8. Participant Journal Entries Related to Themes ............................................169 Table 9. Collaboration and Collegiality Related to Qualitative Data Collection ......172 Table 10. Data-informed Instructional Decisions Related to Qualitative Data Collection ...................................................................................................................175 Table 11. Intervention Strategies Implemented Related to Qualitative Data Collection . ....................................................................................................................................177 Table 12. Knowledge Sharing Related to Qualitative Data Collection .....................179 Table 13. Reading Instructional Practices and Integration Across the Curriculum Related to Qualitative Data Collection ......................................................................181 Table 14. RtI for Disruptive or Destructive Behavior Related to Qualitative Data Collection ...................................................................................................................185 Table 15. RtI for Organizational Skills and Study Habits Related to Qualitative Data Collection ...................................................................................................................186 Table 16. Presence of Predetermined Themes Within Participant Journals ..............192 xii List of Figures Figure 1. Occurrences of Stages of Concerns for Observations 1-3 ..........................182 Figure 2. Frequency Occurrences of Themes from PLC Meetings ...........................183 1 Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study Perhaps the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1936 address at Little Rock, Arkansas, gave meaning to the pursuit of education for all students: “We know that equality of individual ability has never existed and never will, but we do insist that equality of opportunity still must be sought” (The American Presidency Project, 19992012, para. 28). Finding a method to reach individual students is a daunting and all too often unrealistic goal for teachers. Educators tasked with providing equal opportunities to all students regardless of aptitude and ability may find support through professional collaboration. As posited in Basham, Israel, Graden, Poth, and Winston (2010), the expectation for educators is to provide relevant learning opportunities for students of all levels regardless of specific learning needs. The guiding research questions for this research study centered on understanding the construct of meaning teachers created from Professional Learning Community (PLC) participation and collaboration to implement Response to Intervention (RtI) with the intent of increasing student achievement for at-risk students, and how did the PLC collaboration help teachers learn to implement RtI for at-risk students. Data collected from study participants indicated that teachers’ collaborative work could result in effective RtI implementation in which at-risk students could learn at higher levels. The theoretical background was that teacher learning provided the means for student growth. The study construct was to reflect primarily on Danielson’s (2002) work concerning classroom environment and management as the foundations of learning for educators and students. The work of DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010), about PLCs within 2 educational organizations established supplementary knowledge for the current study research and iterates well with Danielson. Due to departmentalization of curriculum at the study site, implementing PLC collaboration within the middle school environment presented many challenges as well as growth opportunities for teachers engaging in knowledge sharing. Equally challenging for teachers was the task of intervention strategies in interdisciplinary classrooms. Using eighth grade teachers and students, the purpose of the research data collection was to identify connections between teacher learning and student growth. Next, the research aim was to address the ongoing challenge of increasing learning gains among the lowest 25% in reading. Finally, but of equal importance was a newly adopted instructional appraisal system. One of the domains within the appraisal system rated teachers on mutual accountability and collaboration related to student achievement. Increasing learning gains in reading raises many questions related to instructional methods and delivery. The question with regard to executing intervention strategies in core curriculum rests with teacher capacity for learning and the effect on student outcomes. The objective of this qualitative exploratory case study was to confront teacher learning through collaboration and the use of intervention strategies aimed at the lowest 25% in reading. An additional objective was the teacher appraisal domain related to mutual accountability and collaboration. The study participants derived from eighth grade teachers who shared the same students. Through interdisciplinary, interdepartmental collaboration and the adoption of RtI to address the lowest 25% in reading, the data collection concentration was how teacher collaboration affected learning RtI and how these could affect student growth in reading. Teacher collaboration meetings were 3 documented to track student achievement. Teacher learning through collaboration was measured qualitatively through participant interviews, researcher observations, and teacher journals. Concerning reading, students at-risk in reading were identified through the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) given yearly. Teacher learning linked to student achievement maintained value due to a newly adopted appraisal instrument that holds teachers accountable for collaboration and shared accountability. Through the development of interdisciplinary teams, the need of shared students becomes a central focus, thus encouraging shared accountability and collaboration (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). This study is important to educators due to the continuing need to provide equitable learning opportunities based on specific needs for all students. Another issue of grave importance is achieving learning gains for students in the lowest 25%. Importance in achieving learning gains due to requirements for annual progress is outlined in the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of Congress. Data collected from study participants indicated that effective collaboration in an RtI environment could help improve achievement for at-risk students in the lowest 25%. This study provides value to middle school educators adopting the PLC culture with a combined interdisciplinary intervention network targeted to student achievement. In addition, based on the literature, the willingness of teachers and organizational design to integrate intervention strategies with core content curriculum remains unknown. Prior to the study, intervention strategies to address the needs of students in the lowest 25% at the study site were taught in intensive reading classes by a teacher specialized for reading instruction. Prior research suggests that intervention strategies for 4 reading take place in settings designed specifically for struggling readers (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2010). The research of Buffum et al. (2010) aligns to the previous means of addressing interventions within the intensive reading classes rather than through interdisciplinary instruction in core content classrooms. Additionally, school guidance counselors typically interact with reading specialists to implement interventions and to place students in appropriate settings. The study of core content teachers learning to implement intervention strategies through interdisciplinary, interdepartmental efforts and targeted collaboration fills the gap in literature. The use of PLC collaboration to construct meaning for eighth grade teachers implementing RtI for at-risk students as stated in DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005), presents positive effects for teachers making marked differences in the success of students. The remainder of the chapter provides the background of the study to explain the research focus and the history of the research focus. The problem statement and the purpose of the study state the problem surrounding the research and reflection of how the study addresses the problem statement. The rationale for methodology identifies the research design and study population. Advancement in scientific knowledge discusses how the research contributes to the current body of knowledge. The research questions describe the focus of the study phenomenon. The significance of this study provides implications of potential results. The research design is discussed in the nature of the study. The definition of terms provides definitions for understanding terms used within the study. The culmination of chapter one is the assumptions, limitations, and delimitations along with the summary and organization of the remainder of the study. 5 Background of the Study The passing of NCLB in 2001 initiated educational reforms throughout the country on a large scale unlike any other reform in education, and as such created changes in governance within school districts nationwide. NCLB increased standards in public education designed to ensure successful global competition (Bushaw & Gallup, 2008). While successful in increasing standards in education, Riley and Coleman (2011) stated that NCLB presents many lessons left to learn regarding the foundations or driving forces in the future of educational organizations. With this thought comes the notion of ensuring policy makers understand fully the need for more effective means of data collection and better efforts toward educational investments (Riley & Coleman, 2011). PLC collaboration among teachers to address student needs may allow effective means of data collection along with opportunities to add value to standards in education (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005). High stakes testing and school rating systems resulting from NCLB brings about challenges for schools related to the need to increase student achievement. Also critical is the need for raising student achievement due to increasing demands for teacher accountability. In answer to the increased accountability placed on teachers to raise standardized test scores, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in 2002 developed recommendations to address high stakes testing and teacher accountability. Among the recommendations provided by the AFT (2002) is a resolution on standards-based assessment and accountability that supports the use of data-informed decision-making and collaboration among teachers to determine interventions for struggling students. 6 Buckley-Boyle (2013) stated the need for collegial conversations and the ability to collaborate tied to accountability as a component of the teacher evaluation system. Finding methods to meet these challenges set the stage for continued research in professional development for teachers and strategies designed to address learning gaps among students. One of the reported trends is to utilize PLC collaboration among teachers of shared students (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Another consideration is the use of RtI in the core content areas delivered through differentiated and targeted instruction (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). RtI is a multi-tiered approach to targeted instruction based on student needs (Dunn, 2010). The PLC culture may provide the diversity and multifaceted approach for successful RtI strategies. The middle school structure could benefit from the shared values and the nature of collaboration inherent in PLC culture. Johnson and Smith (2011) suggested the use of RtI in the middle school setting as the means for instructional staff to recognize the combination of issues surrounding struggling students requiring interventions. District goals affecting the study site surrounding the establishment of PLC culture in schools, along with the use of RtI as a newly adopted intervention strategy for data-informed instruction established the research model for teacher learning and student growth. Additionally, a newly adopted teacher appraisal instrument in the district of the study site combined collaboration and shared accountability, which brought further credence to the present study. The appraisal instrument provided the development of an opportunity for teachers learning to collaborate and the use of multiple data sources to address the needs of individual students. At the study site, the establishment of PLCs and 7 the use of RtI among teachers provided the opportunity to address collaboration and shared accountability. The implementation of RtI was new to core content teachers in the middle school environment at the study site. Educational research on middle school students indicates at-risk factors in students struggling in the subjects of reading and math (Bowers, 2010; Mohammed, Swanson, Roberts, Vaughn, Klingner, & Boardman, 2010). At-risk factors are predominant among eighth grade students (Bowers, 2010; Mohammed et al., 2010). As mentioned in Neild and Balfanz (2006), these students often drop out due to disengagement and inability to succeed due to deficiencies in learning opportunities. Increased opportunities in reading based on RtI strategies may fill this gap and provide remedies to deficiencies in learning. A two-year case study based on middle school students struggling with reading comprehension completed by Mohammed et al. (2010) sought statistical correlations among collaborative instruction, teacher learning, and the prospects of RtI to enhance reading comprehension. Mohammed et al. stated that there is relevance to studying middle school teachers, teacher learning, collaboration, RtI strategies in interdisciplinary content, and the effect on student achievement. Teachers adapting to PLC collaboration and learning to use RtI for reading along with students in the lowest 25% in reading were affected by the research focus. According to DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010), four pillars lay the foundation for effective PLC environments: mission, vision, values, and goals, shared among school stakeholders. Along with the four pillars, and equally important to effective PLC environments are collaborative teamwork, teacher capacity, leadership capacity, and professional development (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). PLC pillars 8 surrounding shared values and goals may set the stage for an active learning organization where interdisciplinary teachers address the needs of struggling readers within a collaborative setting. Once the lowest 25% are identified, RtI strategies and data for students can provide a starting point in establishing the values and goals of a collaborative team. For the study, a collaborative team consisted of eight interdisciplinary teachers. The team was defined through interdepartmental eighth grade teachers sharing the same students. Also included in the collaborative team were a school guidance counselor trained in RtI and a middle school Intensive Reading (IR) instructor. DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Karhanek (2010) addressed the effective use of PLC collaboration with RtI implementation. The alignment of shared values and goals symptomatic of PLCs may add to the effective implementation of RtI in the middle school environment. The departmentalization of middle school environments in content curricula could find support to implement RtI strategies through PLC collaboration teams focused on shared students. Therefore, further studies about the implementation of PLC culture and teacher collaboration as a means to increase student performance and teacher learning may add applicability for middle school educators. In daily planning and collaboration, the use of formative and summative assessments integrated with a tiered approach for intervention allows research-based instructional decision-making in core academic content areas (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Karhanek, 2010). The Mohammed et al. (2010) case study provided primary relevance to the study of teacher collaboration and growth with student achievement due to the long-term research spanning a two-year period. The quasi-experimental study done in the natural setting of the middle school environment appeared to expand evidence of collaborative 9 strategic reading (CSR) as an effective intervention for students struggling in reading. According to Mohammed et al., interventions done through CSR showed student gains in reading comprehension. Rather than using classroom teachers to conduct the CSR interventions, Mohammed et al. (2010) used a collaborative research team to instruct struggling students. Based on the use of outside instructors rather than classroom teachers assigned to the students involved in the study, there is possible lack of sufficient evidence in teacher collaboration and growth with student achievement. In the past, guidance counselors trained in RtI along with exceptional education teachers addressed the needs of the lowest 25% at the study site. Pullout programs in which students in the lowest 25% would leave the classroom, or would have a specialized course, were the primary methods of individualized instruction where differentiated strategies focused on primary indicators. Core content teachers had minimal contact with differentiated instruction and generally focused on the content only. The idea to integrate RtI and differentiation with content area instruction was innovative for middle school content teachers at the study site and was addressed through teacher collaboration. Problem Statement It was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the purpose of improving student achievement among at-risk students at the study site. Shared accountability and collaboration drove the need for core content RtI implementation. In an effort to increase the reading achievement among students in the lowest 25%, 10 interdisciplinary, interdepartmental teachers worked as a collaborative team to differentiate instruction and provide interventions. To focus on the problem the study presented the use of teacher collaboration to learn how to integrate RtI in content areas and the effect of teacher learning of RtI on student achievement in reading. Due to NCLB school grading, there is a requirement to increase the reading achievement of students in the lowest 25%. As a result, there seemed to be a need for more research to determine the effectiveness of interdisciplinary collaboration on teacher learning and student growth among eighth grade students. Through the study of teacher experiences tied to collaborative learning and data from student assessment scores, a more comprehensive understanding of the value of PLC collaboration and RtI was expected. The results of this study could provide school administrators, eighth grade teachers, and school stakeholders the additional guidelines to enhancing PLC collaboration along with sharing successes and pitfalls to integrating RtI to content areas. Best practices for ensuring student success also remained a primary reason to solve the problem of student achievement gaps. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to explore how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement and how PLC collaboration on RtI implementation helped teachers learn. The use of PLCs to work collaboratively for implementation of RtI to improve reading was new to the study site. Targeting improvements in reading among shared students identified as at-risk in the lowest 25% reading was also new to the study site. 11 The motivation of this qualitative exploratory case study revolved around the connection with eighth grade core content teachers learning to implement RtI strategies. Teacher learning focused on collaborative sharing of student data and shared experiences related to student achievement in reading. Previously, these core content teachers functioned autonomously in the realm of content curriculum. Interdisciplinary instruction of reading, use of RtI comprised differentiated strategies, and the respective delivery methods aligned to the curriculum provided teachers a basis for knowledge sharing and data-informed decision-making. The shared goal among the collaborative teacher group was to target students in the lowest 25% in reading using their seventh grade FCAT scores as the initial reference point. Another, yet secondary, consideration in this study was the collaboration and shared accountability component of the district’s new teacher appraisal instrument. Teachers wishing to obtain higher ratings on the appraisal instrument needed to adjust to shared accountability regardless of the content area. The eighth grade teachers and students of this study came from an east central Florida community junior and senior high school that has a predominantly Caucasian population. To protect the identity of participants the researcher agreed not to use the name of the school used in the study. Collective objectives addressing student achievement raises possibilities for reflective practices among teachers to enhance student performance and provide increased learning opportunities. Student success is perhaps the predominant target determining achievement within the school environment, and as stated by Lezotte (2002), “The staff in the effective school accepts responsibility for the students’ learning of the essential curricular goals” (p. 4). Collaborative and reflective practices may relate 12 directly to professional growth and teacher learning while seeking to address instructional concerns (Lezotte, 2002). Based on study results the benefits of collaborative and reflective practices was especially true when addressing the needs of students performing in the lowest 25%. Reading scores are often an area in critical need, and among middle school students, these needs may become amplified because of the increase in academic rigor (Florida Department of Education, n.d.). Eighth grade students may face uncertainty when reading comprehension presents an ongoing struggle. The effect of poor reading comprehension skills resounds throughout the core academic subjects of math, English, science, and history (MESH) and students in the lower 25% in reading may find independent study daunting. A PLC model was implemented among the eighth grade teachers and meeting dates for collaboration were instituted. The eighth grade student population was the lowest 25% in reading. Professional development took place for structured and focused RtI strategies and the use of these strategies in interdisciplinary curriculum within the PLC environment. Teachers were guided to use reflective practices through meeting notes and teacher journals. Additionally, the use of student data in reading to differentiate instruction was addressed and implemented in areas with no prior evidence. The students in the lowest 25% in reading were a concern for the school and previous methods had not addressed the use of interdisciplinary teachers, RtI, or PLC collaboration to intervene and provide increased learning opportunities. 13 Rationale for Methodology A qualitative exploratory case study was the best research design based on Greene (2008), who suggested a dynamic contribution concentrated on multiple views and approaches. The implementation of RtI within core content classrooms should provide dynamic experiences in teacher learning and student achievement based on the instructional delivery and the subject discipline. Multiple teacher views and approaches were likely to align with the content expertise and the corresponding instructional strategies of each teacher. These dynamic experiences in teacher learning allow the evaluation of no predesigned outcomes indicative of the nature of exploratory case study (Yin, 2003). The primary purpose of qualitative exploratory case study is to understand phenomenon from the participant’s viewpoint (Merriam & Associates, 2002). Based on Merriam and Associates (2002), in which analysis of a single unit, in this case an interdepartmental team of teachers, in an institution determined furthered the use of qualitative exploratory case study. As stated in Greene (2008), the potential for multilayered inquiry and purposeful expansion of possibilities related to addressing diversity and differences in comprehension furthered the cause for a qualitative exploratory case study. The qualitative methodology based on the social constructivist worldview seeking to understand individual experiences within a natural environment adds value to the study of human growth and experience (Creswell, 2009). This related to participant experiences in learning RtI and the use of collaboration to increase teacher learning and student achievement. The use of participant journals as a qualitative data source in the study sought to understand individual experiences. 14 As a qualitative exploratory case study, the researcher was the primary data collection tool through observation, interviews, and reading of participant journals (Merriam & Associates, 2002). Qualitative design through reflective journals, interviews, and researcher observation provided the construct of meaning and experiences among the team of eight middle school teachers, guidance counselor, and reading instructor as they adjusted to the PLC collaboration and RtI strategies. These qualitative data collection instruments allowed the researcher comprehensive insight related to the school setting and the use of RtI in core content subject areas. According to Creswell (2009), the social constructivist worldview found in qualitative research allows the study of interactive processes. A constructivist worldview allows open-ended questioning and understanding of participant settings and context (Creswell, 2009) which should provide individual experiences and relevancy based on the setting of the study. Advancing Scientific Knowledge Prior studies of teacher learning and student growth have addressed the possibility for improved student achievement and improvements in instructional design (Archer, 2010; Thompson, Gregg, & Niska, 2004) The combination of the PLC culture, specifically collaboration, and implementation of RtI with eighth grade students leaves room for additional research among existing literature (Strahan & Hedt, 2009). Qualitative studies seeking to understand teacher learning through implementation of collaboration and RtI with student growth in reading may offer new insight to the use of middle school teams in the study. The belief that lifelong learning in teachers and shared accountability through interdependent decision-making provides increased opportunities for student achievement 15 as stated in Barth (2001) provided argument for the benefits of collaboration and datainformed instruction in middle school environments. The current study may provide direction to middle school teachers exploring reflective practices, data-informed decisionmaking, and implementation of intervention strategies through a teacher-designed model focused on shared accountability. The learning process of collaborating and sharing accountability began with previously autonomous teachers within the study site for a set of students struggling in reading. The collaborative focus on student achievement in reading established the study foundation. The knowledge teachers gained through the process of learning to use data collaboratively and learning to use RtI should add to the literature surrounding PLCs and RtI in middle schools. Additionally, the combined efforts of interdisciplinary core content teachers focused on learning gains for eighth grade students in the lowest 25% in reading should enhance the existing body of knowledge. Research Questions As a qualitative exploratory case study, the research was developed first to gain an understanding of how teachers constructed meaning from participation in PLCs to work collaboratively using RtI principles to improve student achievement for the lowest 25% of students. The second purpose behind the research was to understand how PLC collaboration aided in teacher learning of RtI implementation. The problem was that it was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine how teachers create meaning from participating in 16 PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement. The following research questions guided this study: R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Understanding how shared accountability among interdisciplinary teacher teams affects teacher learning may add value to the establishment of PLC pillars. Additionally, understanding the potential for PLC collaboration to affect student growth may add relevance for teachers with regard to the time involved in collaboration and RtI implementation. Data-informed instruction through the differentiated strategies guided through RtI might allow teachers to intervene in core content areas. Due to an increase in shared accountability, implementing RtI in core content classes allows interdisciplinary teachers to take an active role where previously guidance counselors and reading teachers determined effective interventions for increased reading achievement. Through qualitative data collection of PLC collaboration, the feasibility of addressing the research questions, “How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students?” and “How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn?” seemed conceivable. The goal was to provide educators with evidence of the construction of knowledge, or understanding, of how collaboration in an RtI environment could enhance student achievement. Using reading data of the lowest 25% eighth grade students, 17 interdisciplinary teacher teams targeted specific areas of concerns among shared students through RtI interventions. Overall, the analysis of teacher understandings through patterning found in reflective journals, participant interviews, and researcher observations was expected to determine the effectiveness of collaboration and RtI effectiveness. Moreover, it was expected that an analysis of teacher understandings would provide opportunity to address the research questions: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? and How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Significance of the Study The study was significant because it added to the value of collaboration and the use of RtI principles in core content areas to increase student achievement and increase learning gains. Marzano (2003) asserted that student learning and achievement linked to learning opportunities provided for students adds value to including RtI targeted strategies within the core content areas. As stated in DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010) past research focusing on the teaching of the curriculum should focus on increased learning opportunities for students within all curricula. Schechter and Ganon (2012) identified that those teachers working in collaborative groups created strong interrelationships increasing opportunities to implement innovative initiatives. By eliminating the isolationism of individual classrooms at the study site, growth in collaboration and collegiality as a learning organization centered on teacher and student empowerment through knowledge 18 acquisition could advance. Knowledge acquisition and collaboration transpired through the inclusion of RtI strategies used to target struggling readers in core content areas. From the area of shared accountability and collaboration on a new appraisal instrument, findings of this study may help teachers collaboratively assess student needs through progress monitoring and data-informed instruction in the area of reading. The exposure to other teachers’ findings and possible constructive criticisms allows constant learning and professional development through improvement of mutual goals (Schechter & Ganon, 2012). The findings of this study could provide methods for integrating RtI strategies in the core content areas and increase teacher scores in the shared accountability and collaboration domain of the newly adopted instructional appraisal instrument. As noted in Buffum et al. (2010) overwhelming evidence is present to indicate that RtI is ideal in providing individual students the time and support needed for academic growth. The significance of this study also related to the expectation that adopting PLC collaboration among teams of teachers may have a positive effect on student growth in reading. It was reasonable to expect that findings associating teacher learning with student growth through PLC implementation and use of RtI strategies perhaps add value to PLC culture and school-wide adoption of shared values and goals related to student achievement. As found in Bowers (2010), the disengagement of eighth grade students discussed in prior research was a crucial area of concern; disengagement may diminish through increased learning opportunities in core content classrooms. The use of data-informed instruction to target individual student needs could prospectively affect the retention rate of this group of students to successfully complete 19 secondary school. Additionally, the possibility for increased success through intervention strategies and future achievement add to the significance of studying teacher learning and student growth (Johnson & Smith, 2011). Teachers’ construction of meaning about the benefits of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and professional growth due to learning new strategies could deliver valuable data to educators of middle school students. School leaders, teachers, and other school personnel may find value in this study based on the implementation of the PLC culture in the middle school environment. It appeared that the PLC culture could readily adapt to the middle school environment based on shared values and goals among teachers at the same grade level. PLCs occur readily among elementary teachers due to shared assessments already in place through curriculum models and shared planning time, which allows for collaboration and knowledge sharing. These considerations are often not collective in middle school environments. Combining RtI strategies with PLC culture adds additional value to this study for all educators. The innovation and support possible for focused data-informed instruction through PLC collaboration might permit RtI strategies to take hold within the regular instructional model. Combining PLC collaboration with RtI may assist teachers and school leaders to address better the needs of those students in need of interventions. For this study the specific problem of implementing RtI in an effort to increase student achievement and address shared accountability involved a team of eighth grade teachers, an RtI trained guidance counselor, and a reading instructor. The team was comprised of eight teachers, two from each of the core curriculum areas of MESH. There was no student contact by the researcher during the study period. The school setting was 20 a combined junior and senior high school in central Florida. Pseudonyms were used to protect the anonymity of all participants; the name of the school was not used in this study. Reading is an area of focus throughout the educational process. As the springboard to student advancement throughout school years, and eventually life, concentration on this particular area may enable struggling readers to find strategies to aid in successful reading comprehension as well as increased achievement in all areas. It was likely that through increased opportunities for success in reading this study could add significant value to students. As noted in Bender and Waller (2011), through teacher learning via collaboration and intervention strategies driven by data, students enjoyed reading gains, had increased learning opportunities, and found instruction that fitted their individual needs. Implications of the study if the results did not support the research questions varied. For example, the actual implementation of RtI and use of data-informed instruction may not be present in individual classrooms, thus showing no results. On the opposing side, students may also receive outside instruction, such as tutoring, which could skew the results and not relate to teacher learning. Teachers’ understandings of collaboration, RtI, and learning gains in reading could differ significantly and provide inconclusive results. Some content areas may lend greater ease toward RtI implementation more than others may, which could add to results not supportive of the research questions. 21 Nature of the Study The research method for the study was a qualitative design. The rationale for qualitative methodology derived from a desire to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the qualitative aspects of teacher learning through personal and collaborative experiences related to RtI and student learning. Creswell (2009) stated that qualitative design allows the maintaining of focus on participant learning or construction of meaning. Qualitative research allows a natural setting in which participants construct meaning or address an issue over a period at the study site rather than in a lab setting (Creswell, 2009). As cited in Creswell (2009), multiple sources of data such as observations, interviews, or other documents define the data collection in qualitative research. Data collection in qualitative research allows the researcher to be the key instrument rather than reliance on survey instruments or questionnaires (Creswell, 2009). The researcher collected qualitative data through interviews, teacher journals, and observations of PLC meetings. Coding of teacher journals, interviews, and observations was based on patterning and repetition of themes. Qualitatively, the study of teacher learning and reflections of the learning process added value to the implementation of the PLC culture, collaboration, and RtI to address the needs of students in the lowest 25% in reading. Population and sample. A junior and senior high school in central Florida provided the sample of eighth grade teachers. The school name was never used to protect students and teachers and ensure anonymity for all involved. The school was in the 22 process of adopting a school-wide PLC culture; as a result, combining PLC culture with RtI implementation to increase reading scores was welcomed. There were no existing data to create an understanding of the connection in teacher learning with student growth in the school at the time of the study. The school seemed to value the opportunity to establish PLC culture and teacher collaboration. Eighth grade teachers shared the same students, which provided opportunity for collaboration and RtI strategy implementation. Student reading growth is critical at this age and often predicts success in high school and at-risk for drop out (Archer, 2010). Data collection. Researcher observations to track teacher learning and collaboration were recorded during PLC meeting attendance in a predesigned rating list similar, but with different observable traits to the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) format used in the Rickey dissertation (2008). The generic statement format provided an unbiased observational tool. The categories used for pattern and theme coding were CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. The analysis of these data was ongoing because of the cyclical, emergent nature of collection and outcomes with the modified CBAM instrument. The data collection period for this study was six weeks. Additional instrumentation included participant interviews and participant journals. 23 Definition of Terms The following terms are relevant to the study. These terms are some frequently used terms within educational organizations and research. Throughout the study, the terms were used in the context of these definitions: Collaborative teams. Teachers working interdependently with common values and goals to share knowledge and accountability (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). Concerns-based adoption model (CBAM). The CBAM is applicable when experiencing change among a group of people. Measurement of the evolution of levels of concern based on questioning and use of the experienced change is accomplished using the CBAM (Loucks, Newlove, & Hall, 1976). Data-informed instruction. The use of student performance data to address problem areas and support instructional decision-making (Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 2009). Differentiated instruction (DI). Tailoring instruction to meet the individual needs of all students (Tomlinson, Brimijoin, & Narvaez, 2008). Individualized instructional standards based on student achievement level meant to propel students forward (Levy, 2008). Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR). FAIR is a standardsbased assessment given three times a year to Florida students. The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) (2009), defines FAIR as, “. . . assessment system provides teachers screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring information that is essential to guiding instruction.” 24 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The Florida standards-based assessment given to all students in grades 3-12. Students must pass the 10th grade FCAT as part of the graduation requirements. “The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which measures student success with the Sunshine State Standards, will include assessments in mathematics (grade 10 and retake), science (grades 5, 8, and 11), and writing (grades 4, 8, and 10) in the 2010-2011 school year. Historically, in accordance with the Student Progression Planning Guide, the FCAT measured the Sunshine State Standards in reading and mathematics (grades 3-10), science (grades 5, 8, and 11), and writing (grades 4, 8, and 10)” (Florida Department of Education [FLDOE], n.d.). Intensive reading (IR). IR is focused reading instruction for students scoring in the Level 1 and 2 ranges on FCAT Reading. Intensive Reading instruction is required for these students. The FLDOE 2011-2012 Student Progression Plan states, “For each year in which a student scores at Level 1 on FCAT Reading, the student must be enrolled in and complete an intensive reading course the following year. Placement of Level 2 readers in either an intensive reading course or a content area course in which reading strategies are delivered shall be determined by diagnosis of reading needs” (FLDOE, 2011). Interdisciplinary teams. Interdependent team consisting of teachers from core academic content areas: math, English, science, and history (MESH). These teacher teams establish goals to promote the achievement of the common students shared throughout the disciplines (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). In the circumstance of this study, the shared common students among the eighth grade interdisciplinary teacher teams afforded the overarching goal of achievement in reading. 25 Intervention strategies. Additional support and time for learning to ensure success of every student (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). Intervention strategies were employed when difficulty was experienced in acquiring skills and knowledge essential to reading achievement. Intervention strategies should follow the criteria of systematic, practical, effective, essential, and directive (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). Middle school. Middle school typically includes grades five through eight or six through eight. Middle school is, as defined by abbreviations and definitions from FLDOE (n.d.), “A separately organized and administered school intermediate between elementary and senior high schools, which might also be called a middle school, usually includes Grades 7, 8, and 9; Grades 7 and 8; or Grades 6, 7, and 8”. In central Florida, middle school typically consists of grades six, seven, and eight. In this study, eighth grade teachers and students were the focus. Progress monitoring and reporting network (PMRN). PMRN is an online data base network for monitoring student progress on FAIR and other standards-based assessments. FCRR (2009) defines PMRN as, “. . . data management system hosted by the Florida Center for Reading Research.” The reports generated by the PMRN can be used to plan reading instruction and to evaluate progress toward achieving Florida's goal of No Child Left Behind” (FLDOE, n.d.). Professional learning community (PLC). PLC is a school culture based on four pillars where shared values and goals provide the driving force behind a learning organization based on collaboration and collegiality (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). 26 Response to intervention (RtI). RtI is a three-tiered approach to providing strategies to address targeted areas and aid students to meet the core curriculum standards for their grade level (Dunn, 2010). “The purpose of RtI is to systematically provide every student with the additional time and support needed to learn at high levels” (Buffum et al., 2010, p. 14). SMART goals. “Team goals that are Strategic specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, and Time bound” (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001, pp. 89-90; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010, p. 178). Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations The following assumptions were present in this study: 1. It was assumed that participants in this study were not deceptive with their answers to interview questions, journal entries, and PLC collaboration participation. It was also assumed that teachers would find value from learning to use RtI in core content areas to address the needs of students in the 25% within the PLC collaborative groups, interview responses, and journal entries. The rationale for this assumption was based on a perceived collective desire for increased student achievement. 2. Based on the new teacher appraisal system component of shared accountability, it was assumed that this study would be an accurate representation of the present situation in central Florida of using core content to address the needs of students in the lowest 25% in reading. The rationale of this assumption was based on the use of middle school teachers implementing 27 RtI in an interdisciplinary collaborative team based on PLC foundations and the component of shared accountability on the teacher appraisal. 3. It was assumed that the findings of this study would provide professional development opportunities and potential transfer regarding areas of concern for teacher learning and student growth in the middle school environment. This assumption was grounded by the need for increased accountability through the new teacher appraisal system for student achievement. 4. It was assumed that the involved teachers would maintain fidelity in the instrumentation and monitoring of student growth. This assumption was based on the acceptance of the nature of this study and the willingness to participate through agreements. 5. It was assumed that the CBAM instrumentation used in this study would provide accuracy and understanding to the research. This assumption found relevance due to prior use of similar instruments in existing educational research. 6. It was assumed that study participants would provide accurate answers to interview questions through accurate recall of experiences, observations, and documentation of student data. This assumption derived from the use of agreements to participate in the study. 7. It was assumed that collaborative meeting guidelines would be followed with proper documentation of student data and intervention strategies to be implemented in all core content areas. Integrity of student data provided 28 relevance for this assumption through proper documentation and application of strategies and interventions. The following limitations were present in this study: 1. The exploration of eighth grade middle school students was limited to only one combination junior and senior high school in one Florida county. Ideally, more than ten teachers should be included to provide a further representative sample. Accordingly, the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution. 2. Lack of sustained time limited the scope of this study. The study period was limited to 6 weeks. 3. Another limitation derived from the teachers. Active pursuit of learning to collaborate, use data for decision-making, and employment of intervention strategies varied among the teachers involved in this study. 4. The actual changes present in the process of teacher learning had inconsistencies based on individual teachers. As a result, the measure in teacher learning may not be accurate. 5. Teacher perceptions of learning varied, which is a potential limitation to the relationship of teacher learning to student growth through PLC collaboration. 6. Collaborative team members differed in implementation of strategies. 7. Student data presented a limitation due to variances in teacher instructional delivery. 29 8. Limitations occurred due to ineffective use of intervention strategies when core components of systematic, practical, effective, essential, and directive were not considered in method of instructional delivery. The following are the delimitations present in this study: 1. The sample of teachers and students was from a small junior and senior combined high school. 2. The number in the teacher sample was small and consisted of core content eighth grade teachers, an RtI trained guidance counselor, and a reading instructor at the same school. 3. The standardized assessments derived from the Florida Department of Education. 4. The targeted, differentiated RtI instruction was based on FCAT reading results. Generalizability of study findings were limited, but will provide the foundation for future studies to move beyond to include multiple schools, or multiple school districts. Future studies could obtain a more generalized sampling of teacher learning and student achievement in a professional learning community model to implement RtI for the lowest 25% in reading. Consequences to inability to generalize the study might relate back to the study sample as a barrier because only eighth grade core content teachers were used and FCAT data for student achievement provided the initial data source for teachers. The school setting used in the study provided additional consequences to the ability to generalize due to the school structure as a junior and senior high school, thus 30 preventing future studies reenacting the setting and sampling to obtain a similar set of results. Using different grade levels, larger samples, and other state assessments might create circumstances where generalizability is difficult. However, as an exploratory case study, the use of teachers at the same school was justified due to the involvement of a close examination of a group of teachers at one school (Hays, 2004). Additional justification derived from Hays (2004), is the time bound snapshot of a set period indicative of case study research. This time bound snapshot is difficult to recapture (Hays, 2004). Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study The study of teacher learning and student growth through PLC collaboration and RtI strategies provided key indicators of processes involved and the effect on reading scores for the lowest 25% of eighth grade students. The study is divided into five chapters. The research questions provided the framework for the study and overall structure for all chapters. Chapter 1 introduced the study with the identification of the problem. It was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. A brief narrative of a literature review as suggested in Creswell (2009) that suggested a need for further research was discussed. Key points of chapter 1 included the nature and background of the study, along with the problem statement and purpose for the study (Creswell, 2009). Chapter 1 included the rationale for choosing qualitative exploratory case study methodology, how the nature of study could advance scientific knowledge, and the study significance. Definition of terms used in the study provides 31 knowledge to the general reader. Assumptions, limitations, and delimitations are included within chapter 1 ending with possible generalizability barriers related to the study. Chapter 2 is the literature review of this study, which addresses the research on teacher learning and student growth. Emphasis focuses on the importance and critical nature of the eighth grade student at -risk for drop out. A review of the culture and necessary components of PLCs also required a review of literature, along with the structure of RtI, differentiation of instruction, and reading comprehension. Chapter 2 is broken into three themes: PLCs, RtI, and Reading Comprehension. Subthemes within each category targeted middle school and collaboration. The purpose of chapter 3 is to provide the methodology used in this study with considerations for data collection methods, instrumentation used, and methods for data analysis. Validity and reliability of each qualitative instrument are presented. Additionally, the choice and use of data analysis methods are detailed. The purpose of chapter 4 is to provide the data collection and analysis of the study. The purpose of chapter 5 is to provide the summary, conclusion, and further recommendations of the study. 32 Chapter 2: Literature Review The purpose of the literature review is to clarify the theoretical foundations and the justification for the study related to teacher learning and student achievement. The role of this literature review is to comprehend the relationship that PLC collaboration could have about implementing RtI in core content areas with the intent of raising reading scores of the lowest 25% among eighth grade students. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to understand how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement. The general problem statement was that it was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. The specific problem of implementing RtI in an effort to increase student achievement and address shared accountability involved a team of eighth grade teachers, an RtI trained guidance counselor, and a reading instructor. Eighth grade students scoring in the lowest 25% in FCAT reading provided the team the necessary data for RtI implementation. The literature review serves the purpose of analysis of prior research that is relevant to the study concerning student achievement in reading within the middle school environment. Furthermore, the literature review communicates the use of PLC collaboration and RtI methods, or techniques, to improve middle school student reading levels. The structure of the literature review contains three themes: Professional Learning Communities, Response to Intervention, and Reading Comprehension. The running thread within each category surrounded middle school environments. 33 Key words provided the initial search of literature within peer reviewed journals and books related to the topics. Known experts in education wrote the books studied for the review. Computerized databases such as ERIC, PsycINFO, ProQuest, Academic Premier, and Google Scholar provided many of the peer reviewed articles and journals. Background Perhaps public education, citizens, and politics may intertwine to create one of the largest impacts on American society. According to Moe (2009), the American government has placed public education as a top priority but there are no answers regarding why many American schools appear ineffective and partially incapable of successfully promoting academic achievement. The creators of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of Congress in 2001 hoped to increase standards in public education while also ensuring successful global competition (Bushaw & Gallup, 2008). While successfully increasing standards in education, Riley and Coleman (2011) stated that NCLB standards present many lessons left to learn as foundations or driving forces in the future of educational organizations. Some of these lessons revolve around addressing the needs of students flagged as struggling readers through effective datainformed instruction and intervention strategies. In an effort to address the needs of students, the work of Danielson (2002) adds value based on the concept of increased student growth when teachers learn from each other in collaboration and professional development. Danielson’s theory that students show little or no increase in achievement when teachers are not engaged in professional development that is directed at knowledge acquisition adds relevance to the need for teacher learning. Precisely, it is the initiative 34 for teachers to learn effective methods of data-informed instruction and intervention strategies incorporated within the core content classrooms to increase student growth. Shortcomings of NCLB may persuade educators to explore the value of whole learning organizations steeped in knowledge sharing indicative of PLCs. Redundancy of knowledge through knowledge sharing is important to learning organizations because dialogue among teams promotes and creates commonality in information shared, or assimilated (Jensen, 2005). Through dialogue, new perspectives may add to the growth of innovation and creation of new knowledge. Continual discourse and sharing of knowledge in an educational organization may also provide methods for stakeholders to address problems, or situations that may arise in nurturing student achievement. The PLC practices of collaboration and collegiality centered on shared values and goals may encourage learning and knowledge sharing. Levine and Marcus (2007) affirmed the essential component of collective discourse and learning in aiding teachers in identifying areas of inefficiencies and inadequacies with regard to promoting student growth. Levine and Marcus theorized the benefits of teacher collaboration on teacher learning and closing the achievement gaps in students. Literature studied about PLCs in schools and teacher collaboration allows insight into gaps in research related to the qualitative central phenomenon of teacher learning and student growth. Student achievement goals rank number one in educational accountability bringing about a heightened awareness of internal accountability over external accountability (Elmore & Fuhrman, 2001). Elmore and Fuhrman (2001) declared the sharing of common values within individual school cultures as the predominant reason for internal accountability taking precedence over external accountability. A factor of 35 consideration derives from responses from external controls as a springboard for significant changes in existing instructional methods (Elmore & Fuhrman, 2001). Ultimately, educational organizations seem driven by legislative acts on federal and state levels. According to Moos (2005), educational organizations perceived as key cultural and social institutions are accountable to management, social, political, public, professional, and moral expectations, or standards. Existing literature about the topics of PLC collaboration, RtI, and reading achievement linked to academic success provide the foundation for exploration and evaluation. Within the exploration of literature on PLCs, focus is on the middle school environment and teacher collaboration. Existing literature on knowledge sharing and learning organizations add to the body of knowledge on PLCs. The exploration and evaluation of RtI literature focuses on the middle school environment, data-informed instruction, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Literature about reading and the link to academic achievement centers on the at-risk for graduation related to the middle school student along with the importance of reading comprehension toward a workforce ready population. Several states have adopted revised instruments for teacher performance appraisals to address internal and external accountability for student achievement. Perkins-Gough and Jacobs (2003) stated that regardless changes or refinements in education, cross-disciplinary literacy enables students to do better overall; as a result, internal and external performance levels will increase. The revised, newly adopted Florida teacher performance appraisal links Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs) with the work of Marzano and Danielson (FLDOE, 2012). Teacher performance 36 appraisals revised to include intervention strategies, teacher professional growth, and collaborative team building to enhance student performance has become reality in a central Florida school district. Due to these changes in performance appraisals, teachers tasked with professional growth planning, collaboration and mutual accountability components, linked to student achievement, provides an ideal opportunity to study teacher learning related to PLC collaboration and student growth. Instructional staff involved in the PLC practices of collaboration, collegiality, and resulting knowledge sharing may provide students struggling in critical academic areas, such as reading, increased learning opportunities. Within the increased opportunities, RtI as a collaborative effort may also provide differentiated instruction based on individual needs. Is it possible that a teacher learning to implement RtI within a PLC collaborative team as a key component to a new evaluation system could effectively minimize the gap for eighth grade students struggling in reading? Another consideration rests with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative. Through CCSS and increased emphasis on literacy, and integration of CCSS in content areas, there seems to be an expected increase in teacher collaboration among core content teachers (Morgan et al., 2013). In a longitudinal study performed on grades and graduation rates, Bowers (2010) showed that the middle school grades are critical in identifying students at-risk for drop out. Grades 8 and 11 present the most vulnerable years for drop out due to grade retention and inability to graduate on time (Bowers, 2010). In Florida, the student progression guide states that eighth grade students must pass the FCAT Reading and Math at a Level 2 or above to receive promotion to ninth grade (FLDOE, n.d.). In determining promotion to ninth grade, which is high school, eighth grade reading and math scores data are 37 potentially critical to effective instruction. Bowers found that 4.4% of eighth grade students studied dropped out due to retention, or inability to survive and effectively function within the school experience. According to Bottoms (2006), 45% of students entering ninth grade felt unprepared for high school studies. Low commitment levels to education and school seem to relate often with lower levels of academic achievement and retention in one or more grade levels. Students with low grade point averages (GPA) and a history of below passing grades show higher levels of disengagement in school (Janosz, Le Blanc, Boulerice, & Tremblay, 2000). Students struggling in eighth grade may quickly fall into the low GPA category due to unpreparedness for increased rigor of ninth grade and high school. Additionally, the requirements for graduation brought about a greater risk to continue to the middle school student struggling in key academic areas. An example of this is that high school sophomores with a GPA lower than 1.6 remain more inclined to drop out due to academic difficulties and poor test scores (Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 2009). Retention of middle school students and finding additional means of addressing the needs of those struggling academically propel the investigation of possibilities surrounding intervention, data-informed instruction, and teacher collaboration. Achieve, Inc. (2006) cited poor academic progress due to student struggles with instructional methodology and curricula, along with low assessment scores, low grades, and falling behind in credits, as indicators often precipitating the decision to drop out of school for many at-risk students. In a recent survey, 76% of students considering dropping out of school stated that school was not interesting, while 42% stated that they 38 felt they were not learning enough to justify staying in school (Achieve, Inc., 2006). These findings seem to corroborate with statistical numbers of students who drop out of school. In another data study from a federal research project, 51% of students who made the decision to drop out of school did so due to dislike of the school environment (Achieve, Inc., 2006). The same findings from Achieve, Inc. found that 44% of students made the decision to drop out based on failing grades or the inability to catch up in grade level in order to graduate on time. According to McCall (2003), individualized instruction may provide the necessary assistance in academic achievement. Test scores, classroom grades, and other signifiers often signal the need for intervention (McCall, 2003). The earlier the intervention occurs, the likelihood of recovering student engagement increases (McCall, 2003). Literature centered on the integration of collaboration and RtI to increase eighth grade reading learning gains among the lowest 25% is limited. Literature on RtI implementation by interdisciplinary teams to address reading achievement among eighth grade students is limited. Another limitation in the literature appears to be the use of interdisciplinary collaboration to learn how to implement RtI strategies in core content areas. Implementing RtI requires the use of data-informed decision-making, which implicates collaboration among colleagues as a significant factor for success (Harlacher & Siler, 2011). As a basis for this study, the gap in existing literature on PLC collaboration and RtI implementation in eighth grade core content areas provided applicability for additional investigation to the present body of research. Creswell (2009) stated that gaps in literature may derive from past research deficiencies or lack of evidence within topics 39 of study. These deficiencies may signify a need for further exploration (Creswell, 2009). The review of literature indicated that the use of teacher collaboration and RtI implementation is a common practice in elementary instructional delivery but is minimal to nonexistent in secondary disciplines. The problem the research addressed was that it was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. The research centered on the apparent increase in atrisk for drop out among eighth grade students, which provided further argument to the need for further study. Theoretical Foundations The theoretical foundation of this study finds application based on Danielson’s claim that when teachers learn, students show growth in achievement. Initially a researcher living in Washington D.C., Danielson became an educator because of concerns for students living in her neighborhood where schools struggled to provide for all students (Danielson, 1996). Danielson (2002) addressed the relationship between teacher learning with student achievement through the idea that students would not have increased opportunity to learn when teachers were not also advancing in knowledge and skills. This concept stems from Danielson’s stance that student success should not mirror socio-economic background through low expectations or unchallenging curricula. The success of students requires a paradigm shift by educators (Danielson, 2002). The shift requires teachers to model critical thinking through collaborative efforts to learn new skills (Danielson, 2002). Professional development through PLC culture embedded in the 40 shared values, shared goals, shared vision, and shared mission of the school places student learning as the priority (Danielson, 2002). Danielson (2002) recommended the teaming of core subject teachers in the middle school environment along with the integration of support instructional staff to accommodate the needs of middle school students. Danielson further stressed the vulnerability of the middle school student based on the rapid developmental changes taking place in this stage of life. Teachers modeling lifelong learning in a collaborative environment may transmit a positive attitude to students and address the needs of middle school students in the midst of adolescent experiences. The notion that teachers can learn from each other in a collegial and collaborative environment presents numerous opportunities for growth, which in turn promotes student learning. Student performance and attitudes toward learning gained are influenced by the school culture, especially at the secondary level (Danielson, 2002). This study of teacher learning and student growth theorized that students would show improvements in achievement based on increased teacher expertise in the area of RtI. The basic premise was that teachers increase their knowledge base through peer collaboration and professional development and the transference of this acquired knowledge to the classroom would increase student achievement. The movement toward schools as learning organizations and the increased use of PLCs to promote learning, collaboration, collegiality, and shared accountability added relevance to the investigation of the relationship between teacher learning and student growth. Furthermore, this study produced new opportunities to study Danielson’s (2002) concept of teacher learning and student growth within a small community school setting 41 new to the combined PLC and RtI concepts. Additionally, the use of the new teacher appraisal system provided further opportunity to explore how teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Increasing the lowest 25% in reading for eighth grade was a collective objective. The problem of how eighth grade teacher learning in RtI implementation in the core content areas through PLC collaboration related to student growth among the lowest 25% in reading provided the foundation of the study while addressing concerns of shared accountability. Danielson (2005) advocated the promotion of collaboration among teachers as a method for planning development, communications, and overall staff development. Collaboration among teams of teachers may require training to develop collaborative effectiveness particularly in the area of communication (Danielson, 2005). As mentioned in Danielson, many teachers become well versed in classroom communication with students but lack the ability to establish the active listening skills needed for collaboration with colleagues. The establishment of active listening skills, along with the ability to develop curriculum and share data, presents significant dynamics in teacher learning when newer methods such as RtI are implemented in core content classrooms. DuFour (2004) stated the need to “focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results” (p. 6). Providing additional substance to Danielson’s claims for teacher learning and student achievement growth, Levine and Marcus (2007) suggested the establishment of PLCs as an avenue where teachers may take ownership while learning and articulating with colleagues to address the needs of students. Teacher collaboration provides an 42 approach for closing the achievement gap among shared students (Levine & Marcus, 2007). The concept that teacher learning could occur through collaboration in PLCs with shared outcomes presents opportunities to learn new practices seemingly relevant to increasing student achievement. The idea was to share approaches and to work together in learning RtI and apply various strategies, which could improve student performance. According to Levine and Marcus, the engagement of shared discussion, inquiry, and experimentation regarding the implementation of new strategies, or approaches, presents a more likely internalization and comprehension of learning. DuFour (2004) averred the confrontation of all student data as a crucial step to assessing student progress, as well as a valuable tool for sharing instructional results. According to Darling-Hammond and Richardson (2009), student learning and teacher learning improves when there are concentrated, content-focused collegial opportunities. Darling-Hammond and Richardson furthered these claims with the concept of increasing student learning through practice and instructional transformations made possible through PLC collaboration among teachers. Transformations in instruction are likely to occur in learning RtI as an application for differentiated, focus application toward student achievement. Darling-Hammond and Richardson stated that there is positive and productive support resulting from PLC collaboration when learning and implementing new concepts, practices, and strategies. PLC collaboration may provide the capacity for sustained teacher learning through shared experiences and research gleaned through instructional practices. When teacher learning occurs in collaboration, student growth occurs through application of professional development, which in turn allows for relevant and engaging interventions 43 for underachieving students (Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009). The use of collaborative learning in interdisciplinary middle school teams might show significant increases in student achievement for students performing below grade level, or struggling in content areas. Focused targeted instruction occurring in all core content classrooms based on data-informed decision-making among teams could provide the increased opportunities to engage students. Furthering the need for investigating the theoretical foundation of this study was to apply the findings of Danielson (2002, 2005) to the eighth grade team of teachers new to collaboration and shared accountability for learning and student achievement. The application of PLC collaboration and RtI implementation related to Danielson’s (2002, 2005) stance that student learning opportunities link to teachers seeking learning opportunities. The use of PLC collaboration as a culture for professional development for teachers and the platform for teacher interaction allows identification of teaching practices needing improvement (Danielson, 2002). Also relevant and unknown in this school setting was the combined effort of interdisciplinary curricula integrated with reading performance. The teachers were new to RtI implementation in the core subject areas. The stages of teacher learning throughout the study will benefit educational research in addressing the initial structuring of PLC and RtI in middle school while also focusing on the school-wide initiative to increase learning gains in reading scores among the lowest 25%. Through knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts to provide the lowest 25% with intervention strategies, interdisciplinary teachers could grow in skill and expertise. The personal and professional growth of teachers could produce learning gains in this set 44 of eighth grade students. Combined knowledge and adjustments in teaching strategies and delivery could provide excellent opportunity for increased expertise and mutual accountability in student achievement regardless the subject taught. A review of literature based on the use of PLCs, RtI, and the significance of reading achievement in middle school provided insight into the theoretical foundations of the study. Review of the Literature The review of literature for this qualitative exploratory case study addresses several themes. Qualitative studies from a social constructivist point of view provide relevance based on teacher experiences and self-reflection. The themes are present in the following order: Professional Learning Communities, Response to Intervention, and Reading and Academic Achievement. PLCs, RtI, and Reading are the general themes with middle schools, interdisciplinary teaming, and data-informed instruction as subthemes. Based on a newly adopted appraisal system, the current trend addressed in this study was the use of PLCs to establish shared accountability and collaboration among school stakeholders; this focus was especially pertinent for teachers held accountable for student achievement. Of further importance, under NCLB is the requirement for schools to show that students are making adequate yearly progress (AYP). AYP is determined in part by the results of standardized achievement tests (Klima, 2007). The standardized test used in Florida for AYP is the FCAT. As mentioned in Klima (2007), these standardized tests are used as a comparison of students and schools, which encourages teachers and school leaders to acknowledge the high stakes involved. In this acknowledgement comes the innovative brainstorming and researching on how to address the issue of not making AYP. Another consequence of the high stakes 45 FCAT test is the financial impact. Students performing well on FCAT bring financial reward to the school, while poor performance bears the scar of a penalty (Florida Association of School Psychologists, n.d.). Themes and trends in research. Justifications for the themes of the literature review derived from the use of PLC collaboration among interdisciplinary middle school teachers to implement RtI strategies for shared students in the lowest 25% in reading. According to Buffum et al., (2010), students need directed and systematic intervention strategies at the inception of a condition indicating a problem. Learning to use RtI differentiated strategies targeted toward reading achievement provided the foundation in this study for teacher learning affecting student growth. DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) noted that school improvement and the development of PLCs remains a popular concept in moving school stakeholders toward a learning organization for all. While research on PLC collaboration among teachers in middle school exists, the nature of interdisciplinary structure inherent in the middle school environment often creates difficulties with finding time to collaborate. According to Thompson et al. (2004), research on the effects of teacher collaboration on student achievement has encompassed qualitative and quantitative research. Thompson et al. (2004) stated that in a 1989 study, Rosenholtz was the first to provide a large-scale statistical analysis of the relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement in several elementary schools. Prior to Rosenholtz (1989), as detailed in Thompson et al., case studies were conducted by Little in 1982 where collaborative practices were inherent in schools showing successful student achievement on standardized tests. Additionally, based on the review of the literature, use of RtI strategies 46 implemented in core content areas is limited, thus adding to the value of this study. Moreover, limited in research is the combined effort of core content, interdisciplinary, teachers to target deficiencies in reading. A thorough review of literature was conducted on PLCs and RtI as related to middle school environments and middle school students. Also thoroughly reviewed through the literature were differentiated instruction, teacher learning, student growth, reading in middle school, and the use of qualitative exploratory case study. Peer reviewed journals, government publications, and literature written on the main themes of this study were obtained through various resources. The resources used included, but were not limited to, ProQuest, EBSCOhost, Educational Resources Informational Center (ERIC), academic databases through Grand Canyon University library, educational journals, state education departments, and educational research based books from renowned educational researchers. Methodology. The review of literature addresses studies using different study methods and designs. Mixed methodology provides a bridge to connect qualitative and quantitative practices through a more thorough cover of areas missed when using traditional methods of qualitative or quantitative research (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Qualitative methodology transfers an inductive design while quantitative methodology allows deductive basis for review (Creswell, 2009). Exploratory case study provides an opportunity to study a phenomenon, or phenomena, involving people in organizations (Toloie-Eshlaghy, Chitsaz, Karimian, & Charkhchi, 2011). In an effort to study the phenomenon of teachers constructing meaning in PLC participation to collaborate on RtI principles with the intent of improving reading achievement among the 47 lowest 25% eighth grade students, qualitative exploratory case study methodology was the chosen process. Qualitative research is not without drawbacks, such as a need for sufficient time, the ability to be flexible in structure, and remain unbiased when collecting and analyzing data (Hatch, 2002). Exploratory case studies begin with theory related to literature (Toloie-Eshlaghy et al., 2011). The theory obtains validity through the exploration of the phenomenon, or phenomena, within the real life situation, or organization (ToloieEshlaghy et al., 2011). Drawbacks to exploratory case study include the process of focused analysis and reporting related to the scope of the research questions and the phenomenon (Yin, 2009). It is easy to become immersed in outside influences that rival the explanation of the phenomenon (Yin, 2009). However, the driving focus surrounding teachers in their natural setting as teachers constructed meaning from PLC participation and use collaboration to implement RtI principles superseded the drawbacks of qualitative exploratory case study. Qualitative research allows the researcher to focus on the meaning that participants have about a particular issue or problem (Creswell, 2009). As mentioned in Creswell (2009), this ability to focus on the participants furthered the central reason of learning about problems or issues from the viewpoint of participants rather than ideas of the researcher. The study focus on participant viewpoints present in qualitative research allowed the researcher to report multiple perspectives on PLC participation and collaboration to implement RtI principles for students in the lowest 25%. Guiding parameters of the study were to examine through qualitative measures how teachers constructed meaning gained from PLCs to work collaboratively with the 48 goal of increasing achievement for the lowest 25% based on reading scores. The PLCs were designed to help teachers work together in a collaborative environment using RtI principles to meet the learning needs of the lowest 25% students. The teachers in this study were new to PLC collaboration and RtI used in core content classes. The qualitative data collection occurred through reflective journals kept by the teachers, researcher observations of collaborative meetings, researcher journal, and teacher interviews. Through the data collection utilized in qualitative methodology for this study, results provided a focused snapshot of how teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. It was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms to help students atrisk in reading achieve at higher levels. The determination to use eighth grade reading scores to identify at-risk students was twofold. First, NCLB school rating and retention of secondary students related to increasing learning gains and decreasing the learning gap among the lowest 25% in reading is a shared concerned among eighth grade teachers and other school stakeholders. Learning gains among this student population may have an instrumental effect on school grade and high school retention. Second, the shared accountability of the new teacher appraisal instrument presented an opportunity for core classroom teachers to learn RtI implementation to address the needs of eighth grade readers while also increasing individual appraisal scores. The qualitative findings of this study may develop the 49 understanding of learning organizations in educational institutions and the relationship in knowledge sharing through collaborative PLC culture on student outcomes. The enhanced understanding of the role of PLCs and collaboration using RtI principles to enhance student learning for the lowest 25% added purpose to this study. The possible connection between teacher collaboration and intervention strategies with increased reading scores of students in eighth grade added purpose to the study of teacher learning and student growth. If PLC collaboration provided a solid foundation for teacher learning, the opportunities for growth in student achievement could increase greatly. Student achievement remains a primary concern, and the importance of PLC collaboration on teacher learning and the positive effects on student growth presents exciting possibilities for the middle school environment. The importance of student growth in middle school may have positive effects on high school success and workforce ready graduates. Moreover, the possibility for positive effects on the overall school grade, which results from the NCLB is of value to school stakeholders. Evidence indicates that simply putting teachers in the core academic together as middle school teams lacks effectiveness in increased student achievement (Reed & Groth, 2009). Reed and Groth (2009) stated the need for middle school teachers to learn to use data to plan instruction on a collaborative basis. The shared goals and vision inherent in the PLC concept may provide interdisciplinary teachers with the initial integration necessary for true collaboration. As best practices toward the result of student achievement, DuFour and Eaker (1998) stated that schools transformed into PLCs were necessary if the goal is to produce results that are more effective for teacher learning and student growth. Senge (2000) expounded on the idea that vision drives learning, and as 50 such, a shared vision within a collaborative team may lead to success. As stated by Reed and Groth (2009, p.15), “To collaborate is to function as a goal-oriented team that jointly builds knowledge.” A clear vision may provide the core to trust, which may build commitment toward common goals and objectives (Senge, 2000). In the case of the collaboration of middle school teachers, commitment to common goals and objectives could enhance learning opportunities for students in an effort to increase student achievement in reading among the lowest 25%. The road to collaboration and the establishment of shared vision may entail the effective use of dialogue. Senge (2000) and Barth (2001) stressed the use of dialogue as the means of learning to process collectively and create new possibilities through collective analysis and combined experiences through explorations void of assumptions. Lai, McNaughton, Timperley, and Hsiao (2009) stated the importance of embedding interventions for reading comprehension as part of the instructional process when using PLC collaboration. Another consideration for embedding intervention strategies and PLC collaboration relates to middle school at-risk populations. ZiomekDaigle and Andrews (2009) studied the use of RtI and teacher collaboration, which could prove viable in targeting the at-risk middle school student. The support offered to students at the middle school level through RtI and collaboration provides benefits beyond academic achievement, such as the lack of attendance by many at-risk or disengaged students (Ziomek-Daigle & Andrews, 2009). Perhaps the use of interventions and targeted instruction for increased learning opportunities might assist in decreasing the at-risk population among middle school 51 students. Ehren, Deshler, and Graner (2010) stated that middle school students do not have sufficient interventions to meet effectively their needs regarding lack of literacy achievement. RtI allows secondary schools, which includes the middle school, a framework for addressing the needs of students struggling in literacy (Ehren et al., 2010). Another consideration mentioned by Ehren et al. is the importance of a strong, highly qualified core instructional faculty and program. The basis for collaboration among interdisciplinary teachers may shed light on the importance of literacy with reading comprehension at the forefront of concerns. Ehren et al. further stated the significance of collaboration as the key to success when implementing intervention strategies such as RtI. Professional learning communities. The chosen theme of Professional Learning Communities derived from the research questions: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students, and, how does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn. In an effort to understand the qualities of effective PLC environments and the use of collaboration, a review of literature surrounding PLCs ensued. The review provides a discussion of the use of PLCs in educational settings. Based on the research questions, middle school environments and teacher collaboration along with knowledge sharing and learning organizations became subthemes. The subthemes related to PLCs as the venue for the middle school environment regarding development of teacher collaboration, knowledge sharing, and learning organization attributes. 52 Professional Learning Communities (PLC) successes within schools are likely dependent on the school culture and leadership, along with other internal characteristics such as professional development and systematic trust (Williams, Brien, Sprague, & Sullivan, 2008). The team structure of the PLC culture promotes a collaborative environment with a whole systems approach to student learning. Through changes made with a PLC culture, instructional staff may need to revise previous outcome based learning strategies to include the use of data to make key decisions on assessments and learning interventions (Williams et al., 2008). According to DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010), effective PLC cultures rest on the four pillars of shared mission, vision, values, and goals. Within these four pillars emerge the sharpened focus and priority set for the fundamental purpose of the school, direction of the school, guided behavior and collective commitments, and targeted timelines for establishing progress (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). AllThingsPLC (n.d.) dated the history of PLC concept to the 1960s; however, prevalence grew among educational researchers throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Educational researchers such as Rosenholtz (1989), Fullan (1995), and Wehlage and Stone (1996) proposed varying models of the PLC culture as conducive to student and teacher learning. Effective school characteristics indicative of PLC culture center on shared values, collegiality, collaboration, reflective practices, continual inquiry of instructional practices, professional development, and mutual commitment to student learning (AllThingsPLC, n.d.). Thompson et al. (2004) posited the origins of PLCs in the work of Mary Follet in 1924 and Burn’s work on transformational leadership in 1978. The notion that businesses 53 operate as a combined community of learners sharing knowledge set the stage for PLCs and the organization as a learning environment for all members (Thompson et al., 2004). Fullan (1995) suggested that the PLC model equated to a systems model, which includes the capacity for systemic change. Hord (1997) expanded the learning organization to the realm of education through the concept of continuously seeking and sharing of knowledge among teachers and school administrators in an effort to benefit every student. Furthering effects of schools as systems models geared toward learning for all, Barth (2001), stated that teacher and student learning occurs simultaneously or learning does not occur. Doing away with the traditional isolation of teaching may present the biggest hurdle for developing the PLC culture and establishing the core PLC value of collaboration. According to DuFour and Eaker (1998), breaking the mold of teacher isolation often requires time and considerable effort. However, once collaboration becomes a mainstay and shared value, teachers find expansion of knowledge along with tools for better decision-making (Barth, 1990; DuFour & Eaker, 1998). This would seem to suggest increased possibilities for student achievement. DuFour and Eaker, along with Barth (2001), stated the enhancement of student achievement and learning gains due to reflective and shared dialogue indicative of PLC collaboration and collegiality. Sharing ideas and knowledge further promotes learning for all and adds value to teacher learning, not to mention the growth of the school as a learning organization (Borko, 2004; Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; Silins & Mulford, 2002). Ultimately, it appears that collaboration among educators sets the foundation for the school as a learning organization. 54 Professional development seems to be a key indicator of how successful the PLC culture will be within a school. Primarily the trust necessary among school stakeholders should be present so that professional development and implementation grow to be well facilitated and researched (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; Williams et al., 2008). The promotion of effective instruction to enhance student achievement is perhaps the primary goal of any professional development. Additionally, the presence of a PLC culture may have the capacity to engage teachers further due to shared vision and goals. Schmoker (2006) alluded to the PLC concept as the most effective means of improving instruction and student achievement. Perhaps Schmoker based this idea on the shared knowledge and use of dialogue as a means of professional development. Shared knowledge equaled improvements generated in the PLC collaborative environment (Schmoker, 2006). Quintessentially, Williams et al. (2008) stated that, an effective PLC culture makes effective use of data to guide interventions and communication among all stakeholders, which in turn enhances decisions made. The ability to use data as a tool for learning indicates a link to school improvement and student growth (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001). Setting standards to raise low student scores and turn low performance around hinges on collaborative teams of educators willing to embrace all data (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001). The use of data as a process for reflection of instruction lays the foundation for school wide learning (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001). Utilizing the SMART goal process for decision-making through data brings another component of successful PLCs. SMART goals as defined in Conzemius and O’Neill (2001, pp.89-90) and DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010, p. 178), encompasses the following characteristics: “specific and strategic, measurable, attainable, 55 results-oriented, and time bound.” Using SMART goals allows practical and targeted performance levels, which are data-informed and reflective (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001). SMART goals seem to provide best practice instruction and measures of assurance when applied to collaborative results oriented instruction. Results-oriented goals such as SMART goals provide effective means of measuring long-term performance rather than using process-oriented goals (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; Schmoker, 2006; Senge, 2000). Middle school environments and teacher collaboration. Erb (2007) suggested that teachers in middle schools structured as teams are more likely to learn from each other and make differences in student achievement. Improvement in schools connected to PLCs and the collective knowledge and capacity reign as a shared commitment among all stakeholders (Erb, 2007). Pounder (1998) suggested that the organization of interdisciplinary teams within middle school environments involve dialogue and reflection. The formation of interdisciplinary teams might have the capacity to allow teachers to leave the isolation of the classroom and content area and engage in dialogue concerning student performance or instructional strategies. Perhaps the idea presented by Schmoker (2006) that teacher isolation is the foe of school improvement relates to the limited use of collaborative knowledge sharing as a means to increasing teacher learning and student achievement. Without the collaborative knowledge of other teachers with regard to student achievement, effective strategies may remain unknown. Schmoker stated that the point of comparison gained through collegial collaboration allows the proliferation of shared results and increases in professional best practices. Interdisciplinary grouping and collaboration within middle schools remains an 56 exemplar for successful PLCs (Erb, 2007). The ability to share student data and implement strategies across the disciplines may offer increased learning gains for students. Promoting collaboration among interdisciplinary teachers sharing the same students brings about challenges to past practices indicative of specified curricula. For example, math teachers may find the idea of incorporating targeted instruction for reading strands daunting at best. The question of how teachers at the middle school level make changes in classroom practices through teaming provided the structural framework for the Strahan and Hedt (2009) qualitative and quantitative case study examination. Interdisciplinary teaming and professional growth provides the value to educational research centered on the middle school structure in the Strahan and Hedt (2009) examination. Strahan and Hedt posited that the professional growth of teachers through collaboration allows learning experiences, which appear to broaden teacher perspectives on student learning across academic disciplines. These findings add value to the idea that interdisciplinary collaboration may assist in student growth to decrease gaps in learning. However, the use of targeted instruction for a specific standard across the disciplines seems to be lacking (Strahan & Hedt, 2009). Perhaps the use of data directed toward consideration and logic of instructional practices in the process of collaborative reflection revealed in Conzemius and O’Neill, (2001) could maximize targeted instruction. Additionally, further studies show that continued teacher growth relates to collaboration and collegiality (Barth, 2001; Danielson, 2002; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010; Marzano, 2003; Strahan & Hedt, 2009). Expansion of expertise seems to 57 occur when instructional strategies developed through collaboration with colleagues intertwines with instructional methods. In the scope of studies, Strahan and Hedt (2009) suggested that improvements in instruction and teacher growth through collaboration in middle schools demonstrate increased possibilities for student learning. Again, the use of reflective dialogue centered on data may add to the focus on individual student performance. The use of common planning time among middle school teachers provides the focus of combined qualitative and quantitative research (Strahan & Hedt, 2009). Middle school students appear to enjoy greater success in academics when interdisciplinary grouped teachers have common planning time. The importance of common planning time centers on the promotion of teacher collaboration and curriculum development (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010; Mertens, Flowers, Anfara, & Caskey, 2010). Common planning allows teacher teams to keep track of individual student needs (Mertens et al., 2010). Based on the Center for Prevention Research and Development research studying middle school interdisciplinary teams with high levels of common planning, low levels of common planning, and no common planning, higher levels of common planning teams produced higher levels of effective classroom practices (Mertens et al., 2010). DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010) and Mertens et al. (2010) maintained the use of common planning as promising to making positive differences for teachers and students. The field of middle school teaming and the benefits of common planning may require additional research to show the significance of collaboration on student achievement. Mertens et al. contended the positive impact on interdisciplinary 58 collaboration within the middle school environment. Mertens et al. further suggested the need for continued research to document the effectiveness of common planning. In a narrative examining the relationship between professional learning communities and knowledge sharing, Wood (2007) suggested the role of teachers as creators of pedagogical knowledge. Teachers from an elementary school and a middle school in a poor region of a mid-Atlantic urban area provided the sampling for the fiveyear observational study. Wood found through studying collaborative teams of teachers that meetings with the qualities of protocol, shared leadership, and teacher learning opportunities allowed knowledge sharing and transference to students. These teachers also seemed to learn from each other and actively seek pedagogical knowledge for increased learning for students (Wood, 2007). Many researchers suggest the positive benefits for teacher learning and student growth through collaboration and knowledge sharing (Wood, 2007). Whether the PLC culture is the catalyst does not seem to be relevant to common planning or the collegial practice of team collaboration. The ultimate outcome of teacher learning and collaboration in some form is increased knowledge and expertise, which may relate to increased student achievement when transference to instructional practices takes place (Wood, 2007). The middle school environment may bring about challenges to interdisciplinary teaming and collaboration and it was unknown how to best integrate core content collaborative efforts. The vastness of the unknown best practice for integrating interdisciplinary middle school collaborative teams provides fertile ground for further study. The benefits of finding time to collaborate in the middle school scheduling 59 may foster professional growth in teachers and allow increased opportunities for students (Mertens et al., 2010; Strahan & Hedt, 2009). Knowledge sharing and learning organizations. Reflective dialogue among teachers and school leaders may prove a powerful strategy not only in the initial stages of improvement planning but also throughout the journey of the change process when implementing improvement plans such as a PLC culture (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010; Thompson et al., 2004). A PLC culture is built on the idea of a fully functional learning environment steeped in collaboration and shared purpose (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). Another account by DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010) that adds benefit to leadership authority and accountability exists in the findings established through educational research on precision of purpose and effectiveness. Effective school leaders may provide the driving force behind clarity and precision in purpose. To add further value to precision of purpose and effectiveness is the connection found between higher levels of student achievement and clarity of function, or comprehensible purpose, among teachers (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010). Senge (2000, 2006) offered the notion of learning organizations where the intrinsic motivations to learn are continuously cultivated. Focusing on collective learning and development of a learning organization may enhance leadership through stewardship, communication, and instructional leadership. The idea that schools developing as learning organizations enlist school stakeholders to focus on common goals such as student achievement furthers possibilities for knowledge sharing (Senge, 2000). Senge (2000) and Schmoker (2006) offered the concept of educators embracing the goals for 60 increased student achievement, which is the ultimate goal of successful performance, with improvements that lead to breakthroughs in intellect and emotion. Essentially, leaders and teachers in educational learning organizations conceivably represent the model in learning through development and participation of all knowledge sharing, relationship building, shared vision, shared goals and desirable outcomes, and mutuality. Schools learning through collaboration and knowledge sharing may offer students the best in learning opportunities. This idea adds value to the study research questions: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students, and how does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Transformation of thinking through dialogue and relationship building perhaps involves teachers and additional educators within a school to extend beyond the traditional curricular models to address differentiated instruction. Team learning defined a key discipline of Senge (2000) in Five Learning Disciplines, which when aligned with the PLC concept, presumes promise for teacher learning and student achievement. Extension of school as a place to learn becomes a reality through teacher modeling of lifelong learning which cultivates a community that embraces all as support for students to reach higher levels of achievement (Senge, 2000). While the design experimentation method of Herrenkohl, Kawasaki, and Dewater (2010) studied teacher-researcher collaboration, relevance rests in the importance of indepth teacher collaboration and learning. The questions of how collaborative efforts of teachers affected student learning, and teacher efficacy and identity laid the foundation in Herrenkohl et al.. The data analyses supported the findings, which showed significant 61 promise in the area of professional development for teachers, and teacher collaboration benefits for learning. This design experimentation of Herrenkohl et al. was included in national summaries and examples for the benefits to pedagogical applications and student learning occurring because of adult collaboration and knowledge sharing. Conzemius and O’Neill, (2001) stated the need for establishing skillful collaboration through professional development. The requirements given in Conzemius and O’Neill are: 1. Problem Solving Skills: Outlining problem; understanding root causes; and devising resolutions 2. Decision-Making Skills: Establishing consensus; defining authority and methods of choices; and utilizing matrices for conclusions 3. Communication Skills: Reflective listening, advocacy, and analysis; reciprocal feedback; conflict resolution 4. Group Process Skills: Team structure; team progression observations; management of conflict 5. Meeting Skills: Establishing agendas; rotation of roles; idea generation (p. 69) Exploration of practices and curriculum design among collaborative teacher teams remain activities for study. However, the requirement of training for effective collaboration as a guideline could possibly allow higher results toward studying teacher growth and student achievement, as well as, sustainability. This added significance to the phenomenon on which the research questions derived. The centralized study emphasis was defined as PLC collaboration and the relationship with teacher learning and student growth, PLC collaboration on RtI implementation, and teacher perceptions on RtI 62 effectiveness in core content areas. Deuel, Nelson, Slavit, and Kennedy (2009) stressed the need for protocols to ensure productive collaboration. DuFour (2004) suggested that commitment and hard work are key components to implementing practices necessary for effective and lasting PLCs. Additionally, as mentioned in DuFour and Deuel et al. the collective efforts of teachers abet the advancement of student achievement rather than the traditional decisions made within individual classrooms. Another justification for considering the requirement for training is sustaining momentum within collaborative and collegial teams. Momentum may pose an obstacle with teachers overwhelmed with a myriad of responsibilities tied to standardized assessment. Hindin, Morocco, Mott, and Aguilar (2007) designed a narrative study around the exploration of sustained collaboration, teacher learning, and knowledge sharing. The questions concerning extent of participation in collaborative groups, reflections on teaching practices, knowledge exchange, levels of knowledge sharing, and contributions to teacher learning and participation guided the collection of data in Hindin et al.. The teacher population sample used was a group of middle school educators comprised of two reading teachers, four language arts teachers, and four special education teachers. The findings of the study did not result in improvements for student learning, or teacher learning. The suggestion was that the teachers did not relate challenges of teaching, or expertise in areas of instruction. It seemed that additional research might uncover the missing factors for open knowledge sharing. Shared accountability may add relevance for teachers to sustaining continued growth and professional development related to collaboration for student achievement (Hindin et al., 63 2007). This concept led to the possibility of PLC collaboration and RtI implementation related to student growth respectively for this study. Mulford (2006) presented evidence for student achievement through results from the Australian Research Council funded Leadership for Organisational Learning and Student Outcomes (LOLSO). Mulford sought to find relationships between organizational learning and student achievement in a mixed methods case study design. The LOLSO study found that organizational learning and better student outcomes rely on factors such as collaboration, shared mission, innovation, and relevant professional development (Mulford, 2006). Much of the LOLSO study focus was on the qualities of leadership in teachers and school administration, which enable successful organizational learning and knowledge sharing. Missing from LOLSO were the qualities of interdisciplinary teaming among teachers who share the same students. Positive relationship building between teachers, school leaders, and students seem to produce improved student learning and may yet provide meaningful learning opportunities for all stakeholders. Based on the LOLSO findings relating learning organizational values and knowledge, or expertise sharing, certain factors may need to be in place for open collaboration and transference to classroom instruction. Additionally, school leadership and the ability to promote teacher leadership allow significant collaboration and teacher growth (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010; Mulford, 2006). Adding to the body of knowledge, student achievement showed improvements in the LOLSO study as outlined in Mulford (2006). Also worth noting is that Herrenkohl et al. (2010) included researchers as members of the collaborative teams which added an outside factor to the 64 process of knowledge sharing and collaboration among teachers. Perhaps based on studies centered on learning organizations and shared information, it is safe to assume that a level of trust among collaborators increases the level of knowledge sharing. The methods of establishing the level of trust among core content teachers in a collaborative setting is unknown due to previous autonomy and classroom isolation. Summary of professional learning communities. The review of literature added to the understanding of establishing a PLC collaborative environment within a middle school. The use of common planning time to meet for the sharing of knowledge and promotion of teacher learning is fundamental for success in PLC collaboration. Finding time to collaborate with colleagues in a setting promoting collegial learning and trust might break existing barriers across the disciplines. Response to intervention. The chosen theme of Response to Intervention derived from the research questions: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students?, and, how does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? In an effort to recognize the characteristics of RtI implementation in the departmentalized middle school environment, and the use of collaboration to learn RtI, a review of literature surrounding RtI resulted. The review provides a discussion of the use of RtI in middle school settings. Based on the research questions, middle school environments, interdisciplinary collaboration, and datainformed decision-making became subthemes. The subthemes relate to the use RtI among interdisciplinary teachers using data-informed decision-making to address the needs of shared students in the lowest 25% in reading. 65 RtI as an implemented model for intervention-based assessment has roots in an Iowa school district that initiated RtI strategies in 1985 to address students with specified learning disabilities (Dunn, 2010). Dunn (2010) posited RtI as an alternative assessment model to intelligence tests and other similar methods of determining academic achievement. The use of RtI in this manner derived from the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 (Dunn, 2010). RtI allows for periodic assessment with curriculum-based measures and data-informed instruction based on the student’s level of responsiveness to accumulative-concentrated interventions (Dunn, 2010). An RtI model created by Fuchs and Fuchs best describes the three tiers of RtI (Dunn, 2010). Tier 1 comprises the majority of students in general education classes where the classroom teacher assesses reading growth through a series of universal screening measures designed to assess decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills (Dunn, 2010). Tier 2 appears to address the needs of students not achieving reading growth in Tier 1. Tier 2 places students in small group settings (Dunn, 2010). With a lower teacher to student ratio, Tier 2 is designed to allow intensive and differentiated instructional delivery. As noted in Dunn (2010), students in need of more intensive, one-on-one instructional intervention move to Tier 3. Additional instructional sessions at Tier 3 appear to offer individualized measures to improve reading success. In the event that reading recovery or lack of response to intervention at Tier 3 occurs, recommendations for special education classes might ensue (Dunn, 2010). 66 According to Sansosti, Telzrow, and Noltemeyer (2010), the challenges of implementing RtI within middle schools reside in the validation of interventions and the sustainability of intervention strategies. PLC culture may provide a viable foundation for middle schools to meet challenges with RtI sustainability. Sansosti et al. mentioned the vulnerabilities in measures and criteria used for instructional interventions, along with reliable measures of student responsiveness to potential interventions as obstacles. Sansosti et al. recommended the exploration of variables either assisting or impeding RtI implementation or maintenance within the middle school environment. Data collection and analysis as major considerations in RtI require corresponding and procedural systems (Sansosti et al., 2010). The screenings used may include standards-based assessments and progress monitoring based on differentiated instructional along with explicit instruction in content areas. Another concern surrounding RtI rests in valid and reliable data collection in which instructional staff not certified in reading or language arts instruction may require additional professional development (Sansosti et al., 2010). In an era of high stakes testing and accountability, along with the responsibility of meeting the needs of every student, RtI may provide a viable solution for all (Buffum et al., 2010). Buffum et al. (2010) posited that the ability to provide immediate and targeted attention to students as a provision all schools should strive to accomplish. The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) (n.d.) advocated strategies for educational reform that provide the framework for student-centered school designed to meet the challenges of every student. The NASSP action plan consists of six core steps in a comprehensive change process. The NASSP plan also seems to focus on collaboration 67 and team leadership ensured to not only implement change, but also perhaps more important, sustain change. Step 1 of the NASSP (n.d.) change process is to gather and analyze school data in the areas of demographics, academics, assessments, and behavioral categories. Analysis of these categories may provide the background knowledge and correlations needed to determine strengths and weaknesses within the educational organization. Once the priorities have been determined through careful data analysis, Step 2 explores possible solutions designed to increase student performance; these solutions then become the focus of school leaders (NASSP, n.d.). Step 3 assesses readiness for change among all stakeholders and focuses on building capacity within the school environment (NASSP, n.d.). Step 3 may also determine the need for further team building and professional development to meet student needs. Careful creation and articulation of a school improvement plan defines Step 4 (NASSP, n.d.). Step 4 appears to comprise the involvement of all stakeholders in a shared vision where goals are established and incorporated into all facets of the school. Full implementation of the plan with continuing monitoring, assessments, and adjustments defines Steps 5 and 6 of the NASSP (n.d.) change process. The continuation and adjustments of the steps based on individual school needs and data analysis may require shared vision, collaboration, team leadership, and leadership modeling in professional development. Marzano (2003) affirmed student learning and achievement as linked to the number of prospects available for students to acquire knowledge. As stated in DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010), past research focusing on the teaching of the 68 curriculum should now focus on opportunities for individual students learning the curriculum. The idea is to eliminate the isolationism of individual classrooms and grow in collaboration and collegiality as a learning organization centered on teacher and student empowerment through knowledge acquisition. The collegiality and collaboration afforded through the shared values of PLCs could add connective tools to RtI and student performance. DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many stated that research shows that setting goals through interventions through articulated protocol allows progress in student learning and reflection of the RtI strategies in determining future steps. Another possible effect of PLC collaboration and RtI implementation at the middle school level may reside in earlier identification of students needing additional assistance, or possible at-risk factors. DuFour (2004) identified that an additional function of PLCs is the ability of immediate intervention as soon as students show difficulty. Teachers collaborating may significantly increase the immediate attention that many students require. Saphier, as cited in DuFour et al. (2005), indicated the power of the RtI pyramid to go beyond the typical stages of intervention strategies. Furthermore, Saphier, as stated in DuFour et al. found that collaborative teams provide structure to identifying at-risk students and implementing of RtI strategies. Buffum et al. (2010) addressed redesigning the tiers of RtI to target the standards that all students must master. Constructing standards based on individual students, levels of proficiency occur through teacher collaboration, and collective data analyses (Buffum et al., 2010). Buffum et al. mentioned the importance of scaffolding content and the importance of teachers in recognizing the value of direct, differentiated, and explicit instruction for individual students. This view on instruction may be especially critical for 69 students demonstrating gaps in learning content, processes, or over-reaching generalized concepts, particularly in reading. Middle school environments. Implementing RtI in middle school environments presents challenges not found in elementary schools where shared planning and selfcontained interdisciplinary instruction is the norm. Middle school structure often segmented by core academic instruction may rely on designated instructional staff or pullout programs to apply intervention strategies. RtI strategies used in the core area classroom by discipline specialized basic education teachers may present tremendous opportunities for teacher learning which led to the research question number one parameters of teacher perception using PLC collaboration and RtI effectiveness within core content areas. Darling-Hammond and Richardson (2009) stressed the need to reach toward higher-order discernment and functioning for teachers as well as students. A key point related to higher-order discernment mentioned in Rust (2012), stressed CCSS and the preparation of students for the workforce or post-secondary education. Through CCSS, the focus centers on defining teacher and student expectations for learning (Rust, 2012). The CCSS furthered higher-order functioning for teachers and students through the acquisition and retention of curriculum content through targeted cognitive processes and learning strategies (Rust, 2012). Through active learning, such as RtI strategies applied to core curriculum such as CCSS, teachers are likely to grow and rethink the plausibility of targeted instruction for student needs. Active and ongoing learning experiences for teachers allows transformations within instructional practices and approaches to data-informed decision-making that translates into targeted instruction 70 equaling learning for all (Buffum et al., 2010; Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009; Deuel et al., 2009). Johnson and Smith (2011) evaluated a case study from Cheyenne Mountain Junior High (CMJH) in Colorado. The Johnson and Smith evaluation provides critical information for implementing RtI in the middle school environment. CMJH addressed the question of how to implement RtI within the middle school environment where teachers were specialized in core academic curriculum. CMJH began the implementation of RtI with an examination of assessment data to determine areas in need of the greatest support. A simple screening method identified students reading below grade level. The RtI tier level for intervention was determined based on the severity of reading deficiency; however, the initial focus of CMJH was strengthening Tier 1 instruction using a PLC framework (Johnson & Smith, 2011). The principal of CMJH formed PLC teams based on content areas and designated each team with the task of researching instructional methods focused on differentiated instruction, development of common assessments, collective design strategies, and improved instructional strategies (Johnson & Smith, 2011). According to the Johnson and Smith (2011) study, deployment of technology to provide immediate feedback using clickers, along with courseware allowed for differentiated instruction, which developed through the research of PLC teams at CMJH. Expansion and development of interventions on all three tiers, honing of progress monitoring and data based evaluation systems, along with scrutiny of screening methods apparently allowed CMJH to maintain its then current status as a high performing school grounded in PLC culture and shared vision (Johnson & Smith, 2011). 71 Prior to the work of Johnson and Smith (2011), Sansosti et al. (2010) contended that the available research on RtI in secondary schools remains minimal. To that end, Sansosti et al. conducted a qualitative study that used school psychologists as an audience to relate the implementation of RtI in secondary school settings. According to Sansosti et al. many school psychologists receive training in intervention strategies while core content area instructors receive minimal professional development in RtI strategies. Sansosti et al. provided an initial step to implementing RtI in middle school environments. In a sampling of 20 secondary schools from four counties across a Midwestern state, the findings indicated that four themes resonated in implementing and sustaining RtI. Systems characteristics, systems structures, evidence-based procedures, and professional development needs were the four themes found to be important to sustaining RtI in secondary schools. Addressing each of these themes and understanding the challenges of RtI implementation and sustainability in secondary school settings remains complex. School-wide training based on the requirements established in Conzemius and O’Neill (2001) may provide assistance in addressing the themes found in the work of Sansosti et al.. Sansosti et al. (2010) recommended a need for additional qualitative studies to provide a more comprehensive picture of RtI in secondary schools. Focused on a low socio-economic school environment, a case study description of the implementation of RtI at Alice Birney Middle School provided a setting for Brundage, Beckmann-Bartlett, and Burns (2010). Alice Birney is located in North Charleston, South Carolina and serves an 85% predominantly minority student population, with 81% qualifying for the free and reduced lunch program. RtI is a concern for this middle school due to only 10% of the 72 student population scoring in the proficient range on the state accountability assessment. Data collected from more than 200 students determined the intervention strategies and needs. Corrective reading groups designed and scheduled into 90-minute blocks targeted reading comprehension. Student data, studied every week by a core team in charge of monitoring student growth, determined future placement to higher levels. Based on data from current research, the trend in teacher learning and student achievement suggests the value of collaboration to study student data regularly (DarlingHammond & Richardson, 2009). PLCs provide a venue conducive to continual data analysis and knowledge sharing related to student progress. The time intensive nature of implementing RtI using a core team at Alice Birney, while challenging, produced average increases in standardized test scores (Brundage et al., 2010). Implementing and sustaining RtI in the middle school environment may prove challenging for a myriad of reasons. The overall synopsis seems positive when time and consistency are present. Also, advantageous is the use of a plan such as that used in Johnson and Smith (2011), or Brundage et al. (2010). While school psychologists could provide useful input with RtI, based on findings from Johnson and Smith and Brundage et al., it appears that collaboration works best when teachers from specialized areas and interdisciplinary areas pool together. School environmental factors present levels of concern in the middle school setting and may ensure or deter sustainability (Sansosti et al. 2010). The use of RtI among core content teachers with no previous RtI experience remains relatively uncharted in the middle school environment. Interdisciplinary collaboration. Gerzel-Short and Wilkins (2009) stressed the importance of collaboration in the process of RtI implementation and sustainability. The 73 use of basic education teachers from different disciplines, special education teachers, reading instructors, and other educational specialists may provide crucial collective knowledge for improving student outcomes. The combined efforts and levels of expertise available through such collaboration perhaps allow targeted interventions to address individual student needs. Allington (2011) addressed the inefficiencies of core reading programs in meeting the needs of students struggling in reading. As a directive of Allington the use of reading material spanning the disciplines is more effective because there is more chance for student interest and self-direction. Ivey and Fisher (2005) advocated interdisciplinary collaboration to create meaningful and targeted instruction along with literacy rich material used in all subject areas. Interdisciplinary collaboration among middle school teachers may also present problems with planning and structure. As an example of implementation of PLC collaboration, DuFour and Eaker (1998) suggested the establishment of teacher teams comprised of teachers teaching the same grade level. In addition to teacher collaborative teams within the same grade level, interdisciplinary teams may focus on shared students (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Reed and Groth (2009) stated that there is not sufficient evidence to show that interdisciplinary collaboration could have a positive impact on student achievement. The functionality of the interdisciplinary teaming is dependent on collaboration and the promotion of integration of curriculum (Reed & Groth, 2009). Professional development may address the issues of integrating the disciplines in middle school collaborative teams (Reed & Groth, 2009). Noteworthy to interdisciplinary integration in a middle school cross-curricular study, is the collaboration on using state standards to select research based instructional 74 and assessment strategies for lesson planning (Reed & Groth, 2009). The significance of findings from Reed and Groth (2009) is the use of commonality of lesson planning among all teachers as the shared value and goal for collaboration. Finding a commonality, such as shared accountability for collective students, among teachers may also promote the use of RtI across the curriculum. Murawski and Hughes (2009) assessed RtI as a new method for learning disability and at-risk identification. Murawski and Hughes highlighted the use of teacher collaboration and co-teaching as methods to improve the implementation of RtI. The Murawski and Hughes research used what was known for RtI, collaboration, and coteaching in an examination of systematic change within the secondary school environment. Murawski and Hughes stressed the critical importance of aligning RtI with teacher collaboration and co-teaching. RtI implementation requires support to ensure a clear understanding of how RtI should look in the classroom and collaboration may provide the necessary support (Murawski & Hughes, 2009). Additionally, the paradigm shift that occurs when implementing RtI in the secondary schools is founded through the support in teacher collaboration (Murawski & Hughes, 2009). Fuchs, Fuchs, and Compton (2010) posited the concept that RtI in the middle school takes on new meaning in universal screening. This concept finds basis on the wellestablished deficits apparent in students of middle school (Fuchs et al., 2010). The model for RtI in the middle schools conceptualized by Fuchs et al. allows new opportunities for teachers to improve student performance and overcome deficits. Using research data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2, showing students with large academic deficits and the relation to high school dropouts brought Fuchs et al. to the conclusion 75 that RtI in middle schools and high schools carries meaningful intensive interventions. Fuchs et al. stated the importance of programmatic research to answer the questions, which may occur in a modified middle and high school setting. Myers, Simonsen, and Sugai (2011) proposed to evaluate RtI applied to professional development in teachers. Participating teachers received training in “school wide positive behavior support” (Myers et al., 2011, p. 36). This behavior support training related to RtI as applied to social behavior specific praise given to students. Myers et al. measured the rate of praise statements from teachers and the possible effects the praises had on intervention strategies and student behavior. The data analyzed in Myers et al. showed a decrease in student problem behavior, which increased appropriate behaviors shown during interventions. RtI and teacher collaboration presents challenges in the middle school, or secondary school, environment due to increased autonomy as seen in Murawski and Hughes (2009). The established deficits often found in middle and high school students as presented in Fuchs et al. (2010) encourages renewed interest in implementing RtI in secondary schools and the need for support. Perhaps the support derived from coteaching, collaboration, or school-wide training enables interdisciplinary groups of teachers to provide increased opportunities for student growth. Nonetheless, these concepts require further study in the middle school environment with core content teachers and interdisciplinary teaming. Data-informed decision-making. Data availability related to the increased accountability required of public education enables data-informed instruction (IES, 2009). With increased accountability for student achievement, some school districts have 76 reformed the instructional appraisal instruments to include collaboration and shared accountability, which aligns with research question number one of the current study. Perhaps data used for decision-making related to instruction applies to the shared accountability indicator. The use of data as a gauge for shared accountability and instructional decisions may be especially true of data when used collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams of middle school teachers. The mindset of sharing students and sharing concern for those students could provide meaning on a deeper level for interdisciplinary collaboration. Smith, Johnson, and Thompson (2012) likened the use of student data with a sort of global positioning where teachers and students have a clear understanding of academic progress and standing. According to Institute of Education Sciences (IES) 2009 report, data provides a viable means for assessing student growth toward objectives. The use of data presents challenges in the areas of interpretation for insightful and logical instructional changes (Deuel et al., 2009; IES, 2009). Deuel et al. (2009) found that improving instructional practices aimed at student learning gains requires collaborative analysis of all data. The IES report (2009) provided guidelines in using data information to improve student achievement through instructional changes. Among the IES guidelines is to study all available student data in an effort to modify curriculum based on interventions and differentiation of instruction. Smith et al. (2012) averred the sharing of instructional methods, which shows promise in raising levels of student proficiency as another example of the value of data analysis and data-informed instruction. 77 The IES report (2009) offered numerous recommendations for using student achievement data to drive decisions made for instruction. Among the recommendations is the use of multiple sources of data and collaboration among teachers (IES, 2009). Assessment data examined in an interdisciplinary collaborative team may aid in strategic learning targets for shared students. Stiggins (2004), as cited in DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005), suggested the positive effects of collaboration on increased assessment accuracy and descriptive feedback. Lezotte and Snyder (2011) suggested the need for teachers in collaborative teams to adapt instruction and implement strategies based on frequent monitoring of student progress. Summative and formative assessment monitoring presents teachers with valuable sources of data for strengths and weaknesses of students (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011). As continual monitoring across the disciplines, teachers may provide students with targeted and immediate intervention strategies. As part of the use of data sources, assessments may increase involvement in the RtI process across disciplines when collaboration exists. Schools implementing RtI may consider these recommendations when targeting intervention strategies. A study done by Bianco (2010) provided the enhancements to data-informed instruction through RtI. Already four years into the initiation phase, the practice of RtI as a system of tiered intervention began to take hold in the Bianco study. Professional development for staff members reviewed protocols and best practices for RtI. To endorse RtI further, the district carried out research to find appropriate measures for eliciting information brought about through data-informed instruction. According to Bianco an issue with RtI and data-informed instruction rested with fidelity and treatment of 78 implementation. Bianco stressed the importance of instructional alignment with progress monitoring and best practice protocols based on prior research findings. Conzemius and O’Neill (2001) speculated the need to use data as a learning tool and a motivator for improvement. Bianco (2010) surveyed teachers on an anonymous basis to obtain feedback on the diverse features of RtI and found fidelity in the implementation of RtI and the appropriate and effective use of data as areas of concern. The teacher feedback showed a concern for the fidelity of data collection and the use of data to guide instruction (Bianco, 2010). Bianco found that the areas of assurance of fidelity in tiered instruction, as well as RtI implementation, require tracking, support, and models for instructional execution. Unless data is collected properly with individual student outcomes at the core from a variety of sources, analyzed with student learning in mind, and utilized to differentiate instruction, data may prove meaningless and lacking in fidelity (Anfara & Donhost, 2010; Bianco, 2010; Mokhtari, Thomas, & Edwards, 2009). The establishment of a data dashboard may alleviate the cause for concern with data collection fidelity. Taking into consideration the use of logic and reflection in data analysis further promotes fidelity (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001). Perhaps well worth considering with RtI and the differentiation of instruction, is the inquiry into further data such as family circumstances, socio-economic status, and other personal information. Conzemius and O’Neill (2001) advocated the use of all available data—not just assessment data. Typically, many middle school core content teachers focus on data relating to the subject area rather than comprehensive student data. 79 The idea is for all members of the collaborative team to obtain a complete picture of the lowest performing students prior to differentiation and targeted interventions. Mokhtari et al. (2009) raised the question of how effective use of data helped to raise students’ reading scores. The use of professional development brought about increased reading performance throughout a previously underachieving school in Mokhtari et al.. The establishment of PLCs also lead to changes in reading instruction, which has a positive effect on reading scores (Mokhtari et al., 2009). Collaboration may provide efficient methods for data analysis and the use of data to drive decisions related to instruction. Teacher collaboration and continuous data review and inquiry allow reflective practices for instructional strategies (Mokhtari et al., 2009). The question of data-informed decision-making in schools with regard to school improvement defined several case studies reviewed by Anfara and Donhost (2010). Specifically, Anfara and Donhost used the United States Department of Education (USDOE) report on use of educational data. Five stages of data-informed instruction highlighted by Anfara and Donhost provide purpose for middle school teachers, and as such, these stages supply beneficial information for educators. Stage 1 of the five stages is organizing for success, which allows the formation of teacher, teams to analyze and organize data (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). Interpretation of data gives meaning to the second stage of building assessment literacy among teachers and other staff through training and practice (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). Anfara and Donhost (2010) identified the use of a variety of data sources as the third stage to datainformed decision-making and promoted the use of multiple assessments outside the state accountability tests. Aligning data systems as stage four supports the use of a data 80 warehouse, which allows the use of multiple databases throughout a school district (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). The fifth stage requires the alteration of instruction, which may be the primary avenue to student learning, and data analysis (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). Anfara and Donhost (2010) found that links between data and alterations in instructional practices are absent from a great deal of research. A shift in paradigm may present data as a method for increasing student outcomes on an individual basis rather than using data for the sole reason of diagnosing at-risk. Anfara and Donhost stated that there are gaps in literature from a lack of accountability in using data for decision-making and lack of student involvement in the process. Middle school students are capable to use benchmarks to set goals, which empower students to take charge of their education (Anfara & Donhost, 2010). Anfara and Donhost (2010) stated that there is a need for more research to understand the deployment on using data-informed instruction at the middle school level; most educators could learn to analyze effectively and discern data for instructional purposes. Time and structure, along with collaboration, may provide the basis for datainformed decision-making (Anfara & Donhost, 2010; Mokhtari et al., 2009). Literature on integrating student data to differentiate instruction within core content areas is lacking and in need of further study. This lack within the literature pertains to interdisciplinary collaboration, which justifies further the significance of research in this area. Summary of response to intervention. The review of the literature of RtI provided knowledge of RtI structure and implementation for student achievement. Teacher collaboration and data-informed decision-making add to successful RtI 81 implementation and increased student performance. RtI in the middle school environment is not without challenges based on the interdepartmental structure of middle school. Establishing collaborative teams of cross-departmentalized teachers sharing the same students provides a starting ground for data-informed decision-making for RtI. Reading and academic achievement. The chosen theme of reading and academic achievement derives from the research question: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? In an effort to understand the importance of reading and academic achievement with middle school students, a review of literature surrounding reading and academic achievement ensued. The review provides a discussion of the significance of reading on academic achievement. Based on the research question, at-risk for graduation and reading comprehension are subthemes. The subthemes relate to the importance of reading on student achievement, retention in school, and graduation rates. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (2009) pointed to reading scores, which indicated large needs across America in middle school literacy. NAEP (2009) reported that in 2003 only 30% of the nation’s eighth grade students were reading at proficient levels. In addition to the NAEP report, studies indicated that the primary risk reason for graduation relates directly to literacy levels. The question of middle school students struggling in reading adds to concerns for high school performance when the curriculum at that level applies more rigor and student accountability. Ivey and Fisher (2005) and Schmoker (2006) elaborated on the correlation between reading on a deeper level and development of intellect. Ivey and Fisher stated, 82 “Getting to the bottom of older readers’ comprehension and motivation difficulties requires careful, ongoing assessment of instructional practices and students’ literacy needs . . . not the product of strategies alone but a fusion of self-efficacy, interest, and strategic knowledge,” (p. 9, para. 2). The need to turn reading instruction away from purposeful reading such as decoding and fluency outcomes toward deeper reading through strategic means may require daily opportunities across the curricula (Schmoker, 2006). Strategies within the RtI model could provide such opportunities in all content disciplines. Schmoker stressed the ideal strategic reading environment as one that occurs daily with pen in hand. Opportunities to reread and synthesize text while drawing inferences allows students to think critically; thus, development of intellect and discernment become more likely (Schmoker, 2006). Continued opportunities to read for purpose, and to read text that makes sense on a personal level, allows students to take initiative and advance toward self-efficacy (Ivey & Fisher, 2005). From the IES (2009), the relationship between reading proficiency and graduation links to educational attainment and earning capacity. NAEP (2009) also stated empirical analysis, which shows that reading proficiency is a large factor in graduation rates. NAEP used standards based reading scores from eighth graders in 1998-1999 to aggregate into specific feeder high schools in South Carolina schools. The ninth grade cohort, school year 2002-2003, from the eighth grade reading scores defined the 171 high schools in South Carolina with usable data. The statewide average of this cohort graduating was a little over 51% (NAEP, 2009). At-risk for graduation. Bowers (2010) affirmed the importance of early identification of students at-risk for graduation. As stated in Swanson (2010) “7,200 is 83 the number of students when calculated on a daily basis, who don’t graduate from high school on time,” (p. 22, para. 1). Additionally noteworthy and somewhat alarming is that in the U.S. 8th graders reading below grade level is 68% (NAEP, 2009). Middle school students’ academic performance plays a significant role in determining at-risk for graduation (Bowers, 2010). Eighth grade and mid-point through high school seem two critical periods in the decision to leave school. In a longitudinal study, Bowers studied two Midwestern school districts to determine dropout rates and identification of potential dropouts; the results pointed to the potentially dangerous school years for drop out as grades eight and 11. Middle school students at-risk for dropout may struggle in reading, and as a result, may fall behind their cohort. Archer (2010) examined the Lexile reading growth of at-risk middle school students. In Archer, reading consultants determined patterns in reading growth of middle school students who gave no answers on the Oral Reading Frequency (ORF). Research based on the ORF did provide Archer with answers to reading growth. As a result of ORF and curriculum based measurements (CBM), Archer found that over 60% of the middle school students were reading at elementary levels. Archer (2010) studied seventh and eighth grade students’ data from an urban middle school in the western United States for a period of 5 years to determine Lexile reading growth. Archer found an array in Lexile growth using preliminary growth norms for at-risk middle school students. Using beginning of the year reading levels provided Archer with critical information to reading growth. Evaluating growth supplies students and teachers with advantages in setting goals for the future (Archer, 2010). 84 According to the 2005 National Governors’ Association (NGA) study, many students remain at a third grade level in literacy, which indicates struggling readers are more likely to drop out of high school. NGA identified research and best practices to improve the literacy achievement of adolescent students. Focus on adolescent literacy at the state level is a strategy addressed by NGA, along with raising literacy expectations across the curricula. NGA stressed the importance of literacy across the disciplines and alignment within standards that are explicit to meet real-world demands. State and district levels should require early identification of struggling readers in order to provide interventions as needed (NGA, 2005). Professional development designed to build the capacity for literacy instruction can strengthen instructional strategies and implementation of interventions (NGA, 2005). The use of data sources and tools to provide longitudinal reading achievement information remains at the core of effective instructional practices for struggling readers (NGA, 2005). Comprehension instruction and disconnection between reading instruction and content curriculum presents barriers in reading achievement for adolescents (NGA, 2005). This appears particularly true at the middle school and high school levels. Additionally, there seems to be lack of interdisciplinary support for reading literacy and reading comprehension instruction. NGA (2005) advocated the use of explicit instruction in comprehension along with embedding and reinforcement of instruction within content curriculum. Ongoing assessment of student progress and tracking are additional elements associated with improving literacy in middle school and high school grades (NGA, 2005). Ness (2009) stated a problem exists with middle and high school students understanding the literacy concepts in core academic areas. Ness stated that evidence of 85 the beneficial outcomes of reading comprehension instruction to students on all levels shows in the body of research. Reading comprehension improves for middle school students when teachers explicitly teach guided and independent reading strategies in content areas (Ness, 2009). From the findings of Ness (2009), which show that applied reading comprehension instruction in social studies classrooms exceeds that of other classes, the need to encourage content area teachers with professional development in effective reading comprehension instruction seems valid. Professional development aimed at providing methods for integration of explicit reading instruction within content areas may meet the needs for secondary teachers implementing RtI. Expounding on Ness (2009), Romance and Vitale (2011) used a cross-sectional study of diverse students from Iowa to investigate science and reading comprehension. In Romance and Vitale, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS) subtests served as the indicators for student growth. Romance and Vitale found that content area learning in science did improve reading comprehension. The implications of this study point to a curricular approach, which integrate literacy and content instruction as providing direct benefits to student achievement (Romance & Vitale, 2011). As indicated in Archer (2010), using student data to study Lexile reading growth allows students and teachers to implement strategies and set goals for achievement. Intervention strategies and goal setting may assist middle school students in increasing reading comprehension thus promoting the opportunity for future academic success. Integrating reading comprehension strategies with science curriculum offers promise as found in Romance and Vitale (2011). 86 Integration of reading also adds promise to interdisciplinary teaming with RtI strategies differentiated toward specific strands in reading and adds value to the current study question relating to PLC collaboration and teacher perception of RtI effectiveness in core content areas. Based on Ness (2009) and Romance and Vitale (2011), integrating reading comprehension and all content curricula may benefit middle school students identified as at-risk for graduation, or performing within the lowest 25%. The potential to prepare middle school students for the increased rigors of high school through interdisciplinary measures may address the high school dropout findings in NGA (2005) report. Combining Lexile reading growth with core content curriculum may offer middle school students with the ideal opportunity to increase reading comprehension. Reading comprehension. Perhaps the primary concern for reading comprehension is advancement toward a workforce ready population. As mentioned in Charles and Dickens (2012), the purpose of CCSS initiative provides the expectation for career and college readiness for students of varying degrees and differences in learning. CCSS also allows individualized and data-informed decision-based instruction for all students (Charles & Dickens, 2012). Measures taken to identify students struggling in reading in early school years may increase success in the workforce. The NGA 2005 report outlined the successful plan of a Fairfax County, Virginia high school. All eighth grade students entering the high school received screening for reading performance. As documented in NGA (2005), the data from the screening showed that three-quarters of the students entering ninth grade scored one standard deviation below grade level. Additional data showed that 24% of the students scored three years below grade level (NGA, 2005). The principal of the Fairfax County high school addressed the integration 87 of reading comprehension with core content subjects through professional development and job embedded activities (NGA, 2005). Other states provided literacy plans to align with curriculum in middle and high schools designed for literacy instruction across the curriculum (NGA, 2005). Additionally, intervention strategies to support struggling readers seem to provide individualized intensive instruction while adding to preventive and prescriptive measures in state and district level plans. Interdisciplinary teacher collaboration adds to the models for addressing the needs of middle and high school students reading below grade level (NGA, 2005). The national focus on literacy among middle and high school students seems to indicate the critical need for tracking students and setting forth policies to address adolescent literacy. Researching the use of intervention strategies with middle school students, Vaughn et al. (2010), sought to fill the gaps in research concerning middle school students struggling in reading. The question of the effects of interventions for struggling readers at the secondary level guided the Vaughn et al. study. Additionally, in Vaughn et al. researcher-based interventions found more success than other intervention strategies. The implementation of focus on reading in middle school instruction added value to the current study. As mentioned in Vaughn et al., unlike elementary curriculum, formal reading instruction is absent from the middle school. Providing support to schools for reading interventions and addressing dropout prevention measures, along with more intensive interventions raises areas for further examination (Vaughn et al., 2010). Furthering studies on the need for reading interventions, qualitative and quantitative data provided the data for the Humphrey (2009) report on concerns with 88 middle grade reading. The background for the Humphrey report was the need to develop strong middle school readers. The mission of building strong reading skills appears to become more complex after elementary school. Humphrey evidenced the need for access, emphasis, time, support, and skilled reading instructors to reach middle school students struggling in reading. Increasing high school graduation rates remains an issue and reading skills seem to play a role in retention and academic success. Using differentiated instruction to acknowledge the reading level and interests of every student should be the responsibility of all teachers (Subban, 2006). The findings of Humphrey (2009) indicates disagreements among middle school educators with regard to the identification of struggling readers through close contact with feeder elementary schools, licensed reading instructors, and support for reading intervention programs. Overall, as recommended in Humphrey and Subban (2006), the promotion of a school-wide reading commitment focused on increasing reading skills in a similar fashion to programs found at the elementary level encourages differentiation at the core of intervention. There seems to be an apparent need to address middle school reading. Perhaps lacking are instructional methods to increase opportunities and overcome deficiencies for struggling readers at this stage. Integrating reading instruction with content area curriculum presents educational organizations in states and districts with considerations in professional development (Humphrey, 2009; Ness, 2009; Vaughn et al., 2010). Other areas of consideration center on the time allowed within content classrooms for explicit reading instruction (Ness, 2009). Utilizing additional personal data and data from feeder schools may provide useful initial student information (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; 89 Vaughn et al., 2010). Based on the studies of Humphrey (2009), Ness (2009), and Vaughn et al., (2010) careful attention in middle school years to the link between reading comprehension and high school retention may increase achievement levels in high school. Summary of reading and academic achievement. Based on the review of the literature surrounding reading and academic achievement, literacy remains a concern when addressing student achievement. The use of RtI in the critical stage of middle school could produce positive results with graduation rate and the pursuit of postsecondary education. Related to the research question, how teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students, the importance of reading on the overall academic performance provides relevance to the study and establishment of PLC collaboration to implement RtI. Summary Danielson’s (2002) theory that student achievement grows when teachers learn attained support in the body of literature. The theory of this current qualitative exploratory case study was that students performed better when teachers actively and collaboratively involve themselves with professional development opportunities in the use of RtI. The increased mutual accountability for student performance provided opportunities to research this theory in a middle school environment. The literature reviewed on teacher collaboration, response to intervention, and the relationship reading has to student achievement might further substantiate opportunities for research. Based on the review of literature, middle school remains an area lacking in teacher collaboration 90 and use of RtI in interdisciplinary classroom settings. Additionally, core content teachers collaborating on targeted instruction designed to increase reading scores among eighth grade students could add to the body of knowledge. The middle school setting seems to allow increased opportunities to study teacher learning with regard to collaboration and RtI implementation. This seems to hold true when the content area teachers become involved in increasing reading outcomes for those students struggling in reading. As mentioned in Vaughn et al., (2010), reading instruction at the middle school level is lacking; this lack brings credence to RtI implementation. The qualitative teacher data in collaboration and learning to implement RtI in content instruction from the current study provides substance for middle schools. An omission in literature on the use of RtI in core content areas through interdisciplinary collaboration provided the impetus of this current study in teacher learning and student growth. It was not known if RtI implemented by core content teachers affects student growth in reading. The professional growth of each content area teacher learning to implement RtI was not known. The collaboration and shared accountability measure within the newly adopted performance appraisal system promoted data-informed instruction and intervention strategies in all subject areas. Furthermore, it was not known how the new appraisal system would connect to teacher learning and student growth. Through the current qualitative exploratory case study on the relationship between teacher learning and student growth through collaboration and RtI implementation, the feasibility for extending the body of knowledge and prior research became apparent. 91 Additionally, the focus of all content area teachers on increasing learning gains in reading for eighth grade students extended prior research on RtI implementation. As stated in Buffum et al., (2010), targeted instruction through RtI might answer to the individual learning needs of all students. Another concept mentioned in Buffum et al. relates to the time to learn combined with strategic goals allowing students to be successful at higher levels. Previously implemented through guidance counselors and teachers specialized in intensive reading instruction, research on the use of RtI in core classroom was lacking within the literature. Gaps in the literature surrounding use of data derived from teacher collaboration to implement RtI methods led to the study research questions. The study research questions presented an opportunity to address gaps and tensions in the literature surrounding teacher learning and student achievement related to PLC collaboration, RtI implementation, and reading. The purpose of Chapter 3 is to discuss the methodology and study design to focus on the relationship between teacher learning and student achievement among eighth grade teachers. Chapter 3 provides information on the general problem of lack on how eighth grade teachers construct meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. Chapter 3 defines the methodology approach, research design, population and sample selection, instrumentation, and sources of data. Specifically, chapter 3 outlines the instruments used to collect for qualitative data, along with the methods for analyzing the 92 data. Validity and reliability of instruments, data collection and analysis procedures, ethical considerations, and limitations conclude Chapter 3. 93 Chapter 3: Methodology Previous chapters provided information on the introduction to the study and the findings in the literature review. Chapter 3 entails a detailed outline of the methodology approach for the study. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine the relationship between teacher learning through knowledge sharing and collaboration of core content teachers with student achievement. An eighth grade environment in central Florida set the stage for this study. Using eighth grade teachers and students, the parameters of the research design was to examine how teachers create learning through knowledge sharing and collaboration to implement Response to Intervention (RtI) with at-risk students. Next, the researcher addressed the ongoing challenge of increasing learning gains among the lowest 25% in reading. The guiding question for the current research was how do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? The secondary research question was how does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Based on prior research from the literature review, the researcher developed the research questions for this current study to assist the need for research within the middle school environment with an interdisciplinary team of teachers sharing the same students. The research questions provided guidance for the researcher and support to the theory of teacher learning and the correlation to student growth: 94 R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? The purpose of this chapter is to outline the methodology, design, data sources, data collection procedures, and data analysis used in this research study. The current qualitative exploratory case study examined how teachers constructed meaning gained from PLC participation to work collaboratively implementing RtI with the goal of improving student achievement for the most at-risk students with the intent of raising reading scores among the lowest 25% at-risk students. Qualitative data were collected through interviews, teacher-kept journals, researcher journal, and observations of PLC meetings. The teacher journals, interviews, and observations were coded based on patterning and themes. The patterns and themes were based on the research questions and the review of the literature with the intent to gain insight between collaborative meetings and personal experiences. Following the transcription of the data, coding of patterns and themes ensued prior to analysis of the data. Data analysis procedures derived from Hatch (2002). Data analysis began with coding with the themes, which derived from the literature review in mind and patterns of importance. Occurrences of themes were highlighted and organized. Once themes were organized, they were placed in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to provide the researcher with the ability to expose characteristics within patterns. Qualitatively, the study of teacher learning and reflections of the learning process adds value to the implementation 95 of the PLC culture, collaboration, and RtI to address students in the lowest 25% at-risk students in reading. Baseline student data derived from the previous school year’s FCAT data aided teachers in PLC collaboration and the identification of the lowest 25% at-risk students in reading. Subsequent data that teachers used was gathered from FAIR assessments and reading assessments. These data aided teachers with RtI differentiation strategies. The study of student data and the increase or decrease in student scores over the period of the current study added relevance to combined teacher efforts in data-informed instruction and RtI strategies within core content areas. In the proposal of teacher learning, it was anticipated that the current study might enhance knowledge related to the impact of teacher collaboration and RtI strategies applied to students who are scoring in the lowest 25% on the FCAT. A team of eighth grade teachers in the areas of MESH, an RtI trained school guidance counselor, and Intensive Reading (IR) instructor comprised the study group. Student data for reading underwent review and assessment in collaborative meetings to determine the individual needs of students. Teachers worked collaboratively to establish intervention strategies and document progress. Scores from the seventh grade FCAT reading and other relevant reading assessments provided the initial data and a starting point for entering eighth grade students. The potential for an increase in the lowest 25% student reading scores raised the question of connections drawn from MESH, guidance counselor, and IR teacher team collaboration through PLC culture. Along with the construct of meaning for teachers involved in PLC collaboration, possible growth in teacher learning through collaboration, 96 specifically the potential for knowledge sharing amongst the MESH team, could increase student achievement. Combined efforts along with gaining knowledge in curriculum areas might increase the likelihood of teachers outside of the field of Language Arts implementing RtI strategies to increase reading scores. The question of how collegiality and collaboration of the school culture indicative of PLCs promotes eighth grade student achievement and adds to teacher learning resided at the core of the study. Professional growth for teachers identified another key aspect in the current qualitative exploratory case study. The collaboration among a cross curricula team of eighth grade teachers provided room for professional growth, which could influence student outcomes. Statement of the Problem It was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. The specific problem of implementing RtI in an effort to increase student achievement and address shared accountability involved a team of eighth grade teachers, an RtI trained guidance counselor, and a reading instructor. Shared accountability and collaboration drove a need for core content RtI implementation. In an effort to increase the reading achievement among students in the lowest 25%, interdisciplinary teachers worked collaboratively to use data-informed decision-making to differentiate instruction. The possible association in teacher collaboration and intervention strategies with increasing eighth grade students’ reading scores added purpose to the current study of teacher learning and student growth. Prior to the current study, more research was needed to understand teacher construct of meaning deriving from PLC collaboration and the 97 effectiveness of interdisciplinary collaboration on teacher learning and student growth among eighth grade students. Methods for raising reading scores among the lowest 25% eighth grade students provided the researcher with an opportunity to examine the use of interdisciplinary teacher collaboration and implementation of PLC culture and RtI strategies to achieve this growth. Previously, a reading teacher and a reading coach focused on the reading scores of this set of students while other teachers focused solely on content area specific instruction. The idea of putting together a collaborative team of teachers in core academic fields who shared the same students to learn the use RtI might show marked improvements in student achievement. Teacher leadership growth and learning utilized for effective PLC collaboration provided a snapshot of the competencies and skills needed for RtI implementation and cross curricula reading instructional delivery. Raising reading scores of eighth grade students was deemed critical because learning gains increase the overall school grade based on the NCLB and FLDOE school guidelines. The power of combining PLCs with the use of collaborative RtI strategies as an instrument adds to possibilities for increased student performance and team decisionmaking, along with the potential for marked instructional improvements (Fogarty & Pete, 2011). Commitments to the PLC school culture along with collaborative engagement in RtI strategies provide essential factors in successful changes in reading instruction (Bender & Waller, 2011). An added benefit to the current qualitative exploratory case study involved the initial onset to implement a PLC culture and RtI in the middle school effectively through shared planning and set meetings for teacher collaboration. 98 According to Sansosti et al. (2010), the challenges of implementing RtI within middle schools reside in validation of interventions and sustainability of intervention strategies. PLC culture may provide a viable foundation for middle schools to meet challenges with RtI sustainability. Sansosti et al. mentioned the vulnerabilities in measures and criteria used for instructional interventions, along with reliable measures of student responsiveness to potential interventions as obstacles. Sansosti et al. (2010) recommended the exploration of variables either assisting or impeding RtI implementation or maintenance within the middle school environment. These insights may develop into areas of concern with across the curriculum instruction focused on reading. Tying data-informed instruction for reading with other disciplines could allow tremendous opportunity for teacher learning through knowledge sharing and innovation. Research Questions Yin (2009) presented the notion of including a qualitative question that poses a central concept, which allows participants to describe their experiences. The qualitative research question begins with what or how and uses investigative verbs (Creswell, 2009; Hatch, 2002). The current qualitative exploratory case study commenced with a qualitative methods question, which tied the construct of experiences related to teacher PLC collaboration with learning how to implement RtI to enhance student achievement among the lowest 25% at-risk students in reading. Qualitative data for the current exploratory case study focused on how the basis for teacher learning may reside in shared knowledge and expertise along with increased opportunities to provide differentiated reading strategies to students. There were changes 99 to instructional delivery due to the exchange of data, ideas, and combined knowledge. The central research question for the phenomenon of teacher experiences and learning related to PLC culture collaboration and teacher learning. The research questions are as follows: R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Research Methodology As a research methodology, the qualitative approach suits a situation in which there is a desire to understand how a group works (Creswell & Clark, 2011). Qualitative methodology, often used for case study, seems to allow focus on a single concept, or a phenomenon (Creswell, 2009; Yin, 2003). A benefit to qualitative approach is the ability to establish meaning within a group through shared patterns (Creswell, 2009; Hatch, 2002). Qualitative approach provided insight into teacher learning through collaboration. The use of open-ended questioning in participant interviews and reflections from participant journals allowed the collection of personal experiences. Conversely, as noted in Creswell and Clark (2011), a quantitative approach best suits when determining treatment against a control group. The collection of numeric data to support or refute the study hypothesis in an unbiased manner presents strength to quantitative approach (Creswell, 2009). Another consideration with quantitative approach lies in the statistical analysis of collected data, which further verifies theoretical foundations within the study (Creswell, 2009). As mentioned in Connelly (2009) mixed 100 methods design has the advantage of combined quantitative and qualitative processes, which allow for narratives as explanations of statistical measures. Mixed methods design often requires the knowledge of an experienced researcher and a larger amount of time to collect and analyze data (Connelly, 2009). Due to the interest in understanding how teachers construct meaning from PLC collaboration to implement RtI, a qualitative approach was the chosen method for the current exploratory case study. Qualitative method approach could provide the insight of participant experiences present in a natural setting. Understanding how humans construct meaning and define meaning based on experiences outlines the purpose of qualitative research as cited in Hull (1997). Furthering the choice of methodology, the qualitative methodology is based on the social constructivist worldview, which seeks to understand individual experiences within a natural environment while adding value to the study of human growth and experience (Creswell, 2009; Hatch, 2002; Yin, 2003). The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine how teachers create meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement. The use of PLCs to work collaboratively for implementation of RtI to improve reading was new to the study site. Targeting improvements in reading among shared students identified as at-risk in the lowest 25% reading were also new to the study site. As an expected addition to the construct of teacher meaning, the current exploratory case study examined how teachers connected teacher learning through knowledge sharing and collaboration of core content teachers with student achievement. The PLC culture and the idea of collaborating on interventions for reading were new to the team of teachers, thus presenting an opportunity for teacher 101 learning. The use of RtI was a new method of differentiated instruction to this team of teachers, perhaps more so to those not teaching reading skills. Through qualitative data collection, which involved teacher experiences and researcher observations of meetings, a narrative of teacher learning provided further depth to analysis. According to Creswell (2009), qualitative data analysis should use triangulation. Triangulation is the use of multiple methods to collect data, which adds meaning and depth to the qualitative study (Creswell, 2009). Peim (2009) suggested the need to neutralize process and procedures with qualitative research in the field of education. Observations, interviews, focus groups, and text studies are commonly used data gathering methods for qualitative research. The type of analysis chosen likely depends on the type of data collected. Often educational research employs narrative processes through qualitative research. The use of qualitative data to study the meaning teachers derived from PLC collaboration, RtI strategies, and eighth grade reading scores allowed narrative and descriptive processes. Data Collection Qualitative data were collected through teacher journals, researcher journal, participant interviews, and observation of teacher collaboration. Teacher journals were collected and analyzed for personal experiences in learning, RtI implementation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and shared accountability for reading growth among the lowest 25%. Researcher notes of meetings in a researcher journal and the observation tool, Concerns Based Adoption Model referred to as CBAM, were used to distinguish the use of data to target instruction and the use of PLC parameters on collaboration. Participant interviews consisting of open-ended questions and participant responses were 102 digitally recorded. The research questions were designed from a set of questions in the work of DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010) that centered on interdisciplinary teams (p. 123), as well as, the literature review on RtI and Reading. The research questions acted as a guide to the interview questions. Researcher observations of PLC collaborative meetings were recorded on a modified CBAM format, which used themes and patterning of stages of concern. The themes were structured and predetermined based on components of PLCs, RtI, and Reading. Emerging themes were noted on the CBAM. The generic statement format provided an unbiased observational tool. The categories used for theme coding were CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Using Microsoft Excel as a tool to organize data, the analysis of this data was ongoing due to the cyclical, emergent nature of collection and outcomes with the modified CBAM instrument. Predicted results related to the research questions. Based on the theoretical foundation of Danielson (2002), teacher learning was expected to have a positive effect on student growth. Danielson addressed the relationship of teacher learning with student achievement through the idea that students will not have increased opportunity to learn when teachers are not also advancing in knowledge and skills. Professional development through PLC culture embedded in the shared values, shared goals, shared vision, and shared mission of the school places student learning as the priority (Danielson, 2002). Danielson recommended the teaming of core subject teachers in the middle school 103 environment along with the integration of support instructional staff to accommodate the needs of middle school students. Research Design The research design aligned the current qualitative exploratory case study with the core component of teacher construct of meaning through PLC collaboration with learning RtI with the intent to raise reading achievement for eighth grade students in the lowest 25%. The design of the current qualitative exploratory case study is a concurrent triangulation approach. As stated in Creswell (2009) the use of concurrent triangulation strategy allows the collection of all forms of data at the same time to observe possible convergences. Use of multiple data collection resources for qualitative methods strengthened the study through merging of data, which showed integration (Creswell, 2009; Morse & Niehaus, 2009). According to Creswell (2009) along with Morse and Niehaus (2009), triangulation allows well-validated and verifiable results while also allowing for a shorter data collection period. Additionally, case study allows the description of the specific case through triangulation of varied sources of data collection (Toloie-Eshlaghy et al., 2011). The span of data collection involved in the current study comprised a six-week period, which further justified a concurrent triangulation qualitative exploratory case study design. The collection of data at one site added additional weight to the research design in the current qualitative exploratory case study. Creswell (2009) stated the advantages of concurrent triangulation design, and of particular relevance to the current study was the ability to collect data simultaneously at one site. 104 The nucleus of the current study was examination of how teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. PLC participation allowed teacher learning through knowledge sharing and collaboration of core content teachers with student achievement. Furthermore, the current study was based on a need to understand how the relationship between teachers learning to use RtI differentiated strategies in core content areas and their experience on the use of PLC participation and collaboration enhanced reading achievement for the lowest 25% students. Table 1 displays a visualization of the data collection tools used to explore how teachers construct meaning learning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Table 1 Exploration of Teacher Learning and Student Achievement. Research Questions R1. How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2. How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn?     Measurements Observation of PLC Collaborative Meetings Participant Journals Participant Interviews Researcher Journal Population and Sample Selection A combination junior and senior high school located in central Florida was the study site and geographic location of the participant population of teachers and student scores. Between the years of 2006-2010, the median household income of the school 105 community was $50, 934 (The United States Census Bureau, 2012). According to the Florida School Rankings, the school ranked seventh in combination junior senior high schools in the State of Florida with 99% at-risk graduation rate, 25% of the population is minority and 19% receive free and reduced lunch (FLDOE, n.d.). In the school year of 2010-2011, 63% of the lowest 25% students made reading gains on FCAT (FLDOE, n.d.). The school was in the process of adopting a school-wide PLC culture and combing this culture with RtI to increase reading scores. There were no existing data to determine the connection of teacher learning with student growth at the time at this school. The school seemed to welcome the opportunity to establish PLC culture and teacher collaboration; this appeared to be significant among the middle school faculty. Eight eighth grade teachers, which comprised the PLC team, were recruited to be study participants. The participant groups consisted of male and female teachers, who shared the same students and had common planning, which allowed room for collaboration and RtI strategy implementation. The teacher participants ranged in age and years of teaching experience. An intensive reading teacher for middle school students and an RtI counselor were also recruited to participate in the study. All teachers held a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in the area taught, or a state certification in the area taught. Specifically, one team consisting of four eighth grade teachers in the areas of math, English, science, and history (MESH), RtI trained school guidance counselor, and Intensive Reading (IR) instructor comprised the study group. The RtI trained counselor and the IR instructor attended all team meetings. The sample size of teachers consisted of 100% of the eighth grade teacher population at the study site. 106 The lowest 25% in reading used by the teacher participants consisted of those scoring in the lowest 25% on the seventh grade FCAT Reading test given in March 2012. The students falling in the lowest 25% were approximately 17% of two hundred fifteen eighth grade students. Twenty-nine students comprised the lowest 25% for teacher PLC collaboration focus. Student reading growth is critical at this age and often predicts success in high school and at-risk for drop out (Archer, 2010). Justification for the student focus group derived from the researcher’s role as a school administrator and the school improvement plan of the study site, along with the newly adopted instructional appraisal instrument. As a school administrator, the researcher possessed a direct investment in teacher appraisal scores and student achievement. The school initiative was to raise test scores of the lowest 25% in eighth grade reading and show annual learning gains as a result. Another school initiative was to promote PLC collaboration among all teachers. Eighth grade core content area teachers, an intensive reading teacher, and a guidance counselor trained in RtI were solicited electronically to participate in this study through a letter of intent as seen in Appendix A. A standard consent form was provided to teachers as seen in Appendix B. The researcher retained the original letters of intent and consent forms in a secure location for the duration of the study. The total number of solicitation letters and consent forms was ten for all participants. No compensation was provided to participants. The results of the study had potential to provide valuable information to all participants; furthermore, the results were made available to participants. Information on individual teachers was never divulged or shared with anyone. Each participant received a generic pseudonym type of identifier such as 107 Participant A and any identifying data were kept in a secure off-site location. All data are to be destroyed within a minimum period of three years after the end of the study. Destruction of data will occur through shredding of all journals and deletion of all electronic data. Participants remained anonymous. Each teacher was coded with a letter, such as TP-A through TP-J, for researcher purposes. No direct contact occurred with students, so there was no need for consent forms. The teacher participants used student data to drive the PLC meetings. Permission to conduct the study was obtained by the involved school district as per district guidelines. Appendix C displays the permission form from the involved school district. An approval letter to conduct research was obtained from the school site. Appendix D displays the site approval letter. The group of teachers met three times over a six-week period to collaborate and plan for interventions in reading instruction across the curriculum. The belief was that these meetings would provide insight into teacher learning and reflective practices. Selection of teachers at the study site related to this group of teachers expressing interest, showing support in PLC culture, and combining RtI in an interdisciplinary effort to raise the reading scores of the lowest 25% on FCAT reading among eighth grade students. The concept was that students shared amongst these teachers would allow for focused research and data collection. Setting and sample size rationale. For this study, the school site and teacher sample seemed adequately described for the purpose of addressing the problem statement, it was not known how eighth grade teachers constructed meaning gained from participating in PLC collaborative relationships to apply RtI strategies in their classrooms 108 to help students at-risk in reading achieve at higher levels. As a qualitative exploratory case study, cluster sampling determined the sample size. According to Teddie and Tashakkori (2009), a cluster sample unit is a group found within a population. The cluster sample represented the case of PLC collaboration and RtI implementation in an effort to raise test scores among eighth grade students in the lowest 25%. As a cluster sample, the eighth grade teachers represented an interest to the site as well as the district in terms of mutual accountability and collaboration. Teddie and Tashakkori described representative sampling as small and purposive in addressing the research questions. A concern at the school was raising achievement for the lowest 25% in reading at the eighth grade level. The eighth grade level corresponds to the at-risk graduation rate based on cohorts and FCAT school grading. There was a direct interest for all eighth grade teachers, school administrators, and other school stakeholders. As a qualitative exploratory case study, the use of teachers at the same school was justified due to the involvement of a close examination of a group of teachers at one school (Hays, 2004). Another justification as found in Hays (2004) is the time bound aspect of case study research. The participant group of eighth grade teachers shared the same students and the same preparatory, also denoted as planning, time. As a result, collaboration on the student target group was feasible and attainable. The teacher sample size was located at the same school and may be a limitation for this study due to inability to generalize the study to other schools and districts; however, the data obtained in this study may provide important fundamental knowledge and background on the connection between teacher learning RtI through PLC collaboration and student growth for future studies. The student 109 number used by the teacher participants was twenty-nine eighth graders in the lowest 25% in reading based on seventh grade reading FCAT scores from spring of 2011. Additionally, reading scores provided teachers with attainable goals across the disciplines due to the integration of reading in all academic areas. This study was relevant to the school district involved. It was expected that this qualitative exploratory case study might provide direction for other middle school teams participating in PLCs implementing RtI strategies in core curriculum, PLC collaboration, and data-informed instruction as part of shared accountability. Students in the lowest 25% were significant based on the shared accountability among teachers and the use of RtI to decrease the learning gap. Future studies may move beyond to multiple schools, or multiple school districts, to obtain a more generalized sampling of teacher learning and student achievement in a professional learning community model to implement RtI for the lowest 25% in reading. Sources of Data The central phenomenon of this study was based on teacher learning through PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Concurrent triangulation allowed integration of qualitative data collection methods to show utility of findings for core content middle school teachers. Additionally, a variety of personal experiences from teacher participants through exploratory case study design added vision and directness to the research questions based on reflective and personal data. The student scores for teacher PLC participation and collaboration derived from the lowest 25% among the eighth grade students. 110 Qualitative instrumentation included interviews, researcher observations using a modified CBAM instrument, researcher journal, and teacher journals. These instruments provided the researcher the ability to discern what themes and patterns gained importance regarding teacher construct of meaning in PLC participation, collaboration, learning RtI based on interview responses, and observations of PLC collaboration within a natural environment, and journal entries. Researcher observation data were measured through patterning key indicators: CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum, along with patterns of stages of concern. Tally marking based on occurrences in each category provided observer data during meetings. Additional data derived from the researcher journal notes taken during the observations. The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) instrument was an existing instrument and considered reliable based on prior use in other research related to teacher learning and collaboration. As an instrument used in observations, this instrument was tested in the past qualitative educational research of Rickey (2008). While this instrument was modified to target specific observable traits for this study, the overall instrumentation and rating on the CBAM was similar to that of Rickey. A copy of the CBAM instrument used by Rickey does exist. Rickey (2008) used the CBAM was used to measure levels of concern based on stages from personal to interpersonal on a scale of 0-6. In Rickey’s qualitative action research study, the researcher and participants used the CBAM to assess the levels of concern revolving around new approaches toward professional development. Although 111 modified for this study, Rickey’s CBAM instrument provided the basis for the idea of recording observable traits. For this study, the modified CBAM assisted the researcher in tracking teacher learning and participant reflection, as well as tracking occurrences of themes and patterns present in PLC collaboration. The generic statement format provided an unbiased observational tool. Using the modified CBAM design, researcher observations made during formal weekly meetings used categories designed for theme and pattern coding: CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum in addition to the stages of concern. These categories found basis through the research questions for the study: R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Each team member kept a reflective journal to record personal growth and learning that occurred because of PLC team collaboration and use of RtI. Agreements based on trust established the use of the journals to record individual experiences implementing RtI in the teacher’s discipline area. Meeting minute logs kept by some of the participants further validated the use of teacher journals to reflect on the support of PLC collaboration, shared accountability, and data-informed decision-making to assess personal learning. The meeting minute logs were to assist teachers and were not to be 112 used by the researcher. Consent forms and adherence to a plan for research further validated the data collected through qualitative instruments. Teacher journal data were evaluated for themes and patterns on teacher learning based on individual experiences, either positive or negative, when implementing RtI in core curriculum. Additional information from teacher journals provided the researcher with individual and reflective views of PLC collaboration and shared accountability. These individual journal entries included individually kept meeting minute logs from each teacher. Interviews were measured based on teacher experiences within the themes and patterns of collaboration and teacher learning. Validity and Reliability The use of exploratory case study design in a qualitative method added to validity and reliability due to the multiple sources of data and the structured CBAM format used by the researcher. Creswell (2009) stated the strength of triangulation as validation and verifiable based side-by-side integration of multiple instruments. The benefit of side-byside integration found in concurrent triangulation design allows ease in comparisons of qualitative data (Creswell, 2009). The time of the case study was not anticipated to affect the accuracy of data. However, the use of intervention strategies directed toward student outcomes needed to be delivered in a timely manner in order to achieve results related to student achievement. Additionally, the validity and reliability of data were supported using qualitative data derived from tested instrumentation. Using the multiple qualitative instruments provided insight into the research question. The qualitative methods question upon which this research was grounded, “How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a 113 collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students?” obtained insights into teacher reflections on learning and strategies to promote student achievement through the multiple qualitative instruments. Reliability was determined based on the use of multiple instruments and sources of data due to the ability to corroborate the initial findings aimed at the research question. Additionally, reliability was obtained through the correlation of multiple sources of qualitative data. Validity and qualitative design instruments. The following qualitative exploratory case study design instruments were used in the study: Interviews. According to Creswell (2009), open-ended interview questions are valid sources of data based on the allowance of participants to response in a more personal manner. Creswell further defined interviews as qualitative data collection procedure where “the researcher conducts face-to-face interviews with participants” (p. 181). Interview questions were based on the following research questions: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? and How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Researcher observations. Providing support on the validity of researcher observation, Creswell (2009) stated support for observing activities and behavior of participants at the research site taken by the researcher in qualitative observations. Researcher recordings may be structured or unstructured based on questions the researcher wants to answer (Creswell, 2009). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model 114 (CBAM) instrument was an existing instrument and considered reliable to assess stages of concern as well as occurrences of themes and patterns of PLC collaboration based on prior use in other research related to teacher learning and collaboration. As an instrument used in observations, this instrument had been tested in past qualitative educational research of Rickey (2008). The overall instrumentation and rating on the CBAM was modified from that of Rickey through the addition of themes and patterns as previously mentioned and as seen in Appendix F. A copy of the CBAM instrument used in Rickey exists; this instrument provided the basis for the idea of recording observable PLC themes and patterns along with stages of concern. The modified CBAM assisted in tracking teacher learning and participant reflection. The categories designed for theme and pattern coding on the CBAM instrument derived from the study research questions. The literature review was an additional factor in determining categories for the CBAM. Participant journals. Creswell (2009) posited the use of participant journals as a valid method of data collection for qualitative studies. Journals allow the researcher to gather information based on the words and experiences of the participants (Creswell, 2009). Furthermore, journals allow insight and narrative to the study, which adds to the value of the study in an unobtrusive manner (Creswell, 2009). Researcher journal. As mentioned in Hatch (2002), researchers need to attend to a variety of nuances within the observation and interview setting. As result, field notes, or a journal to capture descriptions of the observational, or interview setting provides accuracy to data collected (Hatch, 2002). Field notes may be kept in the form of a journal where key points are written and filled in later with detail (Hatch, 2002). A researcher 115 journal was kept in which nonverbal and other significant cues were logged during interviews and PLC observations. Reliability and qualitative design. Consistency with all interviews and employing certain procedures ensures reliability with participant interviews (Creswell, 2009). Gibbs (2007) provided the following measures for reliability: 1. Transcripts should not contain evident mistakes made during transcription. 2. There should be no shift or deviation in the definition of codes. Adherence to code definitions occurs through consistent and constant comparison of data with codes. Use of a codebook is recommended. (p. 101) These measures were followed with regard to participant interviews, participant journals, and researcher observations. Data Collection Procedures The data collection procedures were divided into several categories. The first category regarded the approvals needed to conduct the study. The second category comprised data collection sources and instrumentation. Third were the data collection procedures followed by categories addressing the validity and reliability for each instruments used in the study. Approvals to conduct the study. Approval from the Academic Quality Review (AQR) and Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Grand Canyon University (GCU), approval from the school site principal, and site participants contained all qualitative data collection procedures. This measure was taken to provide consideration to those granting approvals. 116 Grand Canyon University Institutional Review Board. Permission, or approval, to research, Appendix G, was obtained from the Institutional Review Board at Grand Canyon University prior to data collection. Study site. A letter of informed intent/consent for research, Appendix D, along with an executive summary of the study was given to the principal of the school site. The school site not named in any manner to protect all staff and faculty at the site. Participant informed consent. Each participant was given an informed agreement/consent form, Appendix B, allowing the researcher to interview, observe, and analyze reflections from a personal journal. All information was kept confidential and teachers were assigned a number to prevent any personal connection to their identities. School district. Permission, or approval, to research at the school site was obtained from the school district of the school site used in this study as seen in Appendix C. An executive summary of the proposed study provided to the office of Testing and Accountability along with an application to research is on file with the school district. The researcher never had contact with students. Data collection sources and instrumentation. Strahan and Hedt (2009) found that analyzing observations and interviews with collaborative groups of teachers and the relation to middle school student achievement through an exploratory case study provided valuable evidence of professional growth. The insights possible through participant input through qualitative exploratory case study could prove valuable to the school as we work toward creating a school wide professional learning community culture. Anderson, Nelson, Richardson, Webb, and Young (2011) also found evidence of 117 the contribution of the researcher observations to understand better the relationship between teacher and student relationships in middle school. First, the recruitment of the entire population of eighth grade teachers, RtI trained guidance counselor, and reading instructor at the study site occurred through an email, Appendix A. All teachers solicited responded favorably so the teacher sample consisted of all of the eighth grade teachers, RtI trained guidance counselor, and reading instructor at the study site. An informed consent form, Appendix B, followed the recruitment email. The informed consent letters were collected in person from the participants at the study site to ensure validity of participant signatures. The rights and well-being of all participants were protected through confidentiality measures. Any identifiers were removed from observations, interviews, and journals. All data collected were stored on a password-protected file on a password protected hard drive, as well as, removable file storage, also password protected, to allow transportation of data collected at the study site. Additionally, password protection ensured security of the electronic tools for data analysis. The researcher was the sole individual with access to any data collected to protect study participants further. Upon completion of the study, the data were stored on the password protected hard drive and removable file storage, for a minimal three-year period and then destroyed. The hard drive and removable file storage were reformatted to ensure data destruction. Justification for the three-year period rests in the possibility that questions may arise pertaining to data collection. Destruction was through a complete deletion of all data from the password protected hard drive and removable storage. 118 Qualitative sources and instrumentation targeted the research questions of the study: R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Interviews. Participant interviews provided a source of data for all of the research questions. The interviews took place during the final week of the study in an effort to glean a comprehensive understanding of participant experiences with PLC collaboration and RtI implementation. Appendix E provides the interview questions adapted for RtI and reading from interdisciplinary team questions (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Many, 2010, p. 125). Instrumentation for participant interviews. Participant interviews lasted no more than 60 minutes. This provided sufficient time to explain the purpose of the interview and the study elements, as well as, provide time for the participant to feel comfortable with the setting and the researcher. The participants were given an introduction to the researcher and the overall study topic. The participants were given a copy of the interview questions. The time, date, setting, brief description of the study was recorded for each interview. Because the researcher is an administrator at the study site, the location was conducted in a nonthreatening and comfortable environment such as a library, or place chosen by the participant. The interview questions and participant answers were recorded using two digital audio recorders. Researcher field notes allowed further documentation of interviews and 119 allowed the researcher to write notes related to nonverbal cues. Interview questions derived from the research questions, which derived initially from a literature review on PLCs, and align to the work of Danielson (2002) and DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many, (2010). Interview guidelines provided the researcher with structure and increased opportunity for successful interviewing. Hatch (2002) outlined guidelines, which will afford the basis for the study interview process with all teacher participants. The following interview characteristics described in Hatch provided overall parameters in all interviews: respect, genuine interest in the participant, attentive listening, and encouragement to share valued knowledge and experiences. An explanation of the research purpose gave the participants background knowledge of the study. All open-ended interview questions allow participants to respond without interruption and without bias in specific directions or judgment (Hatch, 2002). Participants were asked to provide the researcher with suggestions as a closure to the interview as encouraged in Hatch (2002). Immediate transcription of all interviews allowed for early analysis and immediate feedback for any possible areas for improvement in future interviews (Hatch, 2002). Researcher observations. Researcher observations of PLC collaboration meetings looked for occurrences of themes and patterns in behavior as a source of data for the research questions. The modified CBAM was used during the observation. There were a minimum of three observations for the team, which took place over the study duration. The researcher sat off to the side of the room and observed the collaboration meetings. The date, time, setting, and participants present was recorded for each meeting observed. 120 The observation instrument allowed the researcher to record observable occurrences of themes and patterns of behavior related to the stages of concern. Appendix F displays the modified CBAM and the observable traits. A researcher journal was kept to record additional data. Instrumentation for researcher observations: Concerns-based adoption model. Researcher observations used the modified Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) format as an observation instrument, which was an existing instrument to record themes and patterns. The patterns based on stages of concern, the themes based on PLC collaboration traits, and RtI aligned with the research questions. The themes were CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. A researcher journal was kept for nonverbal cues and other extraneous data observed in the course of the collaboration meeting. Participant journals. Participant journals provided a source of data based on themes of PLC collaboration and personal experiences implementing RtI for the research questions. The journals were collected during the final week of the study at the time of the participant interview. Central to the journals were the participant experiences related to PLC collaboration and learning RtI. Participant journals were used as an instrument to gain further insight into the effects of PLC collaboration on learning RtI, along with targeted instruction of reading strands in core curriculum instruction, personal growth and learning through PLC collaboration, and perceived student growth. Patterning was based on themes from the 121 CBAM, and key words such as RtI implementation, PLC collaboration, learning, student achievement, and accountability. In addition, summaries of teacher experiences were used to address each research question. Researcher journal. The researcher journal provided additional data regarding the observations and interviews. Settings were recorded, as were nonverbal behaviors throughout the observation and interview process. The journal notes were used to add depth to the data from interviews and CBAM. Data collection procedures. The basic premise of this qualitative exploratory case study was to collect data from eighth grade teachers related to construct of meaning in PLC collaboration and RtI implementation with the intent to raise reading scores of the lowest 25%. Additional to the data collection was the exploration of PLC collaboration on learning RtI to target the lowest 25%. A possible connection drawn between student growth and teacher learning through collaborative efforts ensued based on shared learning of RtI strategies. Eighth grade students in the lowest 25% in reading were the target group used by participants. The decision to use eighth grade students in the lowest 25% in reading was based on the seemingly higher incidences of at-risk for drop out and disengagement present at this age and a school wide initiative to decrease the achievement gap in reading among these students. Participant interviews. Participant interviews provided a source of data for all of the research questions. A meeting time, date, and place was given to participants. Participants were versed on the aspects of the study in an agreement form given to each participant at the start of the study. Upon agreement of time, date, and place, the participant and the researcher convened for the interview. The interview time lasted 122 approximately 60 minutes and took place in a public place of the participant’s choosing at the study site to avoid intimidating factors of any nature. Eight participants chose their classroom, one participant chose her office, and one participant chose the school conference room. The interviews were one-on-one between the researcher and the participant. The researcher audio taped the interview in its entirety and took notes in a researcher journal for additional data on nonverbal cues. The participant was told that the researcher would also record nonverbal behavior and additional notes regarding the interview setting in a journal. At the beginning of the interview, the researcher recorded the date, time, setting, and brief description of the study along with the number code assigned to the participant. The researcher asked each research question in Appendix E. While the expectation of 60 minutes for interview time would be sufficient, there were no time constraints for answering questions. The interviews were given a substantial block of time to eliminate pressure for the participant and researcher. Researcher observations. Researcher observations of PLC collaboration meetings studied occurrences in PLC collaboration themes and patterns in stages of concern as a source of data to answer the research questions. The researcher attended all PLC meetings held during the six-week time of the study. The researcher did not dictate the number of meetings. The number of meetings was dependent on the necessity of the teacher teams. A team eighth grade teachers representing each of the core disciplines of math, English, science, and history was present along with the RtI trained guidance counselor, and the Reading instructor. The meeting place was at the school site and the PLC collaborative team determined the specific location. The researcher sat off to the 123 side of the room where the PLC meetings took place in an effort to observe all meeting participants in an unobtrusive manner. Data collection from researcher observations used the modified CBAM instrument. Tallies were marked for each observable theme category. The PLC collaboration themes for observation were CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Each time one of the themes was observed a tally was marked next to the category. Patterns of behavior linked to the stages of concern. Occurrences of stages of concern were also marked with a tally as they were observed. The PLC collaboration themes and stages of concern are seen in Appendix F. The researcher kept field notes of nonverbal behavior for further data collection to provide a more complete picture of the PLC meetings. Participant journals. Participant journals provided a source of data based on PLC collaboration themes and patterns related to RtI implementation and teacher learning for the research questions. Participants were provided a journal method with the corresponding assigned number for the individual to log daily, or weekly, experiences related to PLC collaboration, RtI implementation, and student achievement. Participants kept journals for a six-week period. At the end of the study, the researcher collected the journals and using a researcher journal looked for repetitions in themes and patterns related to the research questions. These repetitions were narrated based on frequencies and patterns among all participants. Notable differences were also narrated and related to the research questions. Journals were kept by the researcher in a location away from the school site and destroyed after analysis and conclusions. Analysis and conclusions of all 124 participant journals and researcher journal took place in chapters four and five of the study. Researcher journal. The researcher journal provided a source of data, which enhanced the CBAM, and the interview data through the notes detailing settings and nonverbal behaviors. Additionally, side conversations overheard during the observations provided richness to the overall meaning constructed by teachers participating in the PLC collaboration. The nonverbal behaviors related to knowledge sharing and data-informed decision-making preceded the eventual emergence of additional themes. Qualitative validity for participant interviews and interview questions. Validity for participant interviews and interview questions was maintained using the same questions for each participant, same recording procedures, and through use of a nonthreatening environment chosen by the participant. The researcher provided the participants with the questions prior to the actual interview. Scheduling the interview was done to accommodate the participant’s schedule and without coercion. To ensure validity each participant was given ample time to answer each open ended question. Additionally, as outlined in Teddie and Tashakkori (2009), each participant was asked the same questions. There was no deviation of questions or format for each participant. Transparency occurred through maintaining a setting chosen by participants, introduction to the interview, questions, recording format, and closure of the interview. Appendix E includes the interview questions. Qualitative validity for researcher observations and CBAM. Validity of the CBAM has been established through previous studies involving adult learning. Dr. Deborah Rickey used the CBAM instrument previously in her study on adult learning. As 125 mentioned in Rickey (2008), the CBAM was developed by Loucks, Newlove, and Hall in 1976 for comprehension and assessment of individuals involved in practices that are foreign, or new to them. The observation categories were adapted to the research questions of this study. The participants knew category themes and the method of data collection. Appendix F contains the modified CBAM instrument used during observations. The use of a researcher journal provided additional validity to awareness to the details of each observation and the general framework of each PLC meeting. Qualitative validity for participant journals and collection of journals. Validity of participant journals derived from the personal and independent reflections and recollections of individual participants. The research questions were given to each participant and journal entries recorded personal experiences related to the research questions. Additional information entailed insights gleaned through the RtI learning process and PLC collaboration related to instructional methods and PLC collaborative meetings. Qualitative reliability and participant interviews and interview questions. To assure reliability, interview questions remained the same for all participants thus assuring the reliability of consistency. The procedures for interviewing did not deviate. The format was the same for all interviews. The location was chosen by the participant. There were no follow-up questions. Qualitative reliability and researcher observations and CBAM. Based on cautions from Loucks et al., (1976), the CBAM reliability is contingent upon the capability of the researcher. To provide greater reliability to the use of the CBAM as an observational tool, the researcher used a journal to add further observational notations. 126 Aside from researcher notes, the modified CBAM was the only observation tool used in all meetings. Using tallies to mark occurrences of themes and patterns of the stages of concern in each of the three observations provided reliability when validating researcher notes taken during observations. Nothing deviated in the way of procedures. The researcher did not take part in the meetings, but acted as observer only. The use of a researcher journal added reliability to building memory of each observation and the general framework of each PLC meeting. Qualitative reliability and participant journals and collection of journals. Each participant was given a copy of the guiding research questions to guide journal entries. Instructions on keeping the journals were not individualized. The only instructions given regarded to not discussing entries with other participants. Journals were given to the participants and were collected in the exact same manner from each participant at the end of the study at the time of the participant interview. Data Analysis Procedures Yin (2009) provided four general strategies for case study analysis: theoretical propositions, case description, use of qualitative and quantitative data, and rival explanations. Theoretical proposition as a data analysis protocol relies on the initial theory, or proposition on which the study is developed. Yin cited theoretical proposition as the preferred method based on the shaping of the research question as a guide. Case description may assist when identification of causal links occur and may consist of quantitative analysis (Yin, 2009). Mixing qualitative and quantitative data for case study analysis develops the importance of both forms of data and requires experienced 127 knowledge in research (Yin, 2009). Yin suggested the use of rival explanations for case study analysis when contrasting explanations exist within the study. The theoretical foundation of this study found application based on Danielson’s claim that when teachers learned, students showed growth in achievement. This qualitative exploratory case study was analyzed using the theoretical proposition from Danielson (2002) that when teachers learned, students showed growth in achievement. Teacher learning was addressed through PLC collaboration to learn RtI implementation with the intent of raising reading scores of the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Furthermore, the idea was that teachers would create meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement. Analysis related to the PLC collaboration themes surrounding the modified CBAM instrument where all data were coded and linked to the following: CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Additionally, emergence of any new themes was recorded and analyzed based on data collection instruments. Due to the nature of this study, analysis of data collected focused on the theoretical foundation that when teachers learn, students show growth in achievement (Danielson, 2002) and as a secondary focus the PLC research of DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Many (2010). The research questions developed based on the use of PLC collaboration to learn RtI for improving student achievement in reading. The research questions based on the theoretical foundation: 128 R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Qualitative data collected from participant interviews, participant journals, researcher observations, and the researcher’s journal were relevant to the research question based on the guiding theoretical foundation of the study phenomenon related to the relationship of teacher learning and student growth. The use, and choice, of the qualitative instruments derived from the research questions. Data analysis through transcriptions of interview responses, themes occurrences and frequencies, and patterns of stages of concern presented relevance to the research questions and the theoretical foundation. Through data analysis, all findings related to the research questions and the theory that when teachers learned, students showed growth in achievement. Detailed systematic analysis procedures are outlined within each heading related to data collection. SocioCultural Research Consultants, LLC (SCRC), developed Dedoose out of a need to meet the needs of researchers using case study, qualitative, and mixed methodology (SCRC, 2012). Dedoose allows the case study researcher to build visualizations capable of exposing patterns based on coding and ratings. Dedoose software was used to analyze collected data from all tools. Dedoose allowed the researcher a workspace to connect the four data sources with each predetermined theme. The first step in Dedoose was to describe each data source and the research questions. Codes were then established using first the predetermined themes and then emerging themes once those were identified. Data from each participant based on data source was 129 placed in the Dedoose workspace. The codes were linked to each data source and the research questions. Then each piece of data related to the codes was analyzed for frequency among all participants, and relation to the research questions. Dedoose allows exporting of frequency tables to Microsoft Excel. Using Dedoose, data was exported to Microsoft Excel to create tables for each predetermined theme for ease of analysis. Multiple views were available using frequency tables. Each is transparent allowing adaptation to the research question, as well as, allowing associations between sets of qualitative data. Qualitative analysis and participant interviews and interview questions. Following each interview, the digital audio recording was transcribed. Using Microsoft Word, the transcription was coded based on the predetermined themes (CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum) and emerging themes. These transcriptions were imported to Dedoose. Following the coding based on themes, transcriptions were tied to each of the research questions. Tables were created in Excel to organize data by themes. The researcher kept the transcription during the span of the study. Qualitative analysis and researcher observations and CBAM. Based on the theme categories (CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum) and patterns of stages of concern, which link to the research questions, frequencies were tallied and 130 copied to the Dedoose workspace. These were then electronically recorded using tables in Microsoft Excel. The data were analyzed for occurrences, patterns related to the research questions within the Dedoose workspace, and the tables created in Excel. Qualitative analysis and participant journals and collection of journals. Following analysis within the Dedoose workspace, a table created in Excel was used to analyze themes within participant journals. The researcher used highlighting to mark references to the predetermined themes (CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Datainformed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum) and emerging themes. The researcher reread the journals for additional data while also marking the predetermined themes and emerging themes in the margins of the journal pages. The narrative also related the personal experiences of all participants. Tables were made with summary narratives to provide a comprehensive snapshot of journal entries related to predetermined themes and emerging themes. Table 2 displays the relationship between the research questions, instruments, and analysis. Table 2 Relationship of Research Question, Instruments, and Analysis Research Question R1. How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2. How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Phenomenon Teacher growth and individual experiences with PLC collaboration and RtI implementation Qualitative Data Coding of predetermined PLC themes from Participant Journals, Researcher Observations using CBAM, Transcriptions of Participant Interviews, Researcher Journal, Test Scores Analysis Repetition of predetermined PLC themes and emergence of new themes through markups in participant journals entered into Dedoose software and then Microsoft Excel. Markups of repetitions of PLC themes in researcher journal and from participant interview transcriptions entered into Dedoose software and then Microsoft Excel. 131 Ethical Considerations Researcher bias was addressed using a coding process in the observational data collection, triangulation of data using a variety of collection instruments, and teacher input through personal journals. These multiple sources of data reduced the possibility for researcher predisposition. The researcher did not participate or facilitate but rather acted solely as data collector and observer. Teacher and student confidentiality received the highest consideration through anonymous coding of participants only accessible to the researcher. The researcher guaranteed teacher confidentiality and provisions for withdrawal in writing through an explicit letter detailing the research, which was given to each participant as seen in Appendix B. Student data did not receive attachment to any name due to the nature of the study to focus only on score increases in the lowest 25% in reading. The student data was used by participants. The researcher made no student contact. The 1979 Belmont Report established three tenets for research (Steneck, 2007) that provided guidelines to prevent coercion and risk to study participants. The Belmont Report guidelines are: 1. Respect for participants without coercion from the researcher in decision-making minimal, or no risk to participants with optimal beneficence toward all; and 2. Equal distribution of benefits without prejudice regardless race, gender, mental capacity, or any other perceived disadvantage. (Steneck, 2007, p.42) An informed consent agreement form to maintain complete confidentiality was provided to each teacher participant. In addition, the involved school district and the school site of the case study signed an informed consent form. Anonymity of teacher 132 participants was guaranteed through the informed consent agreement. All identifiers were replaced with a generic such as Participant A, Participant B, etcetera. As previously mentioned, no student contact or involvement of any nature occurred and teacher contact remained limited to initial guidelines for using RtI, explanation of study background, interviews, researcher observations, and collection purposes only. The researcher collected qualitative data from the teachers. Teacher involvement consisted of keeping meeting logs for individual and team use, reflective journals, and responses to interview questions. Teacher involvement also included the use of RtI strategies to target the lowest 25% in reading. There were no foreseeable risks to any of the participants in this study based on the anonymity and lack of physical or mental endangerments. The school and school district names received protection with pseudonyms in all documentation related to this study. There was no use of any identifiers, which could relate to the names of teachers, students, school, or district. All data remained confidential through use of protected electronic devices, such as password-protected data drives stored in the home of the researcher. All participant information was destroyed after the study was completed. FCAT and FAIR data were accessible to the researcher but should not pose any future ethical issues related to the study. The researcher was an assistant principal at the school site for the study. This ethical concern was considered regarding conduct as an observer and collector of data through maintenance of confidentiality of participant information and adherence to district and state guidelines for conducting research. To help alleviate bias, the researcher had no personal relationship with any of the teacher participants, or financial gain with 133 the study site or district because of the study. Participation from teachers at the school site was strictly voluntary and coercion to participate was addressed in writing through the informed consent agreement and the recruitment email. Researcher bias through adherence to the use of qualitative data obtained from data collection instrumentation provided safeguard measures. Student data were protected using assessment data only with no attachment to student names. Another ethical consideration was the compliance with the conducting and administration of the school environment along with the purpose of the school district. This consideration was addressed through the application to conduct research as required by the school district. As stated in Creswell (2009) the following suggestions will be elements in all consent forms: 1. The following will be identified: researcher, sponsoring institution, purpose of the research, benefits to participation in the study, and the degree and type of participation involvement. 2. Explanation of how participants were chosen. 3. Indication of any risks involved in participating in the study. 4. Confidentiality guarantee for participants. 5. Assurance of withdrawal from participation at any time. 6. Provision of contact names, email addresses, and phone numbers if any questions should arise. (p. 89) Furthermore, a summary of results and conclusions was made available for all participants. There was no proactive stance from the researcher regarding the study 134 findings. No labor was exploited through means of bribery or other unethical means, such as position authority, in the publication of the study, and detailed procedures were provided without duplication from any other publication or study. Limitations Using qualitative exploratory case study design indicated that limitations might occur in the merging data within qualitative themes. The data collection, instruments, methods, and data analysis procedures limited this study due to lack of adequate time to conduct a longitudinal study. These limitations were not expected to affect the results of the qualitative exploratory case study. In this study, the priority was given to the multiple sources of qualitative data to gain a more comprehensive perspective of teacher participant construct of meaning. Limitations of this study centered on the small teacher sample. Additional limitations included the short time span, the small school population, and the demographic region of the school. Using a small combined junior and senior high school could significantly limit the relevance of the findings to schools similar in size and demography. However, this study allows expansion to larger schools and school districts. According to Yin (2009), case study data analysis that relies on theoretical foundation allows transfer to different settings. The study was limited to one site and one grade level and a participation group of ten; however, based on the movement toward instructional appraisal systems with shared accountability, and the growing trend toward PLC collaboration, the potential for generalization within the school district and beyond outweighed this limitation. The results of this study were expected to provide useful information to all participants with 135 regard to collaboration and professional development related to student achievement in middle school grades. Also of use was the combined effort of RtI implementation within core content areas. Summary Chapter 3 described the qualitative exploratory case study methods approach and research design to study construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Using concurrent triangulation, the methods, data instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis presented a viable research study for understanding the meaning that teachers gain from PLC participation and collaboration to implement RtI and the effects on student achievement and the use of PLC collaboration for teacher learning. The data collection process of the study involved qualitative data collection through participant interviews, researcher observations, and participant journals. Interviews, researcher observations, and participant journals are valid in the use of data collection (Creswell, 2009). After analysis, Microsoft Excel provided the data summary tool using tables and charts as an analytical strategy. Ethical considerations to the study added further regard to the research methodology. Measures taken to protect teacher confidentially through informed consent agreements also provided assurances of ethical considerations. Consistency was maintained in all aspects of the study. A summary of results and conclusions were made available for all participants. Limitations due to sample size and study duration were not expected to deter the purpose of this research. This research provided educators relevant evidence regarding 136 teacher learning and student growth in the areas of interdisciplinary PLC collaboration. Implementation of RtI and focus on shared accountability added relevance, which outweighed limitations. While possible limitations due to integrating data were present, multiple qualitative data were expected to provide a broad viewpoint from the overlapping of data. Chapter 4 affords the data collection procedures and the analysis of qualitative data. A detailed description of findings analyzed as related the research questions provide the reader with a comprehensive view of evidence on teacher construct of meaning regarding PLC participation and collaboration to implement RtI with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Chapter 5 delivers a summary of results, a conclusion, and recommendations for future studies. 137 Chapter 4: Data Collection and Analysis The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement. The study purpose aligns with Yin’s 2003 definition (as cited in Baxter and Jack, 2008) that exploratory case study seeks to link program implementation and program effects. As an exploratory case study, the researcher of this study sought to understand how teachers constructed meaning regarding PLC participation and collaboration with application of RtI for students in the lowest 25% at-risk for reading. The use of PLCs to work collaboratively for implementation of RtI to improve reading was new to the study site. Targeting improvements in reading among shared students identified as at-risk in the lowest 25% reading was also new to the study site. A group of middle school core content teachers learned to implement Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies to raise reading scores of shared students in the lowest 25%. Scores derived from seventh grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) data provided the lowest 25% student population. The FCAT is Florida’s standards based assessment given to all students in grades 3-12. Students must pass the 10th grade FCAT as part of the graduation requirements. Teachers monitored student achievement through Intensive Reading scores and Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) scores, both pre-study and poststudy. FCAT and FAIR data are standards based assessments given to students in the Florida public school system. Both FCAT and FAIR have been evidenced through content related evidence, criterion related evidence, and construct related evidence 138 (FLDOE, 2004). FAIR, a standards based assessment is given three times a year: fall, winter, and spring, to all students in Florida. The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR), defines FAIR as, ‘. . . assessment system provides teachers screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring information that is essential to guiding instruction‘ (FLDOE, 2009). Intensive Reading instruction is required for these students. Based on Florida Statute 1003.48, the Florida Department of Education 2011-2012 Student Progression Plan states: For each year in which a student scores at Level 1 on FCAT Reading, the student must be enrolled in and complete an intensive reading course the following year. Placement of Level 2 readers in either an intensive reading course or a content area course in which reading strategies are delivered shall be determined by diagnosis of reading needs (FLDOE, 2011, p. 23). Interdisciplinary, interdepartmental instruction of reading and use of RtI in content areas in an eighth grade environment in central Florida set the stage for examining how teachers construct meaning from participating in PLCs to collaboration on RtI strategies for the lowest 25% in reading. Because of interest to understand how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement, a qualitative exploratory case study approach was selected. A qualitative exploratory case study approach provided the insight of participant experiences present in qualitative procedure through participant journals, interviews, researcher journal, and observations of PLC meetings. A concurrent triangulation qualitative methods 139 exploratory case study was the best choice design for this study based on the qualitative nature of PLC collaboration and teacher learning. The qualitative methodology based on the social constructivist worldview, which seeks to understand individual experiences within a natural environment added value to the study of human growth and experience (Creswell, 2009). Research Questions The following research question provided guidance to this qualitative methods exploratory case study. R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? A qualitative exploratory case study method provided the insight of participant experiences present in qualitative approach. The chosen design for this study found relevance based on the qualitative nature of PLC collaboration and teacher learning. The qualitative processes were related to themes based on the CBAM model: CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Interdisciplinary instruction of reading and the respective delivery methods, along with use of RtI, comprised differentiated strategies that aligned to the curriculum of the subject discipline for each teacher participant. 140 This chapter provides the details on the collection, summary, and analysis of data. Descriptive details on collection and organization of data, along with procedures used to analyze data, outline this chapter. A discussion of data analysis and summary of analysis related to the research question provide the structure for this chapter Descriptive Data The study population derived from a central Florida combined junior and senior high school with a predominantly lower middle to upper middle socio-economic class that is 74.3% Caucasian. The economically disadvantaged group was 16.8% in 20102011 and the ELL group was 1.5%. The sample for the study came from the population of eighth grade teachers. The students connected to the teacher sample were eighth grade students who scored in the lowest 25% on the seventh grade FCAT reading given during the spring of 2012. The student population of eighth grade students at the study site was approximately 215. The 25% at-risk group, which made up the student concentration group for the teacher sample was approximately 17% of the eighth grade site population. The researcher had no student contact. Teachers used assessment data gathered through the Florida Department of Education Progress Monitoring Reporting Network (PMRN), District database for the initial FCAT scores, and Edline teacher electronic grade reporting system. Table 3 provides a breakdown of the FCAT scores for the student sample including each reading strand. These were the initial data teachers used to determine the student population. All students failed to achieve a passing score of 228 needed to pass FCAT. 141 Table 3 Lowest 25% Eighth Grade Students Based on FCAT Reading Scores Reference/ Research Reading Application Literary Analysis: Fiction and Nonfiction Vocabulary Reference/ Research Literary Analysis: Fiction and Nonfiction Reading Application Vocabulary 2012 Actual Reading Level 2012 Actual Reading Score 2012 Level Needed to Pass 2012 Score Needed to Pass Current Grade FCAT Grade Students in Lowest 25% FCAT Reading S100 S101 S102 S103 S104 S105 S106 S107 S108 S109 S110 S111 S112 S113 S114 S115 S116 S117 S118 S119 S120 S121 S122 S123 S124 S125 S126 S127 S128 7 7 7 8 8 8 228 228 228 3 3 3 223 218 218 2 2 2 8 5 6 11 9 7 6 7 7 5 6 7 89% 56% 67% 73% 60% 47% 60% 70% 70% 45% 55% 64% 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 228 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 201 205 227 217 215 225 225 210 226 225 222 207 227 227 220 221 221 218 227 226 227 201 216 220 223 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 2 2 2 5 7 7 7 4 6 7 5 7 6 6 5 7 5 4 6 7 3 8 6 7 3 6 6 7 7 5 8 6 8 10 11 6 10 9 10 7 11 12 9 10 10 9 9 10 11 8 7 9 12 3 5 8 8 7 7 6 6 8 7 5 6 6 8 6 7 6 7 9 8 8 3 5 7 6 3 3 8 5 5 7 6 5 5 9 9 4 7 6 9 5 5 6 6 7 6 5 7 5 5 56% 78% 78% 78% 44% 67% 78% 56% 78% 67% 67% 56% 78% 56% 44% 67% 78% 33% 89% 67% 78% 33% 67% 67% 78% 47% 33% 53% 40% 53% 67% 73% 40% 67% 60% 67% 47% 73% 80% 60% 67% 67% 60% 60% 67% 73% 53% 47% 60% 80% 30% 50% 80% 80% 70% 70% 60% 60% 80% 70% 50% 60% 60% 80% 60% 70% 60% 70% 90% 80% 80% 30% 50% 70% 60% 27% 27% 73% 45% 45% 64% 55% 45% 45% 82% 82% 36% 64% 55% 82% 45% 45% 55% 55% 64% 55% 45% 64% 45% 45% The teacher participant population consisted of eight, eighth grade teachers, one guidance counselor for exceptional education students, and one reading teacher. The teacher participants ranged in age and years of teaching experience. The table below provides descriptors related to number of years teaching or number of years within the field of education and the highest degree held by participants within the teacher population. 142 Table 4 Teacher Participant Descriptors Number Of Years Teaching/Field Of Education Highest Degree Held 10 30 11 10 3 25 18 2 1 16 M.ED. M.S. M.ED. B.S. B.S. M.ED. B.S. B.S. B.S. M.ED. The average number of years taught among the participant group was 12 years. The subject areas taught covered the core content areas of math, English, science, and history (MESH). An additional area was included because there was not a second history teacher sharing the lowest 25% in FCAT reading. This teacher was a technology exploration teacher. Five of the participants hold Master’s degrees, four in Education, and one a Master’s of Science in Math Education. The remaining five participants hold Bachelor of Science degrees. Data Analysis Qualitative data collected from participant interviews, participant journals, researcher observations, and the researcher’s journal were relevant to the research questions based on the guiding theoretical foundation of the study phenomenon related to the relationship of teacher learning and student growth. Participant interviews were held in a location of the participant’s choice. The questions were the same for all participants. The interviews were recorded and researcher notes were taken in a researcher journal. Once the interviews were transcribed and uploaded to Dedoose, any references to the predetermined themes (CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed 143 instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum) were placed in a table. Emerging themes were analyzed the same way. Participant journals were highlighted according to the above, predetermined themes and emerging themes uploaded to Dedoose workspace, then placed in a table for ease of use. For the researcher observations, each stage of concern instance was counted and recorded first in an Excel spreadsheet, which uploaded to the Dedoose workspace. The same was done for the predetermined theme occurrences seen in the observations. Researcher notes of observations were analyzed for theme emergences and highlighted. These were recorded in Excel spreadsheet format and then exported to Dedoose, which allowed linking among all data sources, as well as, linking to predetermined themes, emerging themes, and the research questions. How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students defined research question one and how does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn defined research question two. The research questions provided the basis for data analysis. To provide structure, the data analyzed for the study related to the data collection format and tool. Qualitative data derived from observations of participants in PLC collaborative meetings, interviews with participants, and participant journals. Qualitative data from observations of PLC collaborative meetings was first analyzed using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet based on descriptive themes based on the CBAM model: CC= Collaboration and Collegiality, DI= Data-informed instructional decisions, RtI=Intervention strategies implemented, 144 KS=Knowledge sharing, and R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Visual displays in the form of graphs provided a snapshot of the data for comparison among the three observed PLC collaborative meetings. The data from Dedoose exported to Excel where graphic displays were created to provide descriptive analysis. Additional qualitative data from participant interviews was placed into individualized tables for each participant then combined based on responses relating to the themes listed above. Extraction of journal data based on the themes entered in a table indicated theme occurrences among participants. Each journal entry, interview question response, and CBAM data were notated based on the themes. Emerging themes were notated based on frequency of occurrence among the participants. A modification occurred with regard to the teacher participant groups based on teachers sharing the same students in the lowest 25% on FCAT Reading. There was only one history teacher sharing these students with other core curriculum teachers, so the exploration of technology teacher replaced a second history teacher. This was determined based on shared students. The teachers requested to meet as one team for all meetings. The request was made based on lack of time for the intensive reading teacher and the RtI trained guidance counselor to meet with multiple teams. Analysis of data from three PLC collaboration observations related to occurrences of the following predetermined themes: Collaboration and Collegiality (CC), Datainformed instructional decisions (DI), Intervention strategies implemented (RtI), Knowledge sharing (KS), and Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum (R). To add depth to the stages of concern within teacher learning and 145 collaboration involvement, further analysis of observation data relied on the following concerns based adoption model: Stage 0-Observational stage and note taking Stage 1-Sharing information through writing or verbal exchange Stage 2-Connecting with team members on implementation of RtI within core content curriculum Stage 3-Team discussions on implementation of RtI in core content areas, sharing of data, and integration of reading strands in all curriculums Stage 4-Sharing student data and instructional practices with PLC team members Stage 5-Collaborative data-informed decision-making on shared students and integrating reading across the curriculum Stage 6-Willingness to assist team members with targeted instruction based on data-informed decisions in specific core content curriculum Interview data related to the following themes: Collaboration and Collegiality (CC), Data-informed instructional decisions (DI), Intervention strategies implemented (RtI), Knowledge sharing (KS), and Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum (R). Patterns of importance based on occurrence placed on each theme provided overall trends among the participants. Another point of qualitative data surrounded overall understanding of RtI and differentiated strategies for students in the lowest 25% reading, along with clarity of Strategic specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results oriented, and Time bound (SMART) goals to target areas collectively of concern among the student population. 146 Analysis of participant journals relied on teacher experiences related to PLC collaboration, RtI use in core content areas, and possible learning gains among students in the lowest 25% in reading. Participant journal entries were attached to the theory of teacher learning related to student growth and to the predetermined themes used for observational and interview data, along with the research questions. Participants related experiences implementing RtI strategies to target reading among students in the lowest 25%. While the journals relied on personal experience, possible emergence of themes could provide insightful evidence of teacher learning effecting student achievement. Assurance of validity and reliability of data were addressed for qualitative data analysis. For qualitative assurances, data collection occurred through instruction to participants on journals that the teachers kept during the six-week period of the study. Participants were instructed to journal on their experiences with Collaboration and Collegiality (CC), Data-informed instructional decisions (DI), Intervention strategies implemented (RtI), Knowledge sharing (KS), and Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum (R) along with a central focus on the research questions. No training was provided concerning journaling of experiences. Bias from participants or persuasion from others was addressed through instructions not to share journal entries. Journals were collected individually at the time of the participant interview. Validity and reliability of participant interviews were assured through one-on-one interviews using the same fourteen questions based on the research questions in a comfortable setting and time chosen by the participant. The format was the same for each participant. With permission to record obtained from each participant, the researcher used two recording devices to assure proper recording, validity, and reliability of the 147 interview. Reliability and validity of data was further through researcher notes taken during the interview to capture nonverbal and environmental cues. Transcription of the recordings and researcher notes occurred within twenty-four hours. Once the transcriptions occurred, the recordings were listened to again to check for errors in transcription or missed data. Repeated listening to interview recordings provides additional reliability and validity assurances (Al-Yateem, 2012). For validity and reliability of observation data, location and time of day remained the same for all observations. Tallies marked consistently throughout each observation on the CBAM recorded theme and stages of concern occurrences during each PLC meeting. Researcher observations allowed nonbiased awareness of teacher interactions within PLC collaboration. The observations permitted the experience of documenting emerging themes resulting from collaboration, data and knowledge sharing, and individual experiences related to the student group and RtI. The researcher took notes in a researcher log to fill in nonverbal and environmental cues present during the PLC meetings. Transcription of notes was within twenty-four hours. Comparison of CBAM tallies occurred within 24 hours of the third and final PLC meeting. To address possible sources of error and impact on data due to researcher bias or mistakes made during transcriptions, the researcher made transcriptions of observation, journal, and interview data available to individual participants. Continual checking for errors during analysis took place through triangulation. Consistency in relating qualitative data to themes and checking for accuracy in recording data ensued throughout the analysis process. 148 Organizations of results of analysis are by data type and corresponding collection tool. The organization allowed insight into the data collected and the case study analysis of each qualitative data set. Each analysis related to the research questions. Observations of professional learning community collaborative meetings. All collaborative meetings were held in the classroom of one of the teacher participants. It was the same location for each meeting. Three meetings were held over 6 weeks. The meetings were held at the same time of the day, lasting approximately 30 minutes. The researcher acted as an observer only and had no participatory role during any of the meetings. The researcher sat off to the side of the room, in the same location every meeting. The location enabled the researcher to observe all participants. The meetings were held in the classroom of one of the participants. The researcher took notes on nonverbal cues as well as notes on emerging themes. The participants sat in a circle made up of student desks. For the remainder of the analysis of results reference of each teacher participant was TP-A through TP-J to encompass all teacher participants. Acknowledging the Hawthorne effect, which as stated in Brannigan and Swerman (2001), and Chiesa and Hobbs (2008), denotes the changes in behavior that occur when participants are aware of observation, the researcher sought to focus solely on the stages of concern and descriptor themes of the CBAM instrument. Separation of participant sentiments toward school administration or current policies along with the self-interests of participants was at the forefront of objectivity and focus on the research at hand. To avoid possible uncontrollable variations in observations, each observation was done in the same manner mentioned above. The following the statement in Brannigan and Swerman (2001), any inconsistencies present between research results and possible reverence of the Hawthorne 149 effect should be treated as independent and different types of knowledge, this provided the researcher with resolution for any possible challenges resulting from the Hawthorne effect itself. Observation number one. All participants were present for the first PLC collaboration meeting which began with TP-A providing each PLC team member with documentation on RtI. The following documentation relates researcher notes during the PLC collaboration meeting: TP- C: spoke about differentiated instruction and differentiated treatment of students TP-A: means of gathering information, always doing interventions TP-A: went through the tiers of RtI while others were looking through notes, handouts, and taking notes. There was captive attention. Gave direction on where to find information on district website. Went through different data to use as risk factors. Data pulled from various sources such as grades, discipline, and attendance records. TP-D and TP-F: both asked for data on students and mentioned that ISS (In school suspension) was also a risk factor. TP-C: stated that free and reduced lunch information was also important information TP-A: spoke about how RtI should go as far as school, administration should also be involved. TP-G: wanted to know how to address the students in the lowest 25% with RtI 150 TP-A: stated that a data team meets regularly getting data team to meet regularly to assess and reassess. TP-C: stated that some students in the lowest 25% are maybe not true lowest 25% due to a bad year or other factors. Can we find opportunities to move them out of the lowest 25%? TP-C: dropout / graduation rate many who never get out of middle school, she knows of some personally. TP-I: students in lowest 25% take longer to engage/ and often choose to shut down. TP-D: assign older athlete when kids get zeroes, peer mentoring also an option TP-A: peer mentoring can be very successful TP-C: next meeting time, date, and place. Will send FCAT data to all team members. Also will provide learning gain list for all eighth graders. TP-F: will get all FAIR data Observation number two. TP-A was absent from PLC Collaboration meeting number two. Participants chose different seating and TP-F opened the meeting with FAIR data from the lowest 25% FCAT reading students. The following documentation relates researcher notes during the PLC collaboration meeting: TP-I came in late Discussion about behavioral issues in class. Part of RtI is behavioral data, PC led the conversation 80% of the students are not making learning gains TP-D provided a handout TP-H asked what learning gains were and how this was measured 151 FCAT achievement levels changing TP-F shared information on FCAT levels and fair scores TP-C explained the changes in FCAT achievement levels related to FCAT 2.0 Comparison of scores between pre FCAT 2.0 and FCAT 2.0 was discussed Side bar conversations between TP-J and TP-I over FCAT scores TP-F tracking of lowest 25% from 2008 to 2012 Many students who were previously not in the lowest 25% dropped to lowest 25% in 2012 TP-J said many of her problems were behavioral related rather than academic TP-D mentors students who do not want to receive help due to behaviors TP-J students do not care about doing work and shared observational notes TP-B stated that students are lacking life and organizational skills TP-C stated that lowest 25% needed to be addressed with behavioral interventions TP-F set up next meeting Observation number three. TP-J was absent from PLC Collaboration meeting number three. The circle of student chairs was moved toward the back of the room for this meeting. There appeared to be no apparent reason, or motive, perhaps the change was due to an ongoing classroom activity. The following documentation relates researcher notes during the PLC collaboration meeting: TP-C: stated that each should take two students in lowest 25% to mentor. Students are at-risk and there are many behavioral issues among the lowest 25% 152 TP-I: stated that the collaboration and mutual accountability team has the same goals with mentoring TP-G: related to professional growth plan of the principal on mentoring TP-D: talked about one student in lowest 25% and his progress--he is more assured with his work TP-B and TP-H: shared information about another student and her progress in science and math TP-I: stated that the same student mentioned by TP-B and TP-H did not want to be in his science class TP-B: mentioned that RtI could provide some structure and management when used to address these types of issues TP-A: mentioned the need for a homeroom class to teach strategies for success such as organizational skills TP-C: mentioned a book titled surviving middle school TP-B: stated the Ruby Payne training incorporated the use of RtI for management skills and organizational skills TP-F: stated that behaviors were incorrectly channeled TP-D: conferences with students and parents is needed TP-I: made comments that some students do not want to excel TP-C: brought the discussion back to mentoring stating that there needs to be a focus TP-I: stated he will mentor and that he does reading comprehension in science TP-G: uses FCAT explorer for reading comprehension as part of homework 153 TP-D: uses comprehension lessons TP-E: will mentor her lowest 25% TP-A: mentoring is an informal way to get to know the students better and to help with achievement TP-G: suggested that each participant choose students to mentor As a breakdown of tallied instances of themes recorded by the researcher on the CBAM Table 5 displays a comparison of the three PLC meetings and the frequency of each of the theme descriptors during each meeting. Frequencies were recorded based on the number of instances when conversation relating to, or sharing of, any of the themes occurred within the PLC collaboration meetings. Table 5 Comparison of Themes from PLC Collaboration Meetings Based on Occurrences Observation PLC MEETING 1 PLC MEETING 2 PLC MEETING 3 CC= Collaboration and Collegiality DI= Datainformed instructional decisions RtI= Intervention strategies implemented KS= Knowledge sharing 28 25 9 48 R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum 13 43 22 17 50 9 32 19 9 41 21 The comparison among theme frequencies in each PLC meeting was based on frequency markers, specifically tallies, entered on the CBAM instrument by the researcher. The theme Collaboration and Collegiality (CC) had 43 instances among teacher participants in PLC meeting number 2, which was the highest frequency of the three meetings. The theme CC had 32 instances among teacher participants in PLC 154 meeting number 3, and 28 instances in PLC meeting number 2. The highest number of instances for the theme, Data-Informed Instructional Decisions (DI), occurred in PLC meeting number 1at 25 observed instances. PLC meeting 2 had 22-recorded instances and PLC meeting 3 had 19-recorded instances. The theme Intervention Strategies Implemented (RtI), occurred more frequently in PLC meeting number 2 with 17 instances. PLC meetings 1 and 3 had the same number of occurrences for RtI at 9 instances each. Knowledge Sharing (KS), theme occurred most frequently during PLC meeting number 2 with 50 instances. PLC meeting number 1 had 48 instances and PLC meeting number 3 had 41 instances. The theme Reading Instructional Practices and Integration Across the Curriculum (R) occurred more frequently in PLC meeting number 3 with 21 instances. PLC meeting number 1 had 13 instances of R and PLC meeting 2 had 9 instances of R. During the first observation, the teacher participants spent a substantial amount of time-sharing knowledge, listening, and observing each other. Collaboration and collegiality, data-informed instructional decisions, and reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum provided shared accountability with some demonstration of teacher learning. During observation number two, the PLC collaboration showed an increase in collaboration and collegiality, data-informed instructional decisions, and intervention strategies implemented. Reading instructional practices and knowledge sharing were apparent in the second meeting, but there was a decrease in these two themes. PLC Collaboration meeting number three showed a decrease in collaboration and collegiality from meeting two, but was equal to meeting one. Data-informed instructional 155 decisions decreased when compared with meetings one and two. Intervention strategies implemented was the same in meetings one and three. Knowledge sharing decreased when compared with meetings one and two. Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum occurred less frequently in meeting one but more than meeting two. Another point of analysis from PLC collaboration meetings derived from the observation of concerns based stages of collaboration. The researcher used the CBAM instrument seen in Appendix F to tally observed themes, as well as, stages of concern. Theme analysis occurred first and then stages of concern were analyzed based on observable occurrences. Stages of Concern revolved around the stages of experiences surrounding innovation. In this qualitative exploratory case study, the innovation was to establish PLC participation using interdisciplinary collaboration to implement RtI for the lowest 25% eighth grade students in reading. Stage 0 represents the stage of general awareness and information gathering, where Stage 6 represents collaboration among team members to work toward an end goal (Loucks, et al., 1976). In this study the purpose was to investigate the Danielson (2002) theory that when teachers learn students show growth in achievement through the construction of meaning among the teacher participants to use PLC collaboration in implementing RtI in all classes with the intent of increasing reading scores among the lowest 25% eighth grade students. Teacher learning occurred through PLC collaboration as the avenue to learn RtI implementation to increase student achievement in reading. The stages of concern relate to teacher learning developmental phases, which link to Danielson’s suggestion that middle school teachers work together in teams representing the core disciplines. Innovation in the development as a PLC 156 collaboration team to implement RtI played a role in teacher learning. Table 6 displays the results of concerns based stages of new experience, or innovation. Table 6 Comparison of Stages of Concern from PLC Collaboration Meetings Based on Frequencies Stages Of Concern 0-Observational stage and note taking 1- Sharing information through writing or verbal exchange 2- Connecting with team members on implementation of RtI within core content curriculum 3-Team discussions on implementation of RtI in core content areas, sharing of data, and integration of reading strands in all curriculum 4-Sharing student data and instructional practices with PLC team members 5-Collaborative data-informed decisionmaking on shared students and integrating reading across the curriculum 6-Willingness to assist team members with targeted instruction based on data-informed decisions in specific core content curriculum Observation #1 27 34 Observation #2 36 77 Observation #3 17 35 57 15 40 5 5 13 0 8 17 0 0 0 0 0 0 In PLC meeting, or researcher observation, number 1, teacher participants demonstrated 27 occurrences of Stage 0 concern with note taking and observational (watching) stage. Stage 1, which entailed sharing of information through written or verbal exchange, occurred 34 times as recorded by the researcher. Stage 2,connecting with team members on implementing RtI within core content curriculum occurred 57 times in PLC meeting number 1. Stage 3, team discussions on implementing RtI in core content areas, sharing data, and integrating reading in all core content curricula was observed 5 times in PLC meeting number 1. Stages 4-6 were not observed in PLC meeting number 1. In PLC meeting number 2, stage 1 was observed with 36 occurrences. Stage 1 was observed with 77 occurrences and stage 2 was observed with 15 occurrences. Stage 3 was 157 observed with 5 occurrences. Stage 4 among the teacher participants, sharing student data and instructional practices with PLC team members was observed with 8 occurrences. PLC meeting number 2 provided no observable occurrences of stages 5 and 6. Stage 4 was first observed among the teacher participants in PLC meeting number 2. Stage 3 was observed with the same instances in PLC meetings 1 and 2. Stage 0 was observed with 17 occurrences and stage 2 was observed with 35 occurrences in PLC meeting number 3. In PLC meeting number 3, stage 2 was observed with 40 occurrences and stage 3 was observed with 13 occurrences. Stage 4 was observed with 17 occurrences in PLC meeting number 3. PLC meeting number 3 provided no observable occurrences of stages 5 and 6. Stage 0 was observed more in PLC meeting number 2, with 9 more observable instances than PLC meeting 1 and 19 more observable instances than PLC meeting 3. Stage 1 was observed more in PLC meeting number 2, with 43 more observable instances than PLC meeting 1 and 42 more observable instances than PLC meeting 3. Stage 2 was observed more in PLC meeting 1, with 42 more observable instances than PLC meeting 2 and 17 more observable instances than PLC meeting 3. Stage 3 was observed the same number of instances in PLC meetings 1 and 2 with an increase of 8 more observable instances in PLC meeting 3. Stage 4 was observed more in PLC meeting 3, with 9 more observable instances than PLC meeting 2, and 17 more observable instances than PLC meeting 1. Stages 5 and 6 were not observed in any of the meetings. Teacher participants preferred the stages of observation and note taking, sharing information through writing or verbal exchange, connecting with team members on RtI implementation, and team discussions of RtI in core content areas throughout meetings 158 one and two. The trend was to stay within stages O through 2 in all meetings. Meeting 2 showed some sharing of student data and instructional practices, but meeting three was where most of stage 4 was observed. Perhaps stage 4 occurred more in meeting three due to an increase in familiarity among participants and an increase in comfort level concerning RtI implementation. Stage 1 appeared more in meeting two than meetings one and three. This level of concern possibly relates to the handout and the emergence of behavioral issues related to academic achievement linked to RtI. Stage 2 occurred as a concern more in meetings 1 and 3. Perhaps the mention of shared students and discussion of strategies within individual classrooms prompted the increase in these two meetings. Mentoring was a key topic in meeting 3, which brought students of concern to the forefront. Participant interviews. All participants were interviewed. The researcher allowed participants to choose the interview setting, time, and date. All participants chose to stay at the study site for the interviews. All but one chose their own classroom for the interview location. TP-C chose to hold the interview in a conference room located near the front office area. All participants were given a copy of the interview questions prior to the scheduled interview. The questions were the same for all participants. The researcher recorded each interview and took notes in a journal during the entire interview time. Following the interviews, the recordings were downloaded onto a password-protected computer at the researcher’s home. To ensure further protection of participant information, the recording files received a password known only to the researcher. A chart for each participant (TP) related the results from the interviews. The participant chart provided the interview questions and the condensed responses based on 159 key words for each question. Comparisons among participants allowed the researcher to look for the themes used in the modified CBAM (Collaboration and Collegiality, Datainformed instructional decisions, Intervention strategies implemented, Knowledge sharing , and Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum). The data from the participant charts was placed in Tables 9 - 13 for each theme. Table 7 displays the interview responses as related to interview questions with exception of questions 1 and 2, which ask for overall experience in education and current teaching position respectively. The responses displayed relate to teacher participant code, for example TP-A, TP-B, through TP-J for the ten teacher participants. Table 7 Interview Questions and Responses Related to Themes Interview Question CC= Collaboration and Collegiality DI= Datainformed instructional decisions RtI= Intervention strategies implemented KS= Knowledge sharing 4: Describe your previous experience with RtI. 6: What criteria do you use to assess reading achievement? TP-A, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F TP-G, TP-I, TP-J TP-J TP-C, TPD, TP-F, TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-G, TP-I, TP-J 8: Is there a member of your PLC team with expertise in RtI? 3: Describe your experience with PLC teams and collaboration. 5: How are RtI strategies for reading integrated in you subject area? 13: How do you align RtI with FCAT reading strands? TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-G TP-G TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-C,TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-C, TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-J R= Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum TP-I TP-B, TP-D, TP-E, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-A, TPC, TP-D, TP-J TP-F, TPG, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-G, TPH TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-J 160 7: How do you know if RtI strategies are implemented effectively? 12: Do you align RtI with FCAT reading strands? 9: How will you know if students are becoming better readers? 10: Are there elements in your curriculum that you can eliminate or curtail to provide greater emphasis on reading strategies? 14: Has PLC collaboration and team data analysis helped you learn RtI integration within your subject area? 11: How do you use PLC team established SMART goals to implement RtI? TP-A, TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-C, TP-E, TP-J TP-J TP-B, TP-D, TP-E, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-A, TPB,TP-C, TPD, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TP-C. TP-D, TP-E, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-A, TPG, TP-D, TP-E, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-A, TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-A, TP-B, TP-C, TP-D, TP-F, TP-G, TP-H, TP-I, TP-J TP-B, TPC,TP-I TP-E TP-I TP-A, TPB, TP-C, TP-D. TPF, TP-G, TP-H, TPI, TP-J TP-G TP-I Participant responses to interview questions 4, 8, 3, 13 and 14 related some importance to theme CC with question 14 relating to all but one of the participant with regard to importance, or significance related to collaboration and collegiality. Teacher participants A, C, D, and F found collaboration and collegiality related to their experiences with RtI. Teacher participants B, C, D, F, G, H, I, and J related collaboration and collegiality as positive components in their experience with PLC teams and collaboration. Interview questions 4, 6, 3, 5, 13, 7, 12, 9, 14, and 11 derived importance to the teacher participants in the theme DI. Of the above questions, questions 4, 3, and 11 did 161 not receive an indication of relation to the question, or an indication of significance by more than 5 of the teacher participants. Data-informed instructional decisions related to the overall RtI, PLC, and reading assessment as seen by responses. Implementation of intervention strategies, or RtI, related to questions 4, 6, 3, 5, 13, 7, 12, 9, 14, and 11. Teacher participant responses linked to RtI were more prevalent with questions 5, 13, 12, and 9. Prevalence occurred as more than five participants found significance with RtI in their responses to these questions. Knowledge sharing, or KS, related to questions 4, 8, 3, 13, 9, and 14. Five or more Teacher participant responses linked the KS as significant for questions 3 and 14. Based on responses, questions 4 and 8 provided links to KS from four participants, while questions 13 and 9 provided links to KS from two participants. Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum, or R, related to questions 4, 6, 5, 13, 7, 12, 9, 10, 14, and 11 based on participant responses. Questions 4, 13, 7, 14, and 11 had one teacher response with an indication of significance; questions 4, 13, 7, and 11 were related to the same teacher participant. The remaining questions, which elicited responses pertaining to R, were from five or more teacher participants. Additionally through the interview process, the researcher was able to understand better the individual experiences of each participant. This understanding of individual experiences occurred through the in-depth responses given to the interview questions as well as the opportunity for the researcher to observe nonverbal cues during the time of each interview. As mentioned in Al-Yateem (2012), qualitative interviews provide the researcher the supposition of accuracy regarding participant experiences. Each participant was asked to state their name, age, number of years teaching, or number of years in 162 education, and degree type as shown in Table 5 with the exception of participant names. The degree type related to Bachelor Degree or Master Degree for all participants. Statements 1 and 2 provided some background to questions three through fourteen. TP-A interview. TP-A was interviewed in her office. There were no interruptions. The interview lasted eighteen minutes and forty-eight seconds. TP-A was very thoughtful throughout the interview, taking time to answer each question with careful consideration. Often leaning toward the researcher while answering questions, this seemed to suggest a desire to comprehend fully each question. Questions three, six, seven, ten, twelve, and fourteen were not applicable to TP-A based on the role of guidance counselor. These questions related to classroom teachers and provided no relevance for TP-A. TP-A believes that collaboration is a key component to learning RtI and successful implementation. There is a need to continue with the PLC Collaborative group implemented from of this study as stated by TP-A. TP-A believes student achievement will increase over time with continued meetings and growth in RtI. TP-B interview. TP-B was interviewed in a Science classroom after school. There were no interruptions during the interview. The interview lasted twenty-one minutes and fourteen seconds. TP-B answered all questions with thoughtful responses and was often quiet prior to answering. This seemed to suggest careful consideration of the question and reflection on how to respond. Very open and willing to share, TP-B seemed happy to be part of a research study. TP-B was not aware of anyone with RtI expertise within the PLC Collaborative team of eighth grade teachers. TP-B was also unsure of SMART goals and expressed not 163 knowing what that meant. TP-B expressed desire to continue with PLC Collaboration and RtI implementation and indicated that RtI could be beneficial to struggling students. TP-C interview. The interview for TP-C took place in the front office conference room. The interview lasted ten minutes and forty seconds. There were several interruptions as people passed through the room. A door connecting the media center with the conference room provides a short cut to the front office. TP-C ignored the distractions. The interruptions totaled three. TP-C was very open and happy to participate in the interview. TP-C does have experience in RtI and is gathering experience with PLC collaboration within an educational setting. Prior to choosing a profession in education, TP-C was a corporate employee within banking. According to TP-C, PLC collaboration practiced routinely within the corporate world was the arena where she learned much of the experience for collaboration and sharing data. TP-C stated that SMART goals had yet to be established but had hopes that the PLC collaborative research study group would continue. TP-D interview. The interview for TP-D took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted thirteen minutes and twenty seconds. TP-D remained serious and thoughtful for the duration of the interview, often sighing. TP-D appeared open to the interview and willing to assist the researcher with the study. There were two interruptions with students coming into the classroom to work, but TP-D made them understand not to disturb quickly and quietly. The amount of paperwork required in the study site school district and the State of Florida seemed to distress TP-D. She did seem interested to continue the learning process 164 on RtI and mentioned that there was value to using interventions in all areas. There was discussion on the three tiers of RtI after the interview was complete and TP-D realized that she understood RtI more than she thought initially. TP-E interview. The interview for TP-E took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds. TP-E looked down throughout the interview and kept pulling at her fingers. It seemed that TP-E was unsure of herself and her answers. Perhaps this behavior relates to being a young teacher with only two and one half years of experience. The phone rang while the interview was in process and TP-E seemed unsure as to what to do. Eventually TP-E decided not to answer the telephone. TP-E mentioned that finding mentor teachers had been difficult based on the movement from various teams. This participant has been on several teams of teachers and has not experienced true collaboration as a result. TP-E stated the desired to continue with the PLC collaboration team of teachers established for the study. Learning RtI was an area of struggle for TP-E because she has very little background; but TP-E would like to learn to integrate RtI strategies in her math and technology courses. TP-F interview. The interview for TP-F took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted 17 minutes and 55 seconds. TP-F offered the researcher candy at the onset. To maintain an atmosphere of scholarly research, the researcher declined politely. TP-F seemed excited to be a part of the study and eager to provide answers. TP-F seemed to have knowledge of RtI and implementation of strategies to increase learning gains in reading. The participant attended RtI training at the study site during the spring of 2012. TP-F stated differentiation and data-informed instructional 165 decisions integrate on a consistent basis in her classes. The idea of continuing the PLC collaboration team established for the study centered on targeting life and organizational skills for students. TP-G interview. The interview for TP-G took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted fourteen minutes and thirty-nine seconds. TP-G appeared relaxed, but overwhelmed by paperwork when the researcher entered the classroom. TP-G did state that he was happy to help and would like to conduct the interview. TP-G spent six years teaching in a State of Florida prison for juvenile offenders prior to the present school district. TP-G stated that he loves teaching and learning new strategies. The hope for changes in the Florida Department of Education protocols regarding pay ranked high as a concern for TP-G. This participant voiced concerns over lack of funding overall for education. The idea of teachers learning from each other in PLC collaboration seemed important to TP-G. TP-G spends time analyzing student data and working on behavioral strategies to assist student achievement. TP-H interview. The interview for TP-H took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted eleven minutes and forty-one seconds. The researcher had to wait approximately five minutes for TP-H to arrive. Once TP-H arrived, the researcher and participant went into the classroom. TP-H appeared excited to participate in the interview but apprehensive based on lack of overall teaching experience. TP-H is a young teacher with two years of teaching experience. TP-H stressed a great love for her chosen profession but a dislike for paperwork involved in teaching. TP-H voiced concern over having no experience with RtI, but seemed open to learning more through the PLC collaborative group formed for the study. TP-H seemed 166 convinced that RtI strategies to improve reading comprehension could apply to word problems in math. The use of highlighters to find key words within word problems is a strategy applied for RtI in the participant’s classes. TP-H stated the alignment of FCAT and common core curriculum within math which indicated that the participant felt this needed nothing more in terms of instructional or intervention planning. TP-I interview. The interview for TP-I was conducted in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted twenty-two minutes and ten seconds. TP-I seemed happy to participate in the interview and confident in all of his answers. TP-I seemed to enjoy the interview process and had an answer for every question except the question relating to a PLC member with RtI expertise. TP-I is a young, first year teacher and does not yet know too many of the faculty members at the study site. The participant displayed energy and excitement for teaching and voiced content with the ever changing and evolving profession of education. TP-I stated that opportunities for collaboration were present while at the university, but PLC collaboration is something new to him. TP-I voiced a desire to continue to collaborate and address student issues. According to TP-I RtI as a method for intervention, while discussed frequently at the university, has been an area lacking experience in implementation. The use of RtI for behavioral issues is a big interest for TP-I. TP-J interview. The interview for TP-J took place in the participant’s classroom. The interview lasted sixteen minutes and forty-four seconds. TP-J appeared helpful and excited to participate in the study interview. TP-J was relaxed but determined in her responses throughout the interview. 167 TP-J stated that teaching was a good experience and there was joy in teaching. TP-J stated concerns for lack of parent support and too many meetings. PLC team meetings provide benefit to discussing students with academic and behavioral concerns, but the number of meetings is not necessary. TP-J voiced concern over spending time in meetings rather than addressing paperwork. TP-J stated that students continue to have to same problems and nothing changes. RtI to address behavioral issues, or discipline problems, brought no change. The problems remain the same, but no improvement may mean RtI is not the answer. SMART goals do not exist yet and the area in math that can target reading comprehension is word problems. All math curriculums are state driven and nothing can change; but reading intertwines throughout the content area. Collaboration, knowledge sharing, and data-informed instructional decisionmaking resulting from PLC participation added value to the participants. There was a desire to continue participation in PLC collaborative meetings to address the needs of eighth grade students in the lowest 25%. The consensus was that the lowest 25% in reading also represented students with either behavioral or organizational deficiencies. As a result, additional uses of RtI emerged. The emergent themes surfacing from the teacher participants because of the interviews centered on using RtI as methodology to addressing discipline issues, organizational issues, and concerns with lack of student performance. These emergent themes seemed to form two distinct themes: Behavioral which entails RtI applied to discipline, or behavioral concerns, and Organizational Skills, which entails RtI applied to lack of organizational skills linked to lack of performance, or possibly student responsibility to completing assignments. Participants related the use of RtI to address 168 these themes, which would have an overall, lasting positive effect on reading achievement. Participant journals. Participants were given journals to record personal experiences related to PLC team collaboration, data-informed decision-making, learning to implement RtI related to the subject area taught, and student achievement concerns. Most journals were collected at the time of the interview; however, four participants requested an additional day because they wanted to add more related to their experiences. For the purpose of analysis participant journal experiences were organized by PLC collaboration themes used on the CBAM, experiences with RtI, and emergence of new themes. Related experiences from the journals seem to indicate that the use of collaboration and data-informed decision-making relates to learning RtI and student achievement. Differentiated instruction not only links to academic performance but to behavioral performance as found in participant journals. The journals uncovered further emergences of behavioral concerns linked to low academic performance on FCAT, FAIR, Intensive Reading, and classroom assessments. In the case of several participants but also used for behavioral concerns along with organizational and management concerns. Table 8 displays each of the teacher participant journal entries as related to each of the predetermined themes. 169 Table 8 Participant Journal Entries Related to Themes Teacher Participant TP-A TP-B TP-C TP-D TP-E TP-F TP-G TP-H TP-I TP-J CC= Collaboration and Collegiality X X DI= DataInformed Instructional Decisions X X X X X X X X RtI= Intervention Strategies X X X X X X X X KS= Knowledge Sharing X X X X X X X R=Reading Instructional Practices and Integration Across the Curriculum X X X X X X X X X Five out of the ten teacher participants did mention collaboration and collegiality in journal entries. Four out of the ten participants related to data-informed instructional decisions while seven out of the ten provided references to the use of intervention strategies. Nine out of the ten participants had journal entries relating to knowledge sharing, or importance of knowledge sharing related to student achievement. Seven out of ten of the participants had entries, which related to reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Journal entries for teacher participants B, C, F, G, I, and J related to the use of RtI for behavior modification and organizational skills linked to turning in assignments and completion of classwork. Organizational and planning strategies along with relationship building garnered through targeted RtI strategies was a concern for TP-I. The reflection posed was to use RtI to find ways to address issues of organization and planning and does it related to improved grades and FCAT scores. TP-J related to the use of data, which showed a decrease in levels on FCAT where behavioral issues had increased. 170 Results Results were broken down by the predetermined and emergent themes. A table for each theme provides a display of data obtained from PLC observations, participant interview responses, and participant journal entries. Descriptions of each table provide the relationship of the data with regard to the research questions. Both research questions were addressed with all data collection and data analysis. Research question 1 (RQ1). How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students defined RQ1. This question was examined through researcher observations, researcher journal, participant journals, and interviews. To answer this question analysis of results from observations, participant journals, and interviews based on frequency occurrences as related to each theme. Each theme then tied to the research questions based on the relationship to collaboration and teacher learning and student achievement. Research question 2 (RQ2). How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn defined RQ2. This question was examined through researcher observations, researcher journal, participant journals, and interviews. To answer this question analysis of results from observations, participant journals, and interviews based on frequency occurrences as related to each theme. Each theme then tied to the research questions based on the relationship to collaboration and teacher learning implementation of RtI. For this study, research question two relied more on interview questions and journal entries due to the personal experiences related through the interview process and the journal entries. 171 Theme: Collaboration and collegiality. According to journal entries of the participants, collaboration and collegiality are critical to RtI and addressing the needs of students in the lowest 25% in FCAT Reading. Occurrences of collaboration and collegiality increased by fifteen occurrences between PLC meeting number one and PLC meeting number two. There was a decrease of nine occurrences between PLC meeting number two and PLC meeting number three; however, there was an increase from PLC meeting number one when related to the following PLC meetings. Interview data related to collaboration and collegiality appears to stress the importance of collaboration and collegiality when learning RtI and discussing student data and instructional strategies. Table 9 provides a snapshot of the occurrences of Collaboration and Collegiality from all three qualitative data collection instruments. 172 Table 9 Collaboration and Collegiality Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument CBAM: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: Collaboration and Collegiality PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: 28 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: 43 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: 32 observed occurrences TP-A: “Collaboration is a key to success for RtI” TP-B: “PLC collaboration is helpful . . . see the value in RtI for eighth grade . . .” TP-D: “. . . like the idea of PLC collaboration . . .” TP-G: “. . . learning how to analyze data, new strategies . . .” and “. . . reading and PLC collaboration integrates across the disciplines.” TP-H: “… sharing strategies and techniques …” TP-I: “PLC collaboration allows discussion of student issues.” TP-J: “RtI is discussed routinely because the team received training.” and “PLC teams are beneficial to discussing students’ academic and behavioral problems . . .” TP-B: “Collaboration provides a more accurate picture of the whole student and RtI may benefit all students in all courses.” and “Collaboration should be long term to help teachers learn and students achieve.” TP-C: “good team in place with teachers willing to work with lowest 25% and implement RtI strategies for impact on student learning gains.” TP-E: “need to work with PLC collaborative team to learn how to implement RtI and provide material that is centered on strategies ” TP-F: “focus group for RtI is a good idea” TP-J: “implement RtI focus of PLC collaborative group” As seen in Table 9, collaboration and collegiality related to RQ1 indicates a desire to participate in PLCs and collaborate with colleagues through observed occurrences of collaboration and collegiality, as well as, participant interview responses related to collaboration and collegiality. All PLC observations indicated collaboration and collegiality among participants. Journal entries support the desire to collaborate in PLCs to improve student achievement. Participant construction of meaning in PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students derives from a collective desire to collaborate long term. TP-B journal entries: “collaboration provides a more accurate picture of the whole student and RtI may benefit all students in all courses” and “collaboration should be long term to help teachers learn and students 173 achieve,” TP-B responses mirror TP-G interview responses to question number 3 and question number 14 with the following excerpts: “. . . learning how to analyze data, new strategies. . . ” and “. . . reading and PLC collaboration integrates across the disciplines.” As seen in Table 9, collaboration and collegiality related to RQ2 indicates collaboration and collegiality as factors to teacher learning. As previously mentioned, observation of collaboration and collegiality was present in all PLC meetings. Participants provided the following within journal entries related to collaboration and collegiality as part of teacher learning: TP-B: “collaboration provides a more accurate picture of the whole student and RtI may benefit all students in all courses” and “collaboration should be long term to help teachers learn and students achieve” TP-C: “good team in place with teachers willing to work with lowest 25% and implement RtI strategies for impact on student learning gains” TP-E: “need to work with PLC collaborative team to learn how to implement RtI and provide material that is centered on strategies” TP-F: “focus group for RtI is a good idea” TP-J: “implement RtI focus of PLC collaborative group” All of the interview questions provided significance to RQ1 through the individual responses and the relation to personal experience with PLC participation and collaboration related to implementation of RtI to improve reading scores among the lowest 25%. Significant overall responses to questions 3, 8, and 11 related to a desire to continue with PLC collaboration and the importance of working as a team to analyze data and target areas of learning deficiencies among shared students provided positive 174 indications that PLC participation and collaboration is meaningful and worthwhile. TP-J in response to question three stated, “. . . PLC teams are beneficial to discussing student with academic and behavioral problems.” Question 8 related to expertise among PLC members. Four of the participants stated that TP-C and TP-A were the experts, while the remaining six felt that at this point no one was an expert but that time and continuation of the PLC collaboration would help. Question 11 indicated a strong desire among all ten participants to continue with PLC participation and collaboration post study. The use of PLC participation and collaboration to implement SMART goals for RtI for behavioral and organizational needs remained a concern for TP-I. TP-I stated, “Time bound is essential to getting anything done . . . success is critical to time bound, and . . . ability in reading is limited with behavior . . .” The other 9 participants stated the importance of SMART goals, but felt that none had been established at the time of the interviews. Overall responses related to collaboration and collegiality is provided in Table 9. With the exception of teacher participants C, E, and F, all participants provided some response related to collaboration and collegiality as significant in the interviews. Overall, collaboration and collegiality provided an important component to PLC participation and RtI implementation. Interview question 14 as seen in Appendix E, directly related to RQ2. All participants related the importance of collaboration to teacher learning. TP-G summed the importance of PLC collaboration related to teacher learning with the response, “PLC collaboration and team data analysis helped with RtI integration for all disciplines . . . strategies are shared among teachers and struggling students are identified . . .” TP-I also 175 mirrored this response with an addition related to the usefulness of collaboration in lesson planning and identification of problems. Theme: Data-informed instructional decisions. As seen in Table 10, datainformed instructional decisions are integral with targeted, differentiated instruction according to the journal entries, interview questions, and PLC observations. PLC collaboration meeting number two showed the highest rate in data-informed instructional decisions occurrences. Data-informed instructional decisions found significance to teachers with regard to RtI and the differentiation of instruction based on the interventions used to increase student achievement. Use of prior test data, along with data from standardized state assessments such as FCAT and FAIR provided teachers with the ability to differentiate instruction based on individual needs. FCAT and FAIR data related to student success in reading and provided teachers with data for RtI strategies. Table 10 provides a snapshot of the occurrences of data-informed instructional decisions from all three qualitative data collection instruments. Table 10 Data-informed Instructional Decisions Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument CBAM: Observations Participant Interviews Theme: Data-Informed Instructional Decisions PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: 25 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: 42 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: 19 observed occurrences TP-A: “Using student success to make decisions…” TP-B: “. . . vocabulary exercises, QNotes, and outlining. . . ” TP-D: “FAIR data, FCAT data, and common core. . .” TP-E: “. . . positive gains in academic and behavioral performance . . . ” TP-F: “. . . differentiated reading instruction based on student needs. . . ” and “. . . growth in FAIR and FCAT scores. . . ” TP-G: “. . . teachers learning to analyze data . . . new strategies . . .” TP-H: “. . . differentiated instruction and incorporating technology with RtI . . . ” and “. . . focus on research projects, summative and formative assessments . . . ” TP-I: “. . . using prior test data and implement RtI in areas of weakness . . . ” and “…higher test scores to gage success . . .” TP-J: “. . . academic and behavioral improvements . . . ” 176 Participant Journals TP-B: “differentiated instruction and differentiated treatment of students”and “RtI allows differentiated instruction for students”, and “identify lowest 25 % and track risk factors for each” TP-D: “FCAT and FAIR data compared: informational text is an issue” TP-F: “differentiated instruction is continual and addressed according to student needs” and “data collection is important for understanding lowest 25% and RtI” TP-G: “monitor and repair for reading strategies and RtI targeting the lowest 25% “, “80% of all seventh and eighth graders did not make learning gains according to FCAT reading scores”, and “lowest 25% dropped at least one level over the course of the last four years” Table 10 displays the overall findings related to data-informed decision-making and the meaning found among the teacher participants. Data-informed decision-making was present in all PLC meetings. Meeting two was more active with data-informed decision-making due to explanations provided by TP-C regarding changes in FCAT and comparisons of scores among students. Tracking of reading achievement levels in the lowest 25% student population was shared through data collected by TP-F. Data related to behavior problems was mentioned by TP-J and TP-B. TP-D related the possible use of mentors to assist students with behavioral issues, which prevents increased reading achievement. RtI used for behavioral and organizational issues became the focal point. Theme: Intervention strategies implemented. Intervention strategies occurred by teacher participants as related in the participant journals, interviews, and PLC meeting observations. PLC meeting observations showed the same number of references to intervention strategy implementation in meetings one and three. Meeting number two showed an increase of eight from meetings one and three. The use of differentiated instruction as part of RtI appeared as a trend among the teacher participants. Focus on reading activities based on student readiness, or student needs, appeared to surface among multiple teacher participants. Table 11 displays a snapshot of the occurrences of Intervention strategies implemented from all three qualitative data collection instruments. 177 Table 11 Intervention Strategies Implemented Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument CBAM: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: Intervention Strategies Implemented PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: 9 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: 17 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: 9 observed occurrences TP-B: “. . . vocabulary exercises, QNotes, and outlining. . . ” TP-C: “. . . interventions used in everything from academics to behavior . . .” TP-D: “FAIR data, FCAT data, and common core. . .” TP-E: “positive gains in academic and behavioral performance…” and “. . . informational text use . . .” TP-F: “. . . differentiated reading instruction based on student needs . . .” “. . . growth in FAIR and FCAT scores . . .” and “. . . aligning RtI with FCAT reading strands . . .” TP-G: “. . . highlighting techniques incorporated with word problems and focus on RtI for mastery in reading . . .” TP-H: “. . . differentiated instruction and incorporating technology with RtI . . .” and “. . . focus on research projects, summative and formative assessments . . .” TP-I: “. . . portions of text and enrichment activities to link to informational text and FCAT . . .” TP-J: “. . . word problems, vocabulary, and other activities to transition and intervene for student growth . . .” and “. . . success of students receiving RtI through modified interventions . . .” TP-D: “should create informational text articles for background stories to relate with curriculum” and “using guided reading as RtI strategy” TP-E: “working with students in math and reading and trying to make sense of how to implement RtI” TP-F: “reading silently alternated with guided, oral reading for strategies and checks for fluency”, “highly focused reading activities for focus on FCAT reading strands target skills in a focused method”, and “RtI implemented for behavioral modifications” TP-G: “monitor and repair for reading strategies and RtI targeting the lowest 25%” TP-H: “highlighting techniques for RtI reading strategies”, “read once, find comparisons, use two colors of highlighters”, and “many students will skip over details in reading, so highlighters call attention to this detail.” TP-I: “organizational and planning strategies equals RtI implementation occurring in classroom” and “another RtI implementation occurring is the building of relationships with these students” TP-J: “RtI has been instituted in classrooms with shared lowest 25% but behavior is still an issue” Table 11 indicates an increase in intervention strategies implemented in PLC meeting two. Strategies for those not making learning gains was a discussion point because TP-C stated that 80% of the lowest 25% had not made learning gains in reading 178 as shown by FCAT and FAIR data. TP-D provided a handout of strategies to implement for students in the lowest 25%. Interview questions five and seven related to the implementation of RtI strategies or the integration of RtI strategies. In response to interview question five, TP-G provided insight on the use of document-based questions (DBQs) to integrated reading strategies in social studies curriculum. In response to interview question seven, TP-F stated the use of data from FAIR to assess the implementation of RtI strategies and the overall effectiveness of each intervention. Theme: Knowledge sharing. Sharing data and knowledge on RtI appeared to find importance to the following participants as noted in the journal entries, interviews, and PLC meetings. Knowledge sharing was present in all three PLC meetings with PLC meeting number two showing the highest number of occurrences. The difference in knowledge sharing between meeting one and meeting three was seven occurrences and between meeting two and three, the difference was nine occurrences. Between meetings one and two, the difference was two. Sharing knowledge related to instructional techniques and strategies seemed important to teacher participants. Knowledge sharing among teachers appeared to provide support in raising student achievement among the lowest 25%. Table 12 provides a snapshot of the occurrences of Knowledge sharing from all three qualitative data collection instruments. 179 Table 12 Knowledge Sharing Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument CBAM: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: Knowledge Sharing PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: 48 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: 50 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: 41 observed occurrences TP-A: “. . . continuation with PLC meetings important to success with RtI . . .” TP-B: “. . . PLC team meetings a big help with RtI . . .” TP-C: “. . . knowledge in RtI . . . ” and “. . . would like to obtain more tools and knowledge . . .” TP-D: “. . . TP-C and TP-A sharing knowledge on RtI . . .” TP-F: “. . . enjoying team sharing among 8th grade teachers . . .” and “sharing life skills and organizational skills for students to be successful . . .” TP-G: “. . . learning to analyze data . . .” and “. . . reading integrates across curriculum . . .” TP-H: “. . . sharing techniques and strategies . . .” and “using RtI related to reading in Math…” TP-J: “. . . RtI discussed routinely based on team training . . .” TP-A: “mention of reference informational strand in FCAT reading for focus in all curriculum areas” and “list of lowest 25% --eighth grade students” TP-B: “RtI presentation from TP-A: district website with multi-tiered system of support”, “rehab and how RtI applied there”, “explanation of learning gain for FCAT explained as 11 point gain but need more clarification and information”, “ share with PLC group a book by Ruby Payne Research Based Strategies: Narrowing the Achievement Gap for Under-Resourced Students”, and “planning, predicting, cause and effect, consequences, impulsivity, inclination toward criminal behavior from a neurological study” TP-C: “behavior of students often dictated by the way teacher treats students” and “many students fail due to poor classroom management and RtI can help with this” TP-D: “learning about RtI and how to implement” and “mentoring as RtI strategy for lowest 25%” TP-E: “initially had no idea for RtI and now understand that an individual education plan or a behavior plan is not necessarily equated to RtI” and “RtI is not just raising test scores but much more” TP-F: “graphic comparison of FCAT reading achievement levels for lowest 25% over the past four years provided to PLC collaborative group” TP-G: “80% of all seventh and eighth graders did not make learning gains according to FCAT reading scores”, “lowest 25% dropped at least one level over the course of the last four years”, “perhaps a bad test day or deliberate sabotage of the test”, and “mentoring could be a good strategy and good way to apply RtI for lowest 25%” TP-I: “address students with academic issues and find ways to improve rate of success with these students” TP-J: “behavior issues and students not making learning gains”, “learning gains equates to points from FCAT reading”, “reading scores of lowest 25% presented and students in eighth grade a concern”, “behavior more of a problem and RtI may focus there”, “following rules and consistency in all classrooms with rules”, and “ rigid discipline ladder to address behavior” 180 As seen in Table 12, knowledge sharing appears as a meaningful tool for RtI success and PLC participation and collaboration, which related to RQ1. Knowledge sharing provided meaning to PLC participation and collaboration for RtI implementation to increase reading scores as indicated by TP-F: “. . . enjoying team sharing among 8th grade teachers . . .” and “sharing life skills and organizational skills for students to be successful . . .” in response to experience with PLC teams and collaboration. Knowledge sharing related to RQ2 as indicated by responses generated from interview question 14, see Appendix E, from TP-G: “. . . learning to analyze data..” and “. . . reading integrates across curriculum . . .” and TP-H: “. . . sharing techniques and strategies . . .” and “using RtI related to reading in Math . . .”. Theme: Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum. Several participants seemed to relate to learning how to integrate reading with their curriculum, which was significant to the differentiated strategies employed by teachers and the delivery method conducive to the content area. The willingness to learn appeared to be present in journal entries among those who mentioned integration and learning to target reading. Also present was the use of reading strategies across curriculum. Teacher participants appeared to relate reading to the subject area taught as seen in excerpts from participant interviews and journal entries. PLC meeting number three showed the highest number of occurrences in reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum at twenty-one versus thirteen in PLC meeting number one and nine in PLC meeting number two. Table 13 provides a snapshot of the occurrences of Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum from all three qualitative data collection instruments. 181 Table 13 Reading Instructional Practices and Integration Across the Curriculum Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument CBAM: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: Reading Instructional Practices and Integration across the Curriculum PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: 13 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: 9 observed occurrences PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: 21 observed occurrences TP-B: “. . . note taking on what is heard and seen from a short video clip . . .”, “outlining and note taking. . .”, “radio reading and 15 minute rule…” and “focus on vocabulary” TP-C: “. . . progress monitoring of achievement TP-D: “Reader responses and Socratic discussions . . .”, “. . . aligning FCAT, FAIR, and common core . . .” TP-E: Vocabulary and reading achievement through word problems . . .” and “. . . informational text activities . . .” TP-F: “. . . increasing levels of engagement and addressing anxieties students may have toward reading . . .” TP-G: “. . . deciphering key points and word problems . . .” and “. . . using alignments present with reading strands and curriculum . . .” TP-I: “. . . emphasize reading comprehension in Science . . .” and “. . . use time bound goals and focus on a specified time table to accomplish reading goals . . .” TP-J: “. . . transference from word problem to equation . . .” and “. . . use aligned FCAT with RtI in reading and math . . .” TP-A: “mention of reference informational strand in FCAT reading for focus in all curriculum areas” TP-B: “need a combination of reading and management strategies with RtI TP-D: “should create informational text articles for background stories to relate with curriculum” and “does RtI relate to general reading interventions” TP-E: “working with students in math and reading and trying to make sense of how to implement RtI” TP-F: “reading silently alternated with guided, oral reading for strategies and checks for fluency” and “highly focused reading activities for focus on FCAT reading strands target skills in a focused method” TP-G: “monitor and repair for reading strategies and RtI targeting the lowest 25% “ TP-H: “highlighting techniques for RtI reading strategies”, “read once, find comparisons, use two colors of highlighters”, and “many students will skip over details in reading, so highlighters call attention to this detail” Table 13 displays overall significance related to reading instruction and integration across the curriculum. Journal entries for all participants with the exception of TP-C and TP-I related to some use of reading instruction, or integration, in all subject areas. The importance of reading instruction was related to Math and Science success as seen by TP-B, TP-E, TP-G, TP-H and TP-I responses to interview questions six and 10. 182 According to the qualitative data there seemed to be some connection concerning teachers learning RtI through collaboration for teacher learning and student achievement. This likely related to movement from Stage 0-Observational stage and note taking to Stage 4-Sharing student data and instructional practices with PLC team members as seen in Figure 1. Stage 0 represents the stage of general awareness and information gathering, where Stage 6 represents collaboration among team members to work toward an end goal (Loucks et al., 1976). Movement from Stage 0 to Stage 4 increased by 25 occurrences from Observation number one to Observation number three as participants began to share data and instructional practices. Observation number three showed a trend of increased sharing of student data and instructional practices where the teacher participants seemed more willing to openness with instructional practices and student achievement within content areas. Stages 5 and 6 were not observed. Stages of Concerns Among Observations 1-3 and Number of Occurences from Zero to One Hundred STAGE 6 STAGE 5 STAGE 4 OBSERVATION #3 OBSERVATION #2 OBSERVATION #1 STAGE 3 STAGE 2 STAGE 1 STAGE 0 0 20 40 60 80 100 Figure 1. Occurrences of Stages of Concerns for Observations 1-3. 183 Figure 2 displays the occurrences of the themes as related to the PLC collaboration meetings. The connections may be seen through the overall increase in occurrences related to collaboration and collegiality, data-informed instructional decisions, intervention strategies implemented, knowledge sharing, and reading instructional practices and integration. The increases in most of the themes occurred as linked to observations two and three. Meeting two showed higher instances of Collaboration and Collegiality, RtI Intervention Strategies Implemented, and Knowledge Sharing than meetings one and three. Meeting one showed higher instances of DataInformed Instructional Decisions than meetings two and three. Meeting three showed higher instances of Reading Instructional Practices and Integration than meetings one and two. 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 NUMBER 1 NUMBER 2 NUMBER 3 Figure 2. Frequency Occurrences of Themes from PLC Meetings. Emerging themes. The themes emerging from the PLC observations, interview questions, and journal entries were the use of RtI to address targeted behavioral issues and organizational and study habits first rather than use of RtI for increasing reading 184 scores. Emergence of RtI used for organizational and behavioral modification to increase reading scores appeared in observations, interviews, and journal entries among the teacher participants. This was different from the predetermined study themes because reading was not the primary RtI target for the participants; reading targets were deemed secondary. The study participants placed behavioral issues and organizational and study habits as primary targets for RtI. Participants B, C, E, I , and J related the need to modify behavior among the students in the lowest 25% as a means to increasing student achievement in reading. In response to interview question number six, TP-B responded, “The only measure is time management organization,” with regard to knowing if RtI strategies are implemented effectively. Improvements in behavior were present in the responses of TP-C, TP-E, and TP-J to the same question. Based on this research, targeting behaviors through use of RtI to change disruptive or destructive behavior presented new information and points of collaboration and knowledge sharing to the PLC team in raising reading scores. Targeting organizational and management skills dominated the emergence of RtI for behavior modification as a foundation toward increased student achievement in reading. The trend relating to RtI for behavioral modification allowed participants to discuss classroom management techniques in addition to instructional strategies for reading. 185 Table 14 RtI for Disruptive or Destructive Behavior Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument Researcher Journal: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: RtI for Disruptive or Destructive Behavior PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: First mention of In School Suspension as a risk factor for academic achievement, students shutting down and displaying disruptive behavior due to low academic achievement (TP-A, TP-F, TP-G, TP-C) PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: Behavioral issues and RtI use of behavioral data (TP-C); Many problems with the lowest 25% are not academic but behavioral (TPJ, TP-C, TP-B); Mentoring and applying RtI strategies to behavior are needed first for lowest 25% (TP-D, TP-J) PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: Mentoring as RtI strategy for behavioral issues among the lowest 25% (TP-C, TP-I, TP-B, TP-H); Channeling disruptive and destructive behaviors using RtI (TP-F); Parent involvement for behavioral issues needed as part of RtI (TP-I, TP-D) TP-G: “. . . teachers need to learn strategies to target behavioral issues” and “positive reinforcement needed for change in behavior” TP-I: “. . . address student issues with all teachers . . .”, “. . . learning new techniques for addressing behavior . . .”, and “ time bound is essential to the ability to limit problems with behavior” TP-J: “. . . behavioral issues need to be address through parent support, enforcement of school rules . . .”, “PLCs are beneficial to discussing behavioral concerns . . .”, “. . . RtI needs to target the multiple discipline problems”, “. . . behavior modifications must occur through RtI strategies . . .”, and “. . . data analysis and PLC need to help with same students having same problems . . .” TP-C: “. . . behavior problems are targeted every day . . .” TP-B: “. . . PLC and mutual accountability helps with behavioral targets . . .” TP-B: “discussion once again returned to behavior” (with regard to PLC meeting number 2), “Following student behavior. Teachers comparing student behavior and sharing with other teachers. Observation that many students with behavioral issues are the same students that have poor planning and management skills. Parent involvement is important.” TP-C: “There is an inability to manage student conduct in general and with specific students in particular is causing many of these kids to fail.” TP-F: “Concur about behavior as well that throws some students into the RtI range. When it is the same kids who are always being tardy or pulling pranks and being general nuisances, something more has to be done than having them sit in ISS”, “Why are these behaviors occurring? A)7th grade malaise where expectations and behavior norms are low?, B) parenting issues?, C) tougher applications needed when sent to dean’s office?” TP-G: “Make connection with student with behavior issues in addition to academic issues.” TP-J: “Discuss students with behavior issues.”, “…behavior problems are more the problem than academic ability..” and “…remedy some behavior: consistency within all classrooms, respect for students and teachers, follow school rules, more rigidity in 7th grade discipline” Table 14 displays the importance placed on the emergent theme RtI for disruptive or destructive behavior among the data collection and the teacher participants. All three PLC collaboration meetings entailed mention of behavior as a concern that needed 186 addressing with regard to the lowest 25% and overall success. Five out of the ten teacher participants identified with RtI use for behavioral issues in the interviews. Five out of ten related to behavioral concerns and RtI strategies within the journals. Table 15 RtI for Organizational Skills and Study Habits Related to Qualitative Data Collection Data Collection Instrument Researcher Journal: Observations Participant Interviews Participant Journals Theme: RtI for Organizational Skills and Study Habits PLC Collaboration Meeting #1: First mention of students in the lowest 25% taking longer to engage and often shut down (TP-B) PLC Collaboration Meeting #2: Students lacking organizational skills (TP-B) PLC Collaboration Meeting #3: RtI for management and structure with students in lowest 25% (TP-B), Strategies needed on using planners and management (TP-A and TP-B), Ruby Payne training related to RtI and management (TP-B) TP-I: “. . . use of RtI to target and track organizational skills” TP-J: “. . . other factors related to academic success and study skills out of school’s reach, such as family structure . . .” TP-A: “. . . RtI to implement strategies for success . . .” and “. . . PLC collaboration is very important to RtI success” TP-C: “. . . RtI strategies align with FCAT strategies for reading and study skills . . .” TP-H: “. . . use highlighting techniques for study skills. . .” TP-F: “. . . SMART goals are good for life and organizational skills . . .” TP-B: “. . . time management strategies and note taking strategies . . .”, “. . . measuring success through time management and organization, use the 15 minute rule with class which helps students focus . . .” TP-B: “Observation that many students with behavioral issues are the same students that have poor planning and management skills. Parent involvement is important.” TP-C: “success with study skills reliant on relationships with teachers ” TP-F: “students simply do not bother to do assignments” TP-I: “address issues to improve student success with organizational and planning strategies and build relationships with students to teach these” Table 15 shows the importance placed on the emergent theme RtI for organizational skills and study habits. All three PLC collaborative meetings entailed some mention of organizational skills and study habits through discussion on time management or generalized organizational practices and RtI strategies. Seven out of the ten teacher participants referred to organizational skills or study habits in the interviews. 187 Participant journal entries from four of the ten teacher participants mentioned organizational and study skills linked to academic achievement among the lowest 25%. Summary The qualitative method exploratory case study used concurrent strategy in data collection and analysis. Chapter 4 presented the analysis of data related to qualitative data collected from the modified CBAM used for observations of PLC collaboration meetings, participant journals, and participant interviews. Based on the analysis of data, collaboration and collegiality, data-informed decision-making, intervention strategies implemented, knowledge sharing, and reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum are meaningful to PLC participation and collaboration. Using PLC participation and collaboration to implement RtI with the intent to increase reading achievement among the lowest 25% eighth grade students found meaning as posed in RQ1 based on the consistency in reoccurrences among the themes. The data analysis related to RQ2 indicated that collaboration helps teachers learn, in this case RtI, based on the reoccurrences and importance placed on the themes. The emergence of RtI to target behavioral, organizational, and study habits was significant among teacher participants as a starting point to increase reading achievement. The purpose of Chapter 5 is to summarize the data analysis as related to the research questions. An additional function of Chapter 5 is to deliberate the theoretical, practical, and future implications of the study. Recommendations for practice and future study related to the study findings conclude Chapter 5. 188 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations Providing students with increased and effective learning opportunities transpires when teachers are continuously honing skills and acquiring new knowledge (Danielson, 2002). Professional learning communities through collaboration with colleagues seem to provide teachers with a productive forum to advance skills and knowledge base. According to Danielson (2002), schools focused on learning for all students provide teachers with appropriate and timely venues to seek applied and measureable improvements on instructional practices. Structuring the school as a learning organization with a culture centered on the collaborative and collegial aspects of professional learning communities supports teacher learning (Danielson, 2002). Seemingly, shared commitment to student achievement along with commitment to increased knowledge and skill engages the entire school in learning. As stated in Danielson, collaboration among teachers defines teachers committed to the profession of education. Danielson (2002) stated the influence of teacher evaluation on the promotion of teacher learning and the effect on student achievement. The idea of collaboration and mutual accountability for student learning seems to relate to teachers sharing best practices and using student data to direct targeted instruction in all content areas. Due to increased demands for teacher accountability in the area of student performance and overall academic achievement, the need for collaboration among educators seems critical. Performance appraisal systems used the school district of the study site include scoring based on collaboration and mutual accountability. This holds teachers sharing the same students in the same grade level accountable for assessment scores on FCAT. With the collaboration and mutual accountability component, there is an increased need for 189 teachers to work together, making data-informed decisions to provide increased learning opportunities. Students scoring in the lowest 25% on FCAT raise particular concerns for all teachers. Reading, as a critical area in education, signifies concern among all school stakeholders. The purpose of this chapter is to deliver a summary of the study and to illustrate the significance of this study for educators. Chapter 5 provides the study findings and conclusions, along with recommendations for future research and practice. Finally, implications from the study will be discussed. Summary of the Study The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study was to examine how teachers constructed meaning from participation in PLC collaboration to implement RtI for the lowest 25% at-risk students in reading. The PLC collaboration teams comprised math, English, science, and history (MESH) eighth grade teachers. A Response to Intervention (RtI) guidance counselor and an Intensive Reading teacher were also part of the collaborative team. All members of the collaborative team shared all or some of these students. Data were gathered through observations, participant interviews, and journals. Data gathered through weekly observations of collaborative meetings were recorded using a modified Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) instrument. Additional qualitative data were collected through participant interviews and participant journals. The coding in a researcher journal about data related to themes from participant interviews and journals, and researcher observations was based on frequency of themes, patterns, and emerging themes. 190 The following research question guided this qualitative exploratory case study: R1: How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students? R2: How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn? Summary of Findings and Conclusions Research question 1. How do teachers construct meaning from PLC participation to implement RtI in a collaborative environment with the intent of improving reading achievement for the lowest 25% eighth grade students defines research question one. This question was examined using qualitative data from participant journals, researcher observations of PLC collaboration meetings using a modified CBAM instrument, and participant interviews. Based on the qualitative data analysis shared accountability through collaboration and RtI implementation occurred through levels of knowledge sharing, collaboration and collegiality, and data-informed instructional decisions found in analysis of the PLC collaboration meetings it appeared that teachers do find value in participating in PLCs and collaborating on RtI to address the needs of the lowest 25% at-risk students . Additionally, the CBAM was used to observe levels of concern amongst the teachers participating in the PLC collaboration meetings. Chapter four provided a display the comparisons between observations one through three with the stages of concern from the modified CBAM. In summary, the higher levels of information sharing found in observation two indicated a tendency toward shared accountability for struggling students. Observation number one indicated a tendency toward learning how to 191 implement RtI within core content areas, which related to teacher learning and concern for student achievement. Observation number three indicated increased levels of data sharing and instructional practices, which may show a tendency toward a positive relationship between shared accountability, teacher learning, and student achievement. Teacher journal and interview data indicated a tendency to find collaboration useful in addressing the shared accountability of student achievement and learning to implement RtI strategies within core content areas. This tendency was present in the journal entry of TP-B: “collaboration provides a more accurate picture of the whole student and RtI may benefit all students in all courses” and “collaboration should be long term to help teachers learn and students achieve.” Furthering this tendency was TP-G interview response to question: Describe your experience with PLC teams and collaboration, which was, “Teachers learning to analyze data, new strategies, is positive.” Analysis of qualitative data from participant journals, participant interviews, and PLC collaboration meeting observations indicated a tendency toward shared value among teachers relating to PLC collaboration and RtI implementation. This tendency was apparent through the knowledge sharing, collaboration and collegiality, RtI intervention strategy implementation, and data-informed instructional decision theme occurrences throughout the observations of PLC collaboration meetings, as well as a desire from participants to continue to learn RtI through post study PLC meetings. Table 16 displays the occurrences of predetermined themes within participant journals. There is a breakdown of the analysis and results of the themes from chapter four: Collaboration and Collegiality (CC), Data-informed instructional decisions (DI), Intervention strategies implemented (RtI), Knowledge sharing (KS), and Reading 192 instructional practices and integration across the curriculum (R) within participant journals. Yes indicates an occurrence of this theme or importance placed on the theme. NP indicates that an occurrence of the theme was absent or that the participant demonstrated no reference, or importance on the theme. Table 16 Presence of Predetermined Themes Within Participant Journals TP= Teacher Participant CC= Collaboration and Collegiality DI= Datainformed instructional decisions RtI= Intervention strategies implemented KS= Knowledge sharing TP-A TP-B TP-C TP-D TP-E TP-F TP-G TP-H TP-I TP-J YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES NP NP YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum NP YES YES NP NP YES YES YES YES YES Collaboration and collegiality, data-informed instructional decisions, and knowledge sharing was present in all participant journals. The presence of these themes displays a possible tendency toward PLC collaboration playing an important role in teacher learning. Only two participants did not relate to RtI intervention strategies within the journals. The reason for this is unclear, but could be related to lack of overall RtI knowledge. In response to interview question: How are RtI strategies for reading integrated in you subject area?, TP-E responded by stating that she is “struggling with RtI because I am not familiar with RtI.” TP-D responded, “RtI is not being used in the particular subject area.” 193 As noted in the researcher observation journal, participant interviews, and participant journals, new themes emerged and began to develop during the study period. The study focus with RtI was reading scores for students who scored in the lowest quartile on their seventh grade FCAT Reading. The PLC collaboration meetings brought about the use of RtI to address behavioral problems, and problems related to organizational and management skills as a starting point to raising student scores. Based on journals, interviews, and PLC collaboration meetings, many of the teacher participants established that RtI is not for academic targets only, but also for underlying behavioral, organizational, and study habit deficiencies. These became emerging themes throughout the PLC meetings, interview questions, and journal entries. SMART goals were not established to address these behavioral deficiencies with RtI methods, but a willingness to continue with PLC collaboration focused on the students used in the study existed. Danielson (2002) stated that student engagement related to disruptions to the classroom and a willingness to work independently. This would suggest that RtI targeted toward disruptive behaviors and lack of organizational skill could provide the starting point to academic success. Research question 2. How does PLC collaboration on RtI implementation help teachers learn defined research question two. Analysis of qualitative data from participant journals, participant interviews, and PLC collaboration meeting observations indicated a tendency toward a relationship between PLC collaboration and RtI implementation. Teachers were learning to implement RtI with the intent of increasing reading achievement among the lowest 25% in eighth grade students. Due to shared accountability, each teacher had a stake with increasing learning gains among the lowest 194 25% in reading. The students were shared among all the teacher participants and the appraisal system of the study school district has a shared accountability dimension directly affecting overall appraisal scoring. The tendency to place importance on collaboration with teacher learning was apparent through the consistent occurrences of knowledge sharing, collaboration and collegiality, RtI intervention strategy implementation, and data-informed instructional decision theme occurrences throughout the observations of PLC collaboration meetings, as well as a desire from participants to continue to learn RtI through post study PLC meetings. Overall, utilizing PLC collaboration for learning RtI implementation had value to the teacher participants. All of the participants were positive to PLC collaboration as a positive experience and valuable toward student achievement. Supporting the study’s theoretical foundation based Danielson’s (2002) position on teacher learning and student achievement, the benefits of collaboration might be best stated as in TP-B’s journal. TPB wrote, “Collaborating with other teachers will give a more accurate picture of student needs.” and “Teacher collaboration . . . and taking long term, multi-grade, holistic team approach to helping our lowest 25% can only be a benefit for both teacher and student.” Implications There are theoretical, practical, and future implications based on the study findings. DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Karhanek (2010) addressed the effective use of PLC collaboration with RtI implementation. The results of this study indicated that the idea of alignment of shared values and goals symptomatic of PLCs added to effective implementation of RtI in the middle school environment. The implications from the study added to the existing body of knowledge regarding teacher construct of meaning derived 195 from PLC participation and collaboration to implement RtI with the intent of improving reading scores among the lowest 25% at-risk students. Furthermore, implications appeared to exist regarding the value of PLC collaboration along with shared values and goals linked to teacher learning and implementing RtI with enhanced student achievement. Theoretical implications. The researcher of this study sought to examine the position in Danielson (2002) which stated that when teachers are acquiring knowledge and collaborating, student would have increased opportunities to learn. The idea that teachers learning to implement RtI methods in core content areas to target reading provided the foundation for teacher learning and student achievement for the study. Core content eighth grade teachers in math, English, science, and history along with an Intensive Reading instructor, and an RtI trained guidance counselor met as the PLC collaboration team to learn how to implement RtI to address reading across the disciplines. The students were those scoring in the lowest 25% in FCAT Reading. The PLC team of educators was learning RtI, which was new to some, to target reading achievement. The teachers measured student achievement using FAIR tests and reading grades. Theoretically, it appeared likely that teachers learning would provide increased opportunities to students, which in turn could increase student achievement. Continuation of the study may allow conclusive evidence of relation between teacher learning and student achievement. Danielson’s (2002) theory that students show little or no increase in achievement when teachers are not engaged in professional development directed at knowledge acquisition added relevance to the urgency of teacher learning. Precisely, the 196 drive to learn effective methods of data-informed instruction and intervention strategies incorporated within the core content classrooms propelled teacher learning. New instructional evaluation, or appraisal, systems presented theoretical implications regarding the movement toward shared accountability for student achievement regardless the subject area taught. The instructional appraisal system used at the study site is based on the research of Danielson (2002) and Marzano (2003) related to collaboration, mutual accountability, teacher learning, and the relation to student achievement. To add to the literature and research on teacher learning and student achievement, this study focused on eighth grade teachers sharing the same students. Practical implications. SMART goals seem to provide best practice instruction and measures of assurance when applied to collaborative results oriented instruction. Results oriented goals such as SMART goals provide effective means of measuring longterm performance rather than using process-oriented goals (Conzemius & O’Neill, 2001; Schmoker, 2006; Senge, 2000). The findings of this study revealed a need to target one area of reading and utilize SMART goals in all core content classrooms. An example of this would be to target the Informational Text strand on FCAT Reading where most students seemed to struggle. Through knowledge sharing, RtI methods to target the Informational Text strand in all content areas could provide teachers with measureable goals. Knowledge sharing, collaboration and collegiality, and data-informed instructional decisions could provide teachers with methods for integration within all content areas. DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Karhanek (2010) stated that past research on the teaching of the curriculum should now focus on increased learning opportunities for students within all curricula. 197 The emergence of behavioral issues for RtI strategies may provide another target to maintain focus within the PLC collaboration groups. Behavioral deficiencies related to organizational and management skills surfaced throughout observations of PLC collaboration meetings one and two. As a starting point, this may prove a concrete avenue to learn how to implement RtI in all core content areas as each teacher could use the same techniques to address a targeted area of concern. Future implications. There were implications that continuance of PLC collaboration, RtI implementation, and the use of shared data could show significant increases in teacher learning and student achievement. The establishment of SMART goals to target one area of concern in reading among the eighth grade students in the lowest quartile on FCAT Reading could provide a foundation for teacher learning. The likelihood of a measure for student achievement seems attainable through the establishment of SMART goals. Teachers seem to welcome the idea of collaboration, data sharing, and RtI. The exposure to other teachers’ findings and possible constructive criticisms allow constant learning and professional development through improvement of mutual goals (Schechter & Ganon, 2012). Another consideration would be to incorporate the study parameters to core content teachers for seventh grade in an effort to establish a building block for tracking students throughout middle school and into high school. These future implications provided a basis for recommendations for future research, as well as, future practice. 198 Recommendations for Future Research The research used five forms of qualitative data collection. As one qualitative tool a modified Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) for observing PLC collaboration meetings was used. The themes observed were collaboration and collegiality (CC), datainformed instructional decisions (DI), intervention strategies implemented (RtI), knowledge sharing (KS), and reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum (R). Participation journals and participant interviews provided additional qualitative data collection and related to the themes of the modified CBAM. A recommendation for future research is to seek extensive sampling of teachers, participant journaling, and researcher observations over a longer period to address the limitation of a six-week study. An additional recommendation entails the possibility of a longitudinal study that follows student achievement for a period of two to three years that would allow for convincing data related to RtI, teacher collaboration on student data, and the effects on student achievement. Another recommendation is to compare eighth grade PLC collaboration teacher teams among several schools to address the limitation of using one school. One of the teacher participants, TP-C, shared the idea of creating a PLC collaboration team with seventh grade teachers to target specific areas of concern. This participant stated that the seventh grade team would be a good starting point for students adjusting to the middle school environment and would perhaps minimize issues seen among eighth grade students. The idea presented was to catch these students earlier to increase the student achievement in eighth grade. 199 The recommendation for future research that a specified grading system with lessons, or assessments, targeting the same reading strand could provide, or attain, an accurate measure of increased learning gains in reading. One area of concern related to FCAT reading at the study site was the reference and research text strand. Targeting this concern with SMART goals in each area of curriculum could show the effects of RtI and differentiated instruction across the disciplines. The study participants did not address this during the PLC collaboration meetings. The target of one reading strand could also provide direction to the PLC collaborative team of teachers and add to the construct of meaning for teachers. Future research related to PLC collaboration and student achievement could benefit from targeted indicators within the student group and provide teachers with the necessary SMART goals to apply RtI strategies in core content areas. Gaps in this study are apparent in the knowledge of RtI and PLC collaboration. Additional gaps are associated with developing SMART goals within a PLC collaborative team. Future research should focus on training of RtI and SMART goal development tied with all core content teachers. Future research using participant journals should provide more structure to participants. Several participants in this study used the journals to take notes of the PLC collaborative meetings rather than sharing their own experiences with learning the implementation of RtI in their content area and growth in student achievement. The researcher did provide verbal direction, but written direction may further clarity of journaling for personal experience. A longer period with journaling seems beneficial to showing comfort levels with learning RtI implementation and relation to student achievement. 200 Recommendations for Future Practice Recommendations for future practice involve professional development in the areas of data-informed decision-making, RtI training, differentiated instruction, and the use of SMART goals. There is a great possibility that teacher collaboration and RtI based on student data could have far-reaching and positive effects on student achievement. Understanding RtI as an integral part of instructional delivery and classroom management appear to remain an obstacle for teachers who do not teach reading and exceptional education students. Proper training on RtI could alleviate confusion as to what RtI is and how strategic interventions target student deficiencies to drive learning gains. Professional development regarding SMART goals and the use of data to determine areas of concern needs to occur to ensure direction in PLC collaborative teams. Without a clear understanding of SMART goals and the use of data to inform and direct instruction, teachers may lose interest and see no value from meetings and sharing of data and knowledge. Recommendations for future practice would be to take steps to clarify and direct PLC collaboration toward a strategic plan to address a shared goal. Focus on using data to make informed decisions among a group of teachers sharing the same students could provide necessary direction and targeted instructional, or behavioral, strategies to implement in core content classrooms. Additionally, collaboration among teachers allows knowledge sharing and the possibility of sharing tried and true techniques currently unknown by other PLC members. 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I am conducting a research study to examine teacher construct of meaning with PLC participation in a collaborative environment with the intent of raising reading scores for the lowest 25% eighth grade students along with the relationship between teacher learning and PLC collaboration of Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Science teachers. As a qualitative exploratory case study, the purpose was to examine how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement and to how PLC collaboration on RtI implementation helped teachers learn. I am recruiting individuals to participate in the study, CREATING MEANING FROM COLLABORATION TO IMPLEMENT RTI FOR AT-RISK STUDENTS, which will take approximately six weeks. Audio taped interviews, participant journals, and researcher observations of Professional Learning Community collaborative meetings will be part of the study. A consent agreement form and participation interview form detailing assurances of participant confidentiality will accompany this recruitment letter. Your participation in this study is voluntary. If you have any questions concerning the research study, please call Julia Ann Diakakis at (321) 536-5927. 220 Appendix B Informed Consent Form Grand Canyon University College of Doctoral Studies 3300 W. Camelback Road Phoenix, AZ 85017 Phone: 602-639-7804 Fax: 602- 639-7820 INFORMED CONSENT FORM (SOCIAL BEHAVIORAL) MINIMAL RISK SAMPLE CONSENT FORM CREATING MEANING FROM COLLABORATION TO IMPLEMENT RTI FOR AT-RISK STUDENTS INTRODUCTION The purposes of this form are to provide you, as a prospective research study participant, information that may affect your decision as to whether or not to participate in this research and to record the consent of those who agree to be involved in the study. RESEARCH Julia Ann Diakakis, a Doctoral Student at Grand Canyon University has invited your participation in a research study. STUDY PURPOSE The purpose of this qualitative exploratory case study is to examine the relationship between teacher learning through Professional Learning Community (PLC) collaboration of Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Science teachers with student achievement in reading as measured by standardized and teacher assessments. DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH STUDY Your participation is strictly voluntary. Your decision to participate, or not participate, will not affect any relations with Brevard Public Schools. If you decide to participate, then as a study participant you will join a study involving research of the use of Professional Learning Community collaboration to learn the use of Response to Invention strategies in content area classrooms to increase student-learning gains. If you say YES, then your participation will last for approximately six weeks at Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School. Approximately ten of subjects will be participating in this study within the research site. RISKS There are no known risks from taking part in this study, but in any research, there is some possibility that you may be subject to risks that have not yet been identified. BENEFITS The possible/main benefits of your participation in the research are the use of research findings related to teacher collaboration, use of Response to Intervention in the core content classroom to increase student achievement in the area of reading. Use of teacher made assessments and Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) provide relevance to the possible benefits of the study. Comingling RtI strategies with PLC culture adds additional values to this study for all educators. The innovation and support possible for focused data-informed instruction through PLC collaboration might permit RtI strategies to take hold within the regular instructional model. The combining of PLC collaboration with RtI may also assist teachers and school leaders to address better the needs of those students in need of interventions. Additionally, the Mutual Accountability component of the Instructional Appraisal Instrument may add value for all teachers. NEW INFORMATION If the researcher finds new information during the study that would reasonably change your decision about participating, then this information will be provided to you immediately. CONFIDENTIALITY All information obtained in this study is strictly confidential. The results of this research study may be used in reports, presentations, and publications, but the researchers will not identify you. In order to maintain confidentiality of your records, Julia Ann Diakakis will not include any information that will identify you in any way. Participant confidentiality will receive the highest consideration through anonymous coding of participants only accessible to the researcher. Only the researcher, Julia Ann Diakakis, will have access 221 to records. All research records of any type will be kept in a secure, password protected locked electronic file storage. At the end of the study, all audio tapes, and participant journals will be destroyed. Audio tapes will be deleted and participant journals will be shredded to prevent any breach in participant confidentiality. WITHDRAWAL PRIVILEGE Participation in this study is voluntary. It is ok for you to say no. Even if you say yes now, you are free to say no later, and withdraw from the study at any time. Participant data from any source will be destroyed upon withdrawal. COSTS AND PAYMENTS There is no payment for your participation in the study. VOLUNTARY CONSENT Any questions you have concerning the research study or Julia Ann Diakakis, may be addressed through the researcher’s faculty advisor, Dr. Erich Randall, who will answer your participation in the study, before or after your consent. You may ask questions via email or phone contact to Dr. Randall at docrandall@earthlink.net or docrandall@me.com and phone: 1-231-421-1392. If you have questions about your rights as a subject/participant in this research, or if you feel you have been placed at risk, you can contact the Chair of the Institutional Review Board, through the College of Doctoral Studies at (602) 639-7804. This form explains the nature, demands, benefits and any risk of the project. By signing this form, you agree knowingly to assume any risks involved. Remember, your participation is voluntary. You may choose not to participate or to withdraw your consent and discontinue participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefit. In signing this consent form, you are not waiving any legal claims, rights, or remedies. A copy of this consent form will be offered to you. Your signature below indicates that you consent to participate in the above study. ___________________________ Subject's Signature _________________________ Printed Name ____________ Date ___________________________ Other Signature _________________________ Printed Name (if appropriate) ____________ Date INVESTIGATOR’S STATEMENT "I certify that I have explained to the above individual the nature and purpose, the potential benefits and possible risks associated with participation in this research study, have answered any questions that have been raised, and have witnessed the above signature. These elements of Informed Consent conform to the Assurance given by Grand Canyon University to the Office for Human Research Protections to protect the rights of human subjects. I have provided (offered) the subject/participant a copy of this signed consent document." Signature of Investigator______________________________________ Date__________ 222 Appendix C Permission to Conduct Study 223 Appendix D Permission to Use Premises Date Office of Academic Research Grand Canyon University College of Doctoral Studies 3300 W. Camelback Road Phoenix, AZ 85017 Phone: 602-639-7804 Dear IRB Members, After reviewing the proposed study, Creating Meaning from Collaboration to Implement RtI for At-risk Students, presented by Julia Ann Diakakis, I have granted authorization for Julia Ann Diakakis to conduct research at our Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School. I understand the purpose of the qualitative exploratory case study is to examine how teachers created meaning from participating in PLCs to work collaboratively with at-risk students to improve student achievement and to how PLC collaboration on RtI implementation helped teachers learn. Julia Ann Diakakis, will conduct the following research activities: recruit teacher participants, collect and analyze data. It is understood that this project will end no later than May 22, 2013. I grant permission for Julia Ann Diakakis to contact and recruit our teachers and will collect data at Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School. I understand that participant interviews, participant journal entries, and researcher observations will occur throughout the duration of the study. These activities will not affect classroom instructional time and will not involve student interaction. I have indicated to Julia Ann Diakakis that the school will assume the responsibilities for allowing the following research activities: onsite data collection with teachers, file access to student scores pertaining to the lowest 25% in Reading, teachers to use work time for journal entries. To ensure the students and teachers are protected, Julia Ann Diakakis, has agreed to provide to me a copy of any Grand Canyon University IRB-approved, consent document before s/he recruits participants at Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School. Julia Ann Diakakis has agreed to provide a copy of the study results, in aggregate, to our school. If the IRB has any concerns about the permission being granted by this letter, please contact me at the phone number listed above. Sincerely, Principal ___________________________________________ Printed Name ___________________________________________ Signature Date 224 Appendix E Qualitative Interview Questions 1. Describe your overall experience in education. 2. What is your current role, or instructional position? 3. Describe your experience with PLC teams and collaboration. 4. Describe your previous experience with RtI. 5. How are RtI strategies for reading integrated in you subject area? 6. What criteria do you use to assess reading achievement? 7. How do you know if RtI strategies are implemented effectively? 8. Is there a member of your PLC team with expertise in RtI? 9. How will you know if students are becoming better readers? 10. Are there elements in your curriculum that you can eliminate or curtail to provide greater emphasis on reading strategies? 11. How do you use PLC team established SMART goals to implement RtI? 12. Do you align RtI with FCAT reading strands? 13. How do you align RtI with FCAT reading strands? 14. Has PLC collaboration and team data analysis helped you learn RtI integration within your subject area? Source: Adapted from DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2010). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. 225 Appendix F Observation Instrument Qualitative Observation Instrument Modified Concerns Based Adoption Model Teacher Professional Learning Community Collaboration CONCERNS AND OBSERVABLE TRAITS 0-OBSERVATIONAL STAGE AND NOTE TAKING 1- SHARING INFORMATION THROUGH WRITING OR VERBAL EXCHANGE 2- CONNECTING WITH TEAM MEMBERS ON IMPLEMENTATION OF RtI WITHIN CORE CONTENT CURRICULUM 3-TEAM DISCUSSIONS ON IMPLEMENTATION OF RtI IN CORE CONTENT AREAS, SHARING OF DATA, AND INTEGRATION OF READING STRANDS IN ALL CURRICULUM 4-SHARING STUDENT DATA AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES WITH PLC TEAM MEMBERS 5-COLLABORATIVE DATA-INFORMED DECISION-MAKING ON SHARED STUDENTS AND INTEGRATING READING ACROSS THE CURRICULUM 6-WILLINGNESS TO ASSIST TEAM MEMBERS WITH TARGETED INSTRUCTION BASED ON DATA-INFORMED DECISIONS IN SPECIFIC CORE CONTENT CURRICULUM CC= Collaboration and Collegiality DI= Datainformed instructional decisions RtI=Intervention strategies implemented KS=Knowledge sharing R=Reading instructional practices and integration across the curriculum 226 Appendix G IRB Approval
The Influence of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) on School Climate Submitted by Steven C. Bebee A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctorate of Education Grand Canyon University Phoenix, Arizona April 28, 2015 © by Steven C. Bebee, 2015 All rights reserved. Abstract Many schools have used schoolwide behavior management programs such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) effectively as a behavior management system to improve student classroom behavior issues. The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate within a participant school located in Southern Arizona. Through naturalistic inquiry using face-to-face semi structured interviews, seven teachers who have taught on the participant high school campus for four to six years were able to share their personal perceptions regarding PBIS and its influence on their school climate. The data collected for this study included a PBIS teacher questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and three years of longitudinal student referral data to examine teacher perceptions of school climates and if the schoolwide behavior programs they implement has had any influence. This study identified possible limitations and advantages of PBIS on student behavior and determined whether perception from the study teachers differed from the general teaching staff regarding the influence PBIS has on school climate perceptions. The findings and conclusions of the study demonstrate that a relationship does indeed exist between having a successful behavior managements system in place such as PBIS and teachers’ feelings about their school climate. Themes were developed and identified that may help administrators understand the relationships that may exist. Keywords: Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, PBIS, teacher efficacy, school climate. v Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, Shelly, and my three children, Brittany, Trevor, and Jennafer. Their sacrifices throughout the last three and a half years of this journey have allowed me to grow personally, professionally, and spiritually in the pursuit of this lifelong dream. I would also like to dedicate this accomplishment to my parents, Charles and Jacque Bebee, for always believing in me and inspiring me to be the best that I could be in the game of life. Thank you. I love you all very much. vi Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge Dr. Nicholas Markette, Dr. Donna Heretick, and Dr. Tacy Ashby for their candidness, critique, and professionalism as they mentored me through this journey. Through late night emails and phone calls whenever I needed a lift and encouragement to carry me through the challenging times I went through. Their friendship and guidance will never be forgotten. I would also like to thank my family, friends, and coworkers who always had time to listen to my celebrations and disappointments throughout this journey. Your unconditional support and encouragement will forever be remembered. Thank you. vii Table of Contents List of Tables ..................................................................................................................... xi List of Figures ................................................................................................................... xii Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study....................................................................................1 Introduction.................................................................................................................1 Background of the Study ............................................................................................4 Problem Statement ......................................................................................................9 Purpose of the Study .................................................................................................11 Research Question and Phenomena ..........................................................................14 Advancing Scientific Knowledge .............................................................................16 Significance of the Study ..........................................................................................18 Rationale for Methodology .......................................................................................21 Nature of the Research Design for the Study ...........................................................24 Definition of Terms ..................................................................................................28 Assumptions, Limitations, Delimitations .................................................................31 Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study .....................................33 Chapter 2: Literature Review .............................................................................................36 Introduction to the Chapter and Background to the Problem ...................................36 Background ....................................................................................................37 Theoretical Foundations ...........................................................................................44 Review of the Literature ...........................................................................................46 School safety ..................................................................................................50 Public school safety measures .......................................................................56 viii Team decision making ...................................................................................63 Discipline referrals .........................................................................................66 School climate ................................................................................................69 Summary ...................................................................................................................72 Chapter 3: Methodology ....................................................................................................78 Introduction...............................................................................................................78 Statement of the Problem ..........................................................................................79 Research Question ....................................................................................................80 Research Methodology .............................................................................................81 Research Design .......................................................................................................86 Population and Sample Selection .............................................................................89 Sources of Data .........................................................................................................91 PBIS teacher questionnaire. ...........................................................................91 Open-ended interview questions ....................................................................92 Student referral data. ......................................................................................93 Validity .....................................................................................................................94 Reliability..................................................................................................................96 Data Collection Procedures ......................................................................................97 Data Analysis Procedures .........................................................................................99 Ethical Considerations ............................................................................................104 Limitations ..............................................................................................................105 Summary .................................................................................................................107 Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Results ..............................................................................109 ix Introduction.............................................................................................................109 Descriptive Data .....................................................................................................110 Teachers and environment ...........................................................................110 Data Analysis ..........................................................................................................114 Data Analysis Procedures .......................................................................................123 Results.....................................................................................................................128 Summary .................................................................................................................146 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations ............................................149 Introduction.............................................................................................................149 Summary of the Study ............................................................................................150 Summary of Findings and Conclusion ...................................................................152 Implications ............................................................................................................161 Theoretical implications...............................................................................161 Practical implications ...................................................................................164 Future implications ......................................................................................166 Recommendations ...................................................................................................168 Recommendations for future research .........................................................169 Recommendations for practice.....................................................................173 References ........................................................................................................................177 Appendix A. Teacher Interview Protocol ........................................................................189 Appendix B. Teacher Demographic Survey ....................................................................192 Appendix C. Informed Consent Form .............................................................................193 Appendix D. Coding Descriptions ...................................................................................197 x Appendix E. Sample Interview ........................................................................................198 Appendix F. PBIS Teacher Questionnaire .......................................................................202 Appendix G. IRB Approval Letter...................................................................................204 xi List of Tables Table 1. Student Referral by School Year Data Contingency ....................................... 117 Table 2. Problem Behavior Incidents by Year ............................................................... 120 Table 3. Coding.............................................................................................................. 125 Table 4. Total Responses by Theme .............................................................................. 126 Table 5. Themes and Subthemes ................................................................................... 126 Table 6. Initial Coding Table ......................................................................................... 128 xii List of Figures Figure 1. PBIS model (PBIS.org). .................................................................................. 113 Figure 2. Total number of student referrals by school year by total population. ............ 116 Figure 3. Teacher's total responses by influence. ........................................................... 122 1 Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study Introduction Managing student behavior at school is a task that all teachers and administrators share on a daily basis. As issues surrounding student behavior evolve, schools and school districts have turned to schoolwide behavior programs as a means to deal with student behavior that is less than desirable in the classroom. In regards to student discipline, schools have historically focused on creating safe environments that promote student learning and a place where learning is of highest priority (Gunbayi, 2007). In an effort to create a learning environment by combining learning with student safety, schools have turned to schoolwide behavior programs and student reward models that promote a more positive school environment for students. Sergiovanni and Starratt (1988) found that every educational environment establishes a climate that makes it unique from other schools or organizations. The act of blending the way that students behave in a school environment and the way that teachers interact with those students is what defines the school climate. In schools, having a positive climate creates the necessary link between a school’s operational structure and teacher attitudes and behaviors (Gunbayi, 2007). This qualitative, interpretive study focused on high school teachers’ perceptions of their school climate in relation to student behavior and academic success that has been attributable through the implementation of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program at a high school in Southern Arizona. Osterman (2000) highlighted dimensions of student-teacher relations, peer relations, and involvement in school activities as the key to social experiences that tie adolescents to their schools in ways that enhance motivation and achievement, and demonstrated how various 2 researchers have defined the impact on student success. While this research demonstrates schoolwide behavioral programs may benefit students academically, socially, and emotionally, it does not define how these programs benefit the teachers themselves. George and Bishop (1971) found that the formal characteristics such as teacher buy-in and student discipline that defines schools had a very important influence on how teachers themselves perceived their climate. This research adds to the larger body of research on how teachers feel about their school climate. Additionally, this study attempted to determine whether having a schoolwide behavioral program has any influence on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. Guiding research questions were utilized to gather information that has been provided by a sample of teachers from one single high school in Southern Arizona. The PBIS model is an application of behaviorally based systems that addresses school and classroom discipline problems. PBIS develops schoolwide programs that support staff in teaching and promoting positive behavior in all students. In an effort to help all students connect to their school, the use of PBIS can help students feel connected to their school, improve their self-esteem, and support academic success. High school students have challenges they face every day they attend school. Likewise, teachers also have a pressure that has been forced on them to increase the academic success of students at their school. Just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had set the goal of 100% proficiency for students by 2014, the goal of the implementation of PBIS is to achieve 100% satisfaction with the educational practices and perceptions of a positive school climate by students and teachers alike. School climate represents a combination of variables and strategies that exist somewhere between the perceived 3 structure of an organization and the other characteristics of leaders as perceived by teachers regarding job satisfaction (Gunbayi, 2007). When students are academically successful and their behavior is compliant, it would seem that teachers would be more content with their work environment. What makes this study unique is that while PBIS has been successfully implemented and reported to have a positive impact on student behavior and academic success, it is not known how PBIS influences teachers’ perceptions about their school climate. It is also not known whether there are other contributing factors that influence how teachers feel about the environment in which they work (Coffey & Horner, 2012). This qualitative interpretive study focused on high school teacher perceptions of school climate in relation to student behavior and the academic success that has been attributable through the implementation of a PBIS program at a single high school in Southern Arizona. The PBIS program and student referral data has been in place for the past six years on this high school campus. The goal of this study was to explore teacher perceptions of the PBIS program and to determine if all teachers feel the student management system that has been implemented influences teachers’ perceptions about their school climate. Through a PBIS teacher questionnaire, semi-structured teacher interviews, and three years of longitudinal student referral data, the goal of this study was to identify which factors of the school environment may lead to positive teacher perceptions. This study attempted to determine if positive teacher perceptions of their school climate were directly related to the implementation and longevity of PBIS at a mid-level socioeconomic high school campus. Semi-structured interviews about school 4 climate, as well as PBIS teacher questionnaire and student referral data, were used to collect data and answer the research question. The results from this study will benefit school principals and school leaders who are considering implementation of a schoolwide behavioral plan on their campuses. Understanding the benefits that may exist for teachers themselves from implementation of PBIS will benefit school faculties as a whole. This chapter will further explain the background behind PBIS, introduce the problem statement and purpose of the study, describe the methodology chosen for this study, define the guiding questions, describe the nature of the study, outline the definition of terms, and describe the limitations for the study. Background of the Study With the latest school tragedies and the most recent school shootings, it is not possible to focus just on teaching and learning at any school today. It is every educator’s professional obligation to keep students safe and to make school safety a priority. The idea of harm coming to a child at school is fundamentally unacceptable; however, school safety is an essential component of school climate (Bosworth, Ford, & Hernandez, 2011). High school students’ academic success and their sense of belonging or connectivity to their school have been associated with high school students’ perceptions of danger versus safety at school (Bosworth et al., 2011). While school safety and the ability to feel safe at school is still a problem that high schools and their students have to contend with students’ sense of belonging and their ability to be academically successful in high school is something that cannot be ignored. 5 Since 2001, America’s public education school system has been regulated by federal mandates and the results of these mandates will be evaluated at the conclusion of 2014. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused its attention on meeting the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status (NCLB, 2002). The focus of the NCLB Act is to ensure that all students meet or exceed reading and mathematics state standards with 100% proficiency by the conclusion of the 2014 academic school year. According to Forte (2010), under the NCLB Act schools are identified for improvement via application of an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) algorithm that is tightly defined in the NCLB legislation and ensuing regulations. With a focus on Annual Yearly Progress and a performance based accountability system, the challenge public education faces with increased accountability is being met with mixed reactions across the country. The NCLB Act of 2001 has challenged administrators to be more accountable for students’ education by employing highly qualified teachers using only research based instructional practices (NCLB, 2002). When asked to reflect on their high school experience, most teenagers typically report that interpersonal relationships are a vital part of their school engagement (Coleman, 1961). Because students need to feel like they belong, their motivation and academic success hinges on their social lives (Coleman, 1961). PBIS creates the bond that students have with their school and allow them to connect and enjoy their high school experience (Oswald, Safran, & Johanson, 2005). In an effort to meet the demands of high stakes testing, while ensuring that every student receives the quality of education they deserve, schools and school districts have turned to schoolwide behavioral plans that outline expectations for their students. In an effort to address student behavior issues that can interfere with the learning process, 6 many schools have become interested in or are using to promote a positive and safe school environment for students (Warren et al., 2006). According to Scott, Alter, Rosenberg, and Borgmeier (2010), the strength of having PBIS is its flexibility that includes a wide range of behavior interventions that best suit the needs of individual students. With the onset of academic pressure it is imperative that not only do teachers differentiate learning for students, but also that they differentiate how to change undesirable student behaviors. Classroom management is a skill set that is crucial to academic success and one that most teachers learn over time. A teacher’s ability to control student behavior and engage them in the lessons that are being taught can be challenging. Many teachers are able to accomplish this through instinctual reactions while others turn to research-based strategies that have a background of being successful in the classroom. The PBIS model is a positive approach for changing undesirable behavior through the use of a positive reinforcement system to minimize individual problem behaviors, improve the quality of education, and also increase the likelihood for academic success (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Recent high stakes testing and federal mandates for student achievement are on the rise and the pressure to achieve academically affects both students and teachers alike. The stress to succeed academically has been linked to undesirable behaviors by students in the classroom that can distract entire classrooms (Coffey & Horner, 2012). The educational environment in which students learn and teachers teach are greatly affected by the way students behave in the classroom. According to Scott et al. (2010), Positive Behavior Supports is not a curriculum or a program of prescribed strategies or interventions. Instead, PBIS is a conceptualized framework that outlines 7 systems of predictable problems and provides logical strategies to improve behavior through the use of data to evaluate the success of the interventions (Scott et al., 2010). Behavior interventions for students are defined as those strategies used by teachers such at verbal cues or proximity to eliminate undesirable behavior and to reward positive behaviors that a student exhibits. When schoolwide behavioral plans are used successfully to improve student behaviors, then the quality of education improves for students and teachers alike. School climate is defined as the quality of relationships that exist between individuals at a school, the teaching and learning processes that take place, and the collaborative efforts that exist between teachers and administrative staff members (Collie, Shapka, & Perry, 2012). In this interpretive study, key components that can influence school climate that also align with the PBIS initiative are identified as follows: student academic success; teacher/staff buy-in to the schools vision and mission; personal benefits for teachers themselves from working at a particular school; and the way staff members personally view the culture of the school. Creating a positive school climate can take time and can be something that is very difficult to obtain. Many school leaders have spent countless hours trying to improve school climates while working through factors that may be beyond their control. In most schools, the simple fact that there are so many different people who work on a school campus can make it difficult to find harmony. Pressure from both state and federal mandates can make the role of being a teacher very daunting. Those challenges present many different facets that must be overcome as well as practices that must all be perfected over time. Teachers must be able to plan curriculum, teach that curriculum, create assignments, and evaluate the overall performance of each individual student 8 (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2006). Kasnitz, Mollenkopf, Waters, and Holdway (2009) stated that creating and being able to sustain a positive school climate is not possible unless schools have intentional structures in place to sustain it. Maslowski (2001) stated that culture is defined as the assumptions, norms, values, and cultural artifacts that are shared by a group. The everyday interactions of students and staff that occur naturally on a school campus make up and define the climate and culture that exists at a school. The personal perceptions of both students and teachers to the relationships that exist and the respect for the viewpoints of each group make up the culture that comes to be. There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that schoolwide positive behavior and supports (SWPBS) reduce behavioral problems and help students improve their academic success (Eber, Hyde, & Suter, 2011). Improved student behavior in the classroom can be linked to students’ perceptions of school climate in a very positive way (Kasnitz et al., 2009). Through data collection and analysis of student behavior issues, a school is able to monitor its efforts as schoolwide behavior plans are initiated and sustained over time. Even though the collection of behavior data is a common practice of schools across the country, what has not been researched or discussed in the literature is whether having schoolwide positive behavior and supports in place has any influence in how teachers feel about their school climate. According to Locke (1969), job satisfaction can be defined as the sense of fulfillment or gratification from working in an occupation or place. The way that teachers feel about their school climate is directly linked to job satisfaction. When teachers feel valued and empowered to do the job they are hired to do, it can be perceived that their perceptions about their job or job satisfaction will be directly reflected. 9 Educational research exists that suggests that the better students behave in class, the more teachers can teach without interruption (Kasnitz et al., 2009). Research also exists that supports the idea that when students behave, teachers are generally very satisfied with their job because they can optimize their ability to teach (Collie et al., 2012; Butt et al., 2005; Crossman & Harris, 2006; Dinham & Scott, 1998; Kim & Loadman, 1994). When examining school climate and its contributing factors, it may be perceived that student behavior and teacher efficacy may go hand in hand. Where very little research exists or is not discussed in literature is whether or not having schoolwide positive behavior and supports in place has any influence at all on how teachers feel about their school climate. It was the goal of this study to explore this concern. This study attempted to find out if having a schoolwide student behavior plan in place has any influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. Problem Statement It is not known how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate. This qualitative interpretive study focused on teacher perceptions of their school climate and sought to understand whether the implementation of PBIS has any influence on those perceptions at a public high school in Southern Arizona. Since there are many factors that may contribute to school climate and influence teachers’ perceptions and perceived satisfaction with their environment, specific questions regarding school climate and PBIS were used. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused its attention on meeting the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status (NCLB, 2002). With the NCLB mandate coming to fruition by 2014 and the implementation of new federally regulated standards there is 10 more pressure on students and teachers alike to meet with success. Since added pressure has been put on teachers to assist their students to achieve high academic success, it has been even more important that teachers be able to control student behavior in the classroom. In the educational world of high stakes testing and student achievement data, teachers must be able to produce high academic achievement scores for all students and students must pass those exams in order to graduate from high school. This added pressure on students has caused many students to act out and has damaged the studentteacher relationship that once existed (Lunenburg, 2010). Students and their parents blame teachers when students are not successful on these tests. When students are challenged academically, they turn to cheating or they are disruptive in class to deflect attention away from their shortcomings. Highly successful teachers must be able to anticipate student problems and manage the behavior of all students in the classroom so that learning can take place. Classroom teachers are forced to deal with undesirable student behaviors that occur on a regular basis as part of their job. Those interactions and individual successes that teachers have had in their classrooms has been the focus of schoolwide behavior initiatives that have been explored by many schools. PBIS has been successful in helping teachers achieve the NCLB’s expected academic results through a positive means of dealing with undesirable student behaviors (Coffey & Horner, 2012). In order for students to overcome the educational challenges they face, teachers must be able to create an environment free from distractions that would interfere with their ability to teach. Teachers, in order to provide the quality of education that they are expected to provide, must feel supported and have a positive outlook about the environment that has been established (Hoyle, Marshall, & Yell, 2011). 11 Since teacher effectiveness and student behavior have a direct impact on learning, this qualitative interpretive study attempted to determine whether having schoolwide PBIS in place has any influence on teachers’ perceptions about their school climate. Understanding the relationship that a schoolwide behavior plan has on improving undesirable student behaviors and the influence that may exist for teachers themselves must be studied within this context. Teachers who have a positive perception of their school climate are more likely to provide a quality education for their students (Scott et al., 2010). Purpose of the Study The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate within a participant school located in Southern Arizona. At this stage, the research focused on two phenomena, the PBIS student behavior management system and teacher self-perceptions of their school climate. PBIS were defined as an evidenced-based framework for school improvement based on a structured problem-solving model. Teacher perceptions of school climate were defined as the related factors of attitude, feeling, and behavior of individuals within the school system at a particular school (Hernández & Seem, 2004). School safety, common expectations for students, improved student behaviors, and student academic improvement are all known outcomes from implementing PBIS (Eber et al., 2010). How PBIS and its known outcomes influence teacher perceptions of school climate was the focus of this research. Teacher’s sense of job satisfaction has been associated with their motivation to teach, their sense of wellbeing in the work place, and their commitment to education in general (Collie et al., 2012). According to Sergiovanni 12 (2004), every educational organization has a climate that will distinguish it from other educational institutions and influence behavior and perceptions of teachers and students at that educational organization. A large part of how satisfied teachers are with their job is the impact that the students they teach have on those perceptions. PBIS are designed to give teachers a more positive approach to interacting with students in their classroom. The relationships that exist between teachers and students in the classroom can be linked directly to teacher job satisfaction (Collie et al., 2012). Through a qualitative interpretive study at a single high school in Southern Arizona, teachers were asked five demographic questions to assist the researcher in the purposeful selection of teachers to be interviewed. Those demographical questions were used to identify teachers who have taught at the school for at least four to six years. The sample group of teachers used for this study were purposefully selected to participate in a semi-structured interview. Seven teachers who have taught for at least four to six consecutive years post PBIS implementation were the target group whose feelings and perceptions about their school climate were explored. Teachers’ knowledge of the PBIS program and their personal feeling about the program was also explored through semi-structured interviews using open-ended questions regarding PBIS that allowed teachers to elaborate on their thoughts about the PBIS program and their school climate. Factors such as student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits, and school culture that may contribute to teachers’ perceptions of success or failure of the program were explored through an interpretive study to determine if PBIS has any influence on teachers’ perceptions. Three years of longitudinal student referral data that had been tracked and analyzed annually by the school 13 administration was obtained and further analyzed to demonstrate that PBIS has been effectively implemented through the continuous reduction of student discipline referrals since the program’s inception. The data collected from the PBIS teacher questionnaire and teacher responses from the semi-structured interviews were used and analyzed as a part of this study. The results of this research, through collection of data, development of themes, and data analysis contribute to the field of education by providing an understanding of perceptions, which could contribute to teacher retention leading to improved student academic success for schools and school leaders. School climate has such a significant impact on both students and teachers alike (Sergiovanni, 2004). Due to the delicate relationship that must exist between teacher and student, it is very important that teachers who provide the educational environment for students get to know their students personally. The relationships that are built through teacher/student interactions may also influence whether or not teachers feel positively about their school climate. Climate has been defined as the perceived effects of the formal system and other important environmental factors that may influence the attitudes, values, or beliefs of people who work for an organization (Gunbayi, 2007). Perceptions of both students and teachers become the reality of the school environment that actually exists and can drive student behavioral plans to be at the forefront of the planning and preparation for teachers. In most schools, relationships and rapport are the necessary link between the organizational structures and the teacher perceptions that exist regarding school climate (Gunbayi, 2007). The characteristics of a school are very much influenced by the behavior of students as well as teachers’ job satisfaction that influences the school 14 climate. School climate is representative of the mediating variables of job satisfaction and teacher efficacy that are intertwined between organizational structure and teacher performance that lend themselves to feelings of satisfaction (Gunbayi, 2007; Sergiovanni, 2004). Teachers’ ability to effectively educate students in the classroom depends greatly on their ability to manage students in the classroom. Since PBIS provides consistent expectations for students, students are generally able to meet the expectations set before them. When students are well behaved and are happy with school, then teachers are able to deliver quality education and are generally much happier. While this study sought to understand teacher’s individual perceptions of school climate and their feelings about the PBIS program itself, studying how a schoolwide behavior plan influences teachers’ perceptions will add significant knowledge to the field. Research Question and Phenomena The phenomenon being studied is PBIS and its influence on teacher perceptions of school climate on a high school campus. While PBIS are designed to influence students in a positive way, it is not known if there is any relationship between PBIS and teacher perceptions of the school climate. Moos (1979) stated that school climate involves three dimensions: the relationships that exist between members of the organization, the personal development of the organizational members, and the maintenance and change of the organization. A qualitative interpretive study researching PBIS as a behavioral strategy that allows a school to establish consistent expectations for students served as the basis for this study. Longitudinal student referral data has been collected by the school administration for every year that PBIS has existed on their campus as a means to 15 demonstrate the effectiveness of PBIS on improving student behaviors. Six years of longitudinal student referral data was obtained and used to establish the relationship that exists between the number of referrals for a given year when compared to the total student population at participant high school. A PBIS teacher questionnaire that asks four Likert scale questions and four open-ended questions of all teachers was used to establish similarities and differences in the participant responses and general responses for this study through the purposeful selection process. A four question semi-structured interview with open-ended questions regarding PBIS and school climate was used to determine the personal feelings of individual teachers on the effectiveness of PBIS. Teacher responses from seven teachers who have taught at the target school for at least the past four to six years were analyzed. The results of the semi-structured interviews were used to study teachers in their natural environment. The focus of this study sought to understand whether student success in the educational environment also leads to greater job satisfaction for the teachers in the school where they work. Since both student success and teacher satisfaction are key to producing a quality educational institution, the relationship that must exist between how students behave and how teachers feel about the educational environment in which they work will be the focus of this research. The following research question guided this study: R1: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teacher’s perceptions of school climate? Data were gathered, and the research question was answered through student referral data, survey information, a PBIS teacher questionnaire, and responses to the semi-structured interviews. Through an interpretive approach, the teachers expressed 16 their thoughts and beliefs about the PBIS program and its impact on their perceptions of school climate. Responses to interview questions were used to attempt to gain deeper insight into teachers' perceptions and to acquire information about other factors that may also influence teachers to acquire about their school. Advancing Scientific Knowledge Recent safety issues in public schools, coupled with high demands for student achievement, have raised the bar for ensuring a safe and secure environment for teachers and students across the United States. Teachers have a variety of obligations that they must effectively meet on a daily basis. In an effort to accomplish the tasks that must be completed every day, teachers must be able to manage their students in the classroom. Schoolwide PBIS have been proven to effectively improve student behavior and improve academic success for students (Oswald et al., 2005). PBIS is an applied science that uses educational methods to create more individually centered alternatives to dealing with adverse situations (Warren et al., 2006). While PBIS has proven to be very effective in helping students improve, very little research exists that demonstrates what PBIS does for teachers. Student behavior impacts school climate and therefore there is a balance that must exist for school climate to be perceived positively. Climate is an indication of how well the school is realizing its full potential for students and teachers alike (Gunbayi, 2007). As a means to improve school climate, research exists (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005; Eber et al., 2010; Warren et al., 2006; Miramontes, Marchant, Heath, & Fischer, 2011) that demonstrates the benefits to having PBIS on a school campus. Teachers are the conduit between implementation of a schoolwide behavior plan that works and student perceptions about school. Limited 17 research exists defining how a schoolwide behavior plan benefits the teachers whom implement the program themselves. PBIS, just like any schoolwide behavior plan, takes time to implement and develop. When teachers understand that their efforts as an individual contribute to the betterment of the school as a whole, they are more likely to understand how the PBIS program will allow them to have more uninterrupted instructional time with their students (Warren et al., 2006). This study advanced the scientific knowledge that exists regarding schoolwide behavior plans and their influence on how teachers’ perceive their school climate as school districts and school leaders examine the many different schoolwide behavior plans that may be used to improve student behavior on a school campus. The data gathered from this study may assist school leaders who might be considering the potential benefits of using a schoolwide behavior plan for their school. Because very little research exists in this area, this study attempted to demonstrate the benefits that exist regarding PBIS and how those benefits are passed on to the teachers that implement them. With the added pressure of school safety and nation-wide school standards, it is now more important than ever that teachers feel supported and have a positive connection to their place of employment. Using qualitative research through an interpretive design that identifies demographic differences and responses to open-ended interview questions, this study identified factors that may contribute to teachers’ positive perceptions of their school climate as a direct result of the implementation of the PBIS initiative. Through collection of semi-structured interview responses to open-ended questions and analysis of the PBIS teacher questionnaire data, this study attempted to determine whether having PBIS in 18 place contributes to teachers’ perceptions of school climate. The teachers who participated in this study have been involved with PBIS for a minimum of four to six years; there was a great deal of insight that was learned from their experiences. Three years of longitudinal student referral data were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the PBIS initiative to improve student behavior. When classrooms are free of student behavior issues that disrupt the learning environment for all students, teachers have more time to deliver the quality instruction necessary for increasing the academic success of those students they teach (Coffey & Horner, 2012). The results of this study may assist principals and educators by identifying benefits of having a schoolwide behavior management program in place that may lead to influenced perceptions about school climate from teachers themselves. This study may also benefit principals and school administrators who are considering implementing a schoolwide behavior program at their own schools as well. Additionally, principals and school administrators may be able to identify key components of a schoolwide behavior plan that may also lead to reduced student discipline referrals on a high school campus. Understanding the relationship that may exist between an effective schoolwide behavior plan for students and teacher efficacy may help to close the gap that exists in the literature. Significance of the Study The significance of this research is that it explored how a well-known schoolwide behavior plan for students’ influences the way teachers’ perceive their school climate. High school students’ academic success and the correlation to improved student behavior in a high school environment has been a topic of research for many years (Scott et al., 19 2010; Collie et al., 2012). According to Yablon and Addington (2010), in an effort to be successful in a time of continuous school reforms, the abilities of educators to manage student behavior effectively is key to academic success. It has been determined that students who feel valued and trusted at their school are more likely to have high academic success than those students who feel a sense of disconnection to their school (Oswald et al., 2005). Many factors such as relationships and rapport can influence school climate and the way people feel about their place of employment. Demographical factors such as age, gender, years of experience, and years of education can affect the way a teacher perceives school climate. While it is an educator’s professional responsibility to keep students safe at school, it is also their professional duty to make sure that students understand and follow all school rules. Finding the balance between protector and disciplinarian significantly affects student-teacher relationships. Research states that teachers will have a more positive perception of school climate at a school where students’ behavior is not an interruption to the educational environment and academic success is made possible (Coffey & Horner, 2012). This study addressed factors that contribute to a positive school climate as well as explored how PBIS and its philosophy improves student behavior and improves academic success. A review of the literature supports the finding that PBIS decreases student misbehavior and increases academic success (Oswald et al., 2005; Hoyle et al., 2011; Coffey & Horner, 2012). Literature also supports the need for improved school climate and the benefits of having a safe school for students and a positive school climate for teachers to work in 20 (Warren et al., 2006; Miramontes et al., 2011; Eber et al., 2011; Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). According to Miramontes et al. (2011), criteria for evaluating behavioral support programs are a moving target. One such criterion is the teachers themselves who are responsible for the implementation of the program. How teachers feel about the program, their willingness to participate, and the benefits they see from the program all drive program effectiveness. In complex educational settings, educators may feel overwhelmed with promised results from behavioral plans that can be implemented (Miramontes et al., 2011). Teachers who buy in to a schoolwide behavioral program and are committed to its success must have reliable and valid measures that define the program benefits students and improves the quality of education. In an effort to answer the research question, how does PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate, an analysis of data was presented. Responses from the four open-ended question semi-structured interviews, as well as the PBIS teacher questionnaire data and three years of student discipline data collected for this study, were shared as a means to demonstrate the quality of education that may be perceived by teachers. The exploration of the relationship that may exist between student behavior and teacher efficacy may exist as a direct result of implementing PBIS as a schoolwide behavior plan was the focus of this research. The results of this study will benefit the school administration and the teachers themselves in understanding the impact that PBIS may or may not have on their own school climate. Understanding the perceptions that exist will allow the school to plan strategically to further improve the climate of their school as perceived by the teachers who work there. 21 Rationale for Methodology The use of rigorous qualitative research methodology not only enhances the development of qualitative measures; it can also enhance the dissemination of comparative data and improve research efforts (Sofer, 2012; Johnson, Burke, & Gielen, 2011). The use of qualitative research through interpretive design as a research approach that provided the research tools that are needed to study or understand complex phenomena and subjects within their natural environment was the focus of this study (Baxter & Jack, 2008). This study attempted to determine whether the existence of PBIS has any influence on how teachers perceive their school climate. According to Mertens (2010), qualitative research requires the collection of data at the site where teachers experience the issue or problem being studied in order to understand the issue or problem being studied. Since perceptions are based on individual thoughts and feelings, it was necessary to use interpretive inquiry to understand what teachers are feeling. Snelgrove (2014) examined the methodological and epistemological challenges experienced when conducting a longitudinal interpretive analysis of patients’ experience with back pain. His research solidifies the notion that an qualitative interpretive analysis draws on the experience of managing interpretive analysis. Furthermore, according to Larkin, Watts, and Clifton (2006), the questions of research that defines data collection and analysis, and then reports the results of that data through the development of themes that exist. Through a natural inquiry approach, this study sought to understand if an influence exists between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of school climate in their own natural setting. Since the collection of interview data was done through electronic surveys and face-toface interviews, the researcher did not directly observe teachers in their classrooms. An 22 qualitative interpretive approach was selected for this study because seeking to understand teachers in their natural environment was the focus. Focus groups and interviews are now a standard part of developing research survey questions that can be used to help researchers better understand the phenomenon they seek to explore (Sofer, 2012; Lauer, 2006). Quantitative methodology would not have worked for this study because this study did not intend to study relationships between variables, differences between groups, or results of experiments. Instead, this study attempted to develop an in-depth understanding about the nature of systems, assumptions, and social constructs. Over the last decade or two, qualitative research paradigm has been deemed successful and has increased its effectiveness (Mus, 2012). The world of education, educational research, and qualitative oriented research has predominantly been used to try to understand subjects in their own natural environment. Qualitative research had been developed mainly out of concern for restoring meaning within the social sciences (Mus, 2012). Understanding meaning requires that research not only be done in the natural environment of the subjects being studied; it also requires that one seek to understand personal perceptions of those individuals. Klopper (2008) stated that qualitative methodology is best used when little is known about a particular topic, the context of the research is poorly understood, the boundaries are not clearly defined, the phenomenon is not quantifiable, or the nature of the problem is not clearly defined. The program being studied is PBIS and the influence the program may have on teachers’ perception of the school climate on a high school campus. While PBIS has been successful in impacting and influencing students in positive ways, it is not known 23 whether there is any relationship between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of the school climate. The research question that guided this study is: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate? When a qualitative interpretive approach is used correctly, its epistemological position is rooted and an assumption is made that subjective data can inform the research about subjects understanding of their own experiences (Snelgrove, 2014; Wagstaff & Williams, 2014). The use of a qualitative interpretive study was used to answer the research question for this study. A qualitative interpretive study is a research approach that can explore the sense that participants make of their own social world or define a phenomenon within its own natural environment using a variety of data sources (Wagstaff & Williams, 2014). Five demographical questions in an electronic survey were used as a means to identify purposefully teachers to be interviewed at the participant high school in Southern Arizona. According to Wagstaff and Williams (2014), an interpretive study can be used to interpret the participants’ interpretations of their own experiences in an effort to understand a phenomenon and to generalize. An interpretive study as part of the qualitative methodology allowed for the gathering of information from teachers in their own natural environment and allowed for the exploration of student/teacher relationships that exist in classrooms (Lauer, 2006). Since this study focused on interpreting the influence that PBIS has on school climate as perceived by teachers, an interpretive study is the best approach (Yin, 2013; Snelgrove, 2014). Information about teachers’ perceptions were gathered and analyzed to determine themes that may exist. A five question demographic survey regarding gender, ethnic background, years of 24 teaching, educational background, and years of teaching as well as a PBIS teacher questionnaire at that particular school was used to gain insight into the school climate that exists. A four question semi-structured interview was conducted that asked teachers’ personal perspectives on PBIS and school climate and was used to identify teachers’ perceptions of the schoolwide behavior initiative. The demographic survey and the PBIS teacher participation survey were given to approximately 75 teachers who have taught at the participant high school for at least four to six years. Seven teachers, based on responses to years of teaching experience at the participant high school, were purposefully selected and interviewed. Teachers of each sub group who have taught at the participant high school for four to six years as well as teaching experience were used for this study. The data collected provided historical information and the ability to determine what themes may exist while controlling the line of questioning (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Nature of the Research Design for the Study While qualitative research seeks to find or explain the causes of changes in social facts through objective measurement and analysis, quantitative research also seeks to study a phenomenon to quantify participant responses and interpret those responses (Arghode, 2012). Qualitative research methodology for this dissertation through an interpretive design was based on the attempt to explore a phenomenon that may be specific to a single site (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Based on that rationale, qualitative interpretive research design has been selected for this research because this study explored how teachers interpretations of their experiences that influence their personal feelings about their school climate as well as sought to 25 understand if PBIS has any influence on those perceptions which fits the characteristics of a qualitative model. According to Wagstaff and Williams (2014), qualitative interpretive studies provide tools that may be used by researchers to explore the sense that participants make of their own personal or social worlds. A narrative design was considered but did not fit because this design merely describes the lives of individuals to gain meaning from them. This study sought to identify teachers’ actual thoughts and feelings on school climate and not just describe their school climate. The ethnography design was also considered but did not fit the intent of this study. Like an interpretive design, ethnography research is used for the purpose of going into an environment and studying to understand a specific group in the natural setting in which they work, live, or participate. While this study examined teachers in their own environment, interviews of teachers happened one time and not several times over a significant period. After examining the various qualitative designs available, the interpretive design was chosen because it best fit the nature of the study. The research being conducted attempted to establish the meaning of the phenomenon established through PBIS by the teachers of the study. The research design chosen for this study stemmed from the gap in literature lacking empirical qualitative works on schoolwide behavior plans benefitting teachers. When an interpretive approach is applied correctly to a study, it becomes a valuable method for health science research that will allow the researcher to develop theory and recognize contributions (Wagstaff & Williams, 2014). Qualitative interpretations of the teachers being studied is recorded to better understand perceptions and develop an understanding of the phenomenon that exists 26 (Arghode, 2012; Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). The rationale behind selecting an interpretive method over other qualitative research design was based on the attempt to understand the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. According to Wagstaff and Williams (2014), an interpretive design should be used when the focus of the study seeks to explore how and why something exists. The sense made of those involved in the study and the contextual conditions that influence interpretations are relevant to the phenomenon, and the boundaries between the phenomenon and context that are not clearly defined. The interpretive study approach allows the ability to design interview questions specific to the phenomenon being studied and to use open-ended questions to find out what the teachers’ think and feel in face-to-face interviews (Hopkins, 2002; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006; Mertens, 2010). Because this study was based on phenomenology and on the perceptions of teachers alone, this study did not lend itself to a mixed methods approach (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). The mixed methods approach could be used if the researcher chose to analyze statistical data that was relevant to student behavior and compare more than one school or location (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006). In order to understand the stories of the teachers themselves and their perceptions at a single school, an interpretive approach allows for closer collaboration between the researcher and the teachers that are being studied (Wagstaff & Williams, 2014). A qualitative interpretive study was selected for this study providing the ability to interact with teachers in their own school environment where they can tell their stories and share their positions and feelings (Wagstaff & Williams, 2014; Merriam, 2009: 27 Roberts, 2013; Mertens, 2010). An electronic survey regarding demographic information, an electronic PBIS teacher questionnaire, along with open-ended interview questions were used to gather teachers’ thoughts and feelings about their school environment. The survey of five demographical questions was asked in order to determine the target group of teachers who were used for this study. Those teachers were able to best support the research question and discover whether PBIS has any influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. An electronic PBIS teacher survey was given to all teachers and data were collected in order to understand how the general teaching population felt about the influence of PBIS on the same focus areas that the purposefully selected teachers expressed in their interview responses. The school being studied has had PBIS in place for six consecutive school years and PBIS has been a part of their school culture. This study examined the culture that exists amongst a group of teachers through the qualitative interpretive design that used a teacher questionnaire and open-ended questioning from teachers who have been on the school campus and involved in PBIS program for at least four to six years (Merriam, 2009). Longitudinal student referral data also exists as a means to demonstrate the number of student referrals when compared to the total population on one high school campus. The teachers in this qualitative interpretive study are teachers who teach in a public high school in Southern Arizona. The teachers have taught at the research site for a minimum of four years and have been a part of the implementation and sustainability of the PBIS program on this school campus. Teachers were purposefully selected as a target group based on their responses to the demographic information. Their selection was specifically based on the number of years of experience teaching at the participant high 28 school. While the number of years teaching at the participant high school and years of education were asked of all teachers, only those teachers who have been on the school campus for at least the past four to six years were invited to participate in this study. These teachers participated in face-to-face interviews that included four open-ended questions. Participant responses from the survey questions were coded and themes were developed following the three step coding process as outlined by Merriam (Merriam, 2009). PBIS teacher questionnaire data were also used to gather information on similarities and differences amongst the general teaching population and the teachers based on their own personal perspectives. Definition of Terms The following terms are used in this study: Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). AYP is a U.S. federally designated system that measures whether or not states and school districts are making satisfactory progress toward passing mandated tests and meeting the goals of NCLB through proficient levels of students academic success by the year 2014 (Forte, 2010). Administrative support. Administrative support is defined as those efforts taken by administration to acquire resources, supporting staff, providing clear expectations, and providing feedback regarding the progress of implementation and sustainability (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Behavior interventions. Behavior interventions are strategies used by school personnel to decrease discipline problems in students (Hoyle et al., 2011). 29 Contextually Appropriate Innovation (CAI). CAI is innovation that is aligned to both state education agency and local education agency standards (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Data-based decision making (DDM). Data-based decision-making requires an organization to have explicit systems to collect and share data with an entire school staff to provide corrective feedback on innovative efforts (Coffey & Horner, 2012). No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB): NCLB was passed in 2001 and is designed to increase student achievement and hold states and schools accountable for the academic progress of all students (Forte, 2010). Phenomenon: A phenomenon is defined as a fact or situation that is observed to identify a relationship of a central theme or themes to be studies or defined (Miramontes et al., 2011). Positive behavior intervention strategies (PBIS). PBIS is a behavioral approach that uses systems change methodology in an effort to minimize students problem behaviors, increase students’ quality of life, and increase the likelihood of academic success in school (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Safe school. A safe school is defined as one that is lacking violence, fear, drugs, alcohol, and where the school climate promotes learning for students and a feeling of being safe (Bosworth et al., 2011). School climate. School climate is the quality of relationships that exists between individuals at a school, the teaching and learning processes that take place, and the collaborative efforts that exist between teachers and administrative staff members (Collie et al., 2012). 30 School violence. School violence is defined as violent behaviors that endanger the health, welfare, and safety of students and teachers (Lunenburg, 2010). Schoolwide evaluation tool (SET). A schoolwide evaluation tool is designed to assess and evaluate the critical attributes of a schoolwide behavior plan for every school year (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS). SWPBS is a prevention minded approach for student discipline that is characterized by defining and teaching behavioral expectations, rewarding positive behaviors, continual evaluation of behavior effectiveness, and integrating supports for both individual students and the school as a whole (Warren et al., 2006). Shared vision. Shared vision is an agreement between school personnel and school leadership about the core components of innovation and what the implementation of those components will look like (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Social validity. Social validity is described as the value that society places on a product (Miramontes et al., 2011). Student-teacher relationships. Student-teacher relationships are defined as the quality of students’ ability to interact with their teachers based on their perceptions of the classroom environment, their engagement, and achievement (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). Teacher commitment. Teacher commitment is defined as the psychological bond between teachers for their profession and the organization in which they work (Collie et al., 2012). 31 Assumptions, Limitations, Delimitations This study may determine that assumptions and limitations affect outcomes, findings, and methodology. The following assumptions have been identified as present in this study: 1. It was assumed that teachers’ demographic backgrounds and experience using the PBIS program may also influence their perceptions about their school climate. Teaching students and having good classroom management is a craft that can only be improved over time. Teachers in the public school setting learn command of their classrooms through experience as successful practitioners in the classroom. For this reason alone, gender, age, experience, and educational background may also play a role in how teachers feel about their school climate. 2. It was assumed that this study is an accurate representation of current perceptions of teachers in Southern Arizona and that all teachers answered interview questions openly and honestly. The teachers for this study cooperatively answered survey questions that were asked of them and were able to elaborate through open-ended questioning on their feelings regarding PBIS and their own perceptions of their school climate. The following limitations/delimitations may be present in this study: 1. Teachers used for this study have only experienced PBIS as a schoolwide behavior management system, which may skew their perceptions. 2. Teachers who were interviewed have worked on the participant high school campus for a minimum of four to six years and may not be able to differentiate their own perceptions about school climate. 32 3. The interpretive study participation was limited to only those teachers who had taught at the participant high school for four years or more. 4. The student referral data that is presented in this study corroborates how the teacher participants have responded to the interview questions and supports only their perceptions and positive impressions of their school climate. 5. Additional factors that may contribute to perceptions of school climate were limited to only the target group of teachers and this single school environment. Not all schools that use PBIS can necessarily generalize findings in this study. Factors that affect every school such as socio economic make up, location, school finances, and legislative issues may also influence school climate and teacher perceptions. There is a lack of research to support a connection between PBIS and teachers’ feelings about their school climate. This research was delimited to only one high school in Southern Arizona. The study was limited to only teachers who had been on the school campus for at least the past four to six years, which could have limited the demographic sample. The participant high school in Southern Arizona was chosen for this study because they are the only high school in Arizona to have as much as six years’ experience and exposure to PBIS on their campus. Teachers with less than four to six years’ experience using PBIS at the participant high school were not selected as teachers for this study since teachers with less than four to six years’ experience may not understand PBIS well enough to understand its influence on their own perceptions. Limitations my also exist because of the positive impressions the teachers have about their students. Because student referral data was not available pre-implementation of the PBIS program, benefits 33 to themselves and their school climate may be more associated with teachers’ own perceptions or expectations rather than the PBIS program itself, not demonstrating causality. The research delimited middle school and elementary studies. The study was only delimited through a qualitative approach and findings may not be generalized. Summary and Organization of the Remainder of the Study High school students have a great deal of challenges they face every day. Likewise, teachers also have a great deal of pressure to increase the academic success of these students. Due to high stakes testing and an increased push in academic standards in society, “public schools are caught between a proverbial rock and hard place” (Sanders & Lewis, 2005). In an effort to help all students connect to their school, the use of PBIS can be used to help all students feel like they belong at their school and to achieve academic success. In an effort to meet these demands and to ensure that every student receives the quality education they deserve, schools and school districts have turned to schoolwide behavioral plans that outline the expectations they have for their students (Warren et al., 2006). The PBIS model or approach for changing behavior uses systems of change methodology in an effort to minimize individual student’s problem behaviors, increase the quality of education, and increase the likelihood that students will be academically successful (Coffey & Horner, 2012). When schoolwide behavioral plans are used successfully to improve student behavior and to improve the quality of education taking place, then the entire school climate becomes much more positive for students and teachers alike. 34 There is a growing body of research that demonstrates that schoolwide positive behavior and supports (SWPBS) reduce behavioral problems for students and help students improve their academic success (Eber et al., 2011). That success and improved student behavior can lend itself to influence students’ perceptions of school climate in a very positive way. A gap in literature exists and little research has been done to determine whether having schoolwide positive behavior and supports in place have any influence in how teachers view their school climate. When students behave and teachers can teach without interruption, the school climate is very positive for most teachers. There is ample research to show that teachers are generally very satisfied with all aspects of their job related to teaching when schoolwide behavior plans are in place (Collie et al., 2012; Butt et al., 2005; Crossmen & Harris, 2006; Dinham & Scott, 1998; Kim & Loadman, 1994). A review of the literature supports the finding that PBIS decreases student misbehavior and increases academic success. Literature also supports the need for improved school climate and the benefits of having a safe school for students and a positive school climate for teachers in which to work. Although the conceptual foundations of PBIS at a macro level have been widely used and described in literature, the benefits of having schoolwide behavior interventions for the teachers themselves has been presented through very limited examples (Scott et al., 2010). The relationship that may or may not exist between these two phenomena was the premise for the research that was implemented in this study. Chapter 2 will present a review of current research and provide the theoretical foundation of the dissertation literature review in preparation for this study. Chapter 3 will describe the methodology, research design, and procedures for ethical treatment used 35 in this study. Chapter 4 will detail how the interpretive study was analyzed and provide both a written and graphic summary of the results. Chapter 5 will provide the interpretation and discussion of the results as it relates to the existing body of research related to PBIS and teacher perceptions of school environment. Preparation for the research and interview questions was completed by September of 2014. Pending Grand Canyon University IRB approval, semi-formal interviews and data collection were conducted at the school site in October of 2014. Analysis of the data took place in October of 2014. Completion of the research conducted and writing the formal dissertation was completed in December of 2014. 36 Chapter 2: Literature Review Introduction to the Chapter and Background to the Problem The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore how teachers feel about the PBIS initiative and if they feel the PBIS has any effect on school climate at the participant high school in Southern Arizona. Historically, high school students’ academic success and their sense of belonging or connectivity to their school have been associated with high school dropout rates and graduation in many research studies for several years now. While school safety and the ability to feel safe at school still is a significant problem that school leaders and their students have to contend with, students’ sense of belonging and their ability to be successful academically in high school is something that cannot be ignored (Wynn, Carboni, & Patall, 2007). The literature review provides the impact that school safety, violence in schools, and public school safety measures have on schools and school leaders. Furthermore, the literature review provided information on how schools are using a team decision-making approach to implement the use of Positive Behavior supports to reduce student discipline referrals and to improve school climate. This chapter reviews the background of the study and discusses the transformative learning theory of Mezirow (1997) as the theoretical basis of the research for this study. Succeeding the background for the study and the theoretical framework, school safety, violence in schools, public school safety measures, positive behavior supports, team decision-making, discipline referrals, and school climate was explored. Public school safety measures will dictate the rationale behind the need for new approaches to attempt to change students’ behavior in an effort to combat school violence. PBIS introduce a new educational thinking and new methods to work with students on school campuses to 37 improve student behavior and reduce the need for discipline referrals. Lastly, a summary of the entire chapter will conclude with a transition statement to the methodology that will be discussed in Chapter 3. To discuss effectively the key components of PBIS and how they influence teachers’ perceptions on their school climate, key words were used to survey the shifts that have occurred in dealing with school safety and student behaviors in ways that are more positive. PBIS is a model of application that uses a behaviorally based system to address school and classroom discipline issues. PBIS, when implemented correctly, can develop schoolwide systems that support staff to teach and promote positive behavior in all students (Betters-Bubon, 2012). Finally, the literature review surveyed information about how school climate affects both students and teachers on school campuses. Background. Since 2001, America’s public education has been regulated by federal mandates that will be ending at the conclusion of the year 2014. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused its attention on meeting the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status (NCLB, 2002). The focus of the NCLB Act was to ensure that all students meet or exceed reading and mathematics state standards with 100% proficiency by the conclusion of the 2014 academic school year. Under the NCLB act, schools are identified for improvement based on application of an adequate yearly progress (AYP) algorithm that is well defined in the NCLB legislation and ensuing regulations (Forte, 2010; Lauer, 2006). With a focus on annual yearly progress and a performance based accountability system in our global society, the challenge of increased accountability that public education faces is being met with mixed reactions across the country (Forte, 2010). The NCLB Act of 2001 has challenged administrators to be more accountable for 38 their students’ education by employing highly qualified teachers that employ both effective and research-based instructional practices (NCLB, 2002). Generally, when asked to recount their high school experience, most teenagers report that interpersonal features are the most critical to their school engagement (Coleman, 1961). Students often have been reported needing to feel like they belong to various social groups on their campuses. The innate ability to develop relationships within those social circles can influence their motivation and their academic success hinges on their social lives. High school students today have many more challenges and have a greater amount of pressure on them to be academically successful than those generations before them. With the added pressures to be academically successful, there is growing evidence that students’ experience of belonging is being jeopardized (Ryan, Stiller, & Lynch, 1994). High school students need to feel accepted by the educators they associate with. The sense of belonging and the role that belonging plays in student motivation impacts achievement for all students which cannot be ignored. With the added academic pressure that has been put on educators and students alike, it is now more important than ever that students feel comfortable and safe at their school if they intend to be successful through high stakes testing (Engels, Hotton, Devos, Bouckenooghe, & Aelterman, 2008). The added academic pressures of high stakes testing that high school student’s face can lead to students demonstrating disruptive behaviors in the classroom affecting the learning of all students thus, creating more pressure to succeed. Teachers’ concerns about discipline problems and the possibility of violence in public schools have resulted in efforts to find more effective methods to maintain safe school environments (Hoyle et al., 2011). If students are going to overcome the 39 educational challenges they face, they must be free from distractions that would interfere with that success. As discipline issues and school violence are on the rise, many school leaders have turned to schoolwide behavior supports in an effort to provide a positive school environment where discipline problems decrease and student academic skills can improve (Hoyle et al., 2011). PBIS is a schoolwide behavior plan that many schools have turned to in the last decade to attempt to eliminate disruptive behaviors in the classroom. While PBIS has been reported to be successful in eliminating disruptive student behavior and assist in improving the academic success of students, there is a gap in the literature that examines what having PBIS in place does for the teachers themselves. High school students not only need to graduate successfully, they need to ensure they have taken rigor in their courses and have high enough marks to give them a competitive edge in getting into the colleges and universities they desire to attend. In his study, Osterman (2000) highlighted dimensions of student-teacher relations, peer relations, and the involvement in school activities as the “key to social experiences known to tie adolescents to their schools in ways that enhance motivation and achievement as well as demonstrating how variable researchers have defined the impact on student success” (p. 294). Because there is such a great deal of pressure for high school students to be academically successful, it is important that schools and school administrators focus their attention on their students’ sense of belonging to their school. Research has been conducted that suggests that through the use of PBIS, students can be academically successful and feel like they are connected to their school. Students are all unique individuals and have various intrinsic and extrinsic factors that motivate them 40 academically, but the need for a sense of belonging is something they all have in common. PBIS by design allows teachers to recognize students’ efforts by rewarding those desirable behaviors demonstrated by students in the classroom rather than focusing on the negative behaviors that some students exhibit. Creating this safe environment where students feel safe and secure can also be described as having a positive school climate. School climate is described as the feelings that teachers and students have about their school and the way the students and teachers cohabitate together (Gunbayi, 2007). The way that teachers treat students can affect students’ feelings about their school environment. Likewise, the way students behave during the school day can have a significant impact on how teachers feel about their school climate. Gunbayi (2007) stated that every educational institution has their own unique climate that distinguishes themselves from other schools and organizations. PBIS allow schools to track students’ misbehaviors while analyzing what is happening, when it is happening, and where it is happening in an effort to change undesirable student behaviors. By creating a reward system that demonstrates to students that they are valued and important can help students find that sense of belonging. In an effort to help all students connect to their school, positive intervention systems can be used to help all students feel like they belong at their school and impact the academic success students are capable of. Students’ problem behaviors are a critical component that affects a safe school environment at schools all over the United States (Han & Akiba, 2011). The PBIS model is an application of behaviorally based systems that addresses school and classroom discipline problems. 41 PBIS develop schoolwide systems that encourage faculty and staff to teach and promote positive behavior in all students. Even in schools where there is a high academic success rate, there are still students who never find their sense of belonging and therefore struggle through high school. Through a qualitative interpretive study of a high school that has successfully implemented PBIS, school leaders and teachers alike will benefit from the data that was presented regarding the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. High school students have a great deal of social and academic challenges they face every day. Being prepared to exemplify positive behavior, school personnel can increase students’ sense of belonging and therefore affect the academic success that they have at their school. Just as NCLB set the goal of 100% proficiency for students by the end of 2014, the goal of the implementation of PBIS is to achieve 100% of high school students’ feeling connected to their school while being academically successful in school and in life. In an effort to better understand the relationship that may exist between successful implementation of the PBIS program and the benefits that may exist for the teachers who implement the program themselves, this chapter presents an introduction of the study, the theoretical foundations, a review of literature, and a summary. The review of literature itself has been organized into subsections that all affect the need for PBIS and may affect school climate. The subsections that exist within the literature review are school safety, violence in schools, public school safety measures, positive behavior supports, team decision-making, discipline referrals, and school climate. Important to the field, these topics review the need for schoolwide behavior plans and the influence that may affect school climate for teachers. 42 The research that has been examined from various studies demonstrates that PBIS can be very powerful in changing a school’s climate while improving student behavior. Every school is different and has its own unique challenges, but research suggests that these challenges can be addressed through PBIS or other schoolwide behavior programs if the school faculty and staff are committed to its implementation. PBIS include the process of putting together a committed team that is dedicated to being trained and implementing the process to the entire faculty and staff. The recent increase of school violence and the need for increased school safety, combined with the challenge of high stakes testing and the desire for academic success for all students, was the basis for the literature reviewed in this study. The topics reviewed in this chapter all have an impact on both students and teachers alike in the educational process that exists in public high schools. Disciplinary action taken by schools that keeps the best interest of students in mind demonstrates their effort to minimize the gap in academic achievement based on student’s age, gender, and socioeconomic status while holding students accountable for their own behavior (Han & Akiba, 2011). PBIS are very interesting in that they have been used at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Each level has its own challenges that are unique to the age of the students and the community or environment that surround the school. The administration of a school also has a significant impact on the successful implementation of PBIS and must be completely committed for the implementation to work. As with any educational initiative being implemented, the principal must be the driver behind the initiative if there is going to be buy-in by the teaching staff. There is research that exists demonstrating some of the challenges that can 43 be associated with implementation of schoolwide programs. While there are always challenges to implementation of new discipline programs, taking a positive approach to discipline like PBIS has shown significant decreases in problem behavior. The student referral process and how student discipline is tracked must be consistent and is critical in showing growth or improvement to the faculty and staff. With school violence on the rise and federal mandates for high stakes testing over the past decade, PBIS has demonstrated effective results for students through the use of evidence-based practices uniformly administered is more important than ever before in schools today (Coffey & Horner, 2012). The added pressure for a national curriculum in recent years as well as student achievement results being the deciding factor for teacher retention decisions by school districts makes it even more important to create a positive school climate. While PBIS originally began as an elementary school behavior strategy, is has drastically evolved over time. PBIS has been deemed successful in changing student behaviors and improving the school climate for students themselves at the high school level. A gap in the literature exists in that it is still not known whether PBIS has any influence on teachers themselves regarding their feeling about school climate (Mifflen, 2008). The increase of school violence and the number of students who now are diagnosed with social and emotional issues makes it more important than ever that schools have some type of schoolwide behavior plan in place to control students in the classroom. Historically, schools and school districts have used no tolerance initiatives as a means to remove students from school rather than face their issues with them (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Important to the field, this chapter reviews the background of the study 44 and uses Mezirow’s transformative learning theory as the theoretical basis for the research. The literature used for this study was surveyed by using key words such as school safety, violence in schools, public school safety measures, positive behavior supports, team decisions making, discipline referrals, and school climate. Theoretical Foundations This qualitative interpretive study explored the perspectives of teachers through Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. Transformative learning theory is a structural shift of thought, theory, and actions (Kitchenham, 2008). Transformative learning theory employs a systematic process of effecting change in a frame of reference. This study explored how PBIS influence teachers’ perceptions of school climate. Understanding the phenomenon that exists through teachers real world experiences is the role of the transformative theory researcher. According to Kucukaydin and Cranton (2012), transformative learning theory and its concepts related to psychological structures are not clearly defined and are often used in different ways by different researchers or by the same researcher for different reasons. This qualitative interpretive study was designed to explore how PBIS influence teachers’ perceptions of their own school climate. The interpretive design was also used to determine whether teachers’ demographical difference has any influence on those same perceptions. Transformative learning theory relies greatly on cognitive reason alone; however, it understates the role of active involvement of emotions and feelings within the transformative learning process (Kucukaydin & Cranton, 2012). The research question that guided this study asks how the PBIS initiative influences teachers’ perceptions of school climate. The literature reviewed in this chapter outlines the phenomenon that 45 exists between students’ behavior and teachers’ perceptions in a high school environment. The literature review discussed how school safety has affected students’ ability to feel connected to their school and the role federal mandates have played in changing educational outcomes. Since this study was designed to attempt to understand teachers in their own natural environment through a frame of reference that encompasses cognitive and emotional components, the transformative learning theory was best suited for this interpretive study (Kitchenham, 2008). The research question indicated a need to develop a theoretical foundation in order to determine how the influence of PBIS affects teachers’ perceptions in a high school setting since a sound theoretical foundation does not currently exist (Jones & Alony, 2011). The phenomena being studied was PBIS and its influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate on a high school campus. Transformative learning has become arguably one of the most provocative ideas for understanding relationships and theory of self (Dirkx, 2012). While PBIS has been successful in impacting and influencing students in a positive ways, it is not known whether there is any relationship between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. School climate involves three dimensions: the relationships that exist between members of the organization, the personal development of the organizational members, and the maintenance and change of the organization (Collie et al., 2012). This study expanded on the existing body of knowledge surrounding school safety, the school environment, student discipline, and the need for schoolwide behavior interventions and supports to improve school climate (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Furthermore, this study expanded on previous claims that PBIS not only improves students’ behavior on a school campus, but that is also improves 46 students’ academic success leading to a more positive school climate. Transformative learning has evolved over time as a frame of reference that influences habits of mind or meaning perspectives that lead to perspective transformation and unanswered questions that may exist (Kitchenham, 2008). According to Dirkx (2012), as researchers construct and reconstruct the meaning of one’s life experiences, the more conscious we become of how people think and make sense of their self-worth. The research that was conducted for this study involves exploring how PBIS not only provide benefits to the students for whom it was intended, but that there may also be positive ramifications for teachers themselves. Kitchenham (2008) stated that transformative learning theory is considered an appropriate choice for research study when frame of reference provides responses when dealing with new situations or challenges we face. This study sought to explore the underlying benefits or transformative learning surrounding the use of a schoolwide behavior plan (PBIS) for the teachers’ who implement and enforce the expectations that surround it (Barnett, 2012). Review of the Literature Since 2001, America’s public education school system has been regulated by Federal mandates that will be ending at the conclusion of the year 2014. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused its attention on meeting the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status (NCLB, 2002). The focus of the NCLB Act is to ensure that all students meet or exceed reading and mathematics state standards with 100% proficiency by the conclusion of the 2014 academic school year. Under the NCLB act, schools are identified for improvement based on the application of an adequate yearly progress (AYP) algorithm that is defined in the NCLB legislation and ensuing regulations (Forte, 47 2010; Lauer, 2006). With a focus on AYP and a performance-based accountability system in our global society, the challenge public education faces with increased accountability is being met with mixed reactions across our country (Sanders & Lewis, 2005). The NCLB Act of 2001 has challenged administrators to be more accountable for students’ education by employing highly qualified teachers who regularly use researchbased instructional practices (NCLB, 2002). If students are going to overcome the educational challenges they face, they must be free from distractions that would interfere with their academic success. The goal of SWPBS is to provide a positive school environment for students so that discipline problems decrease and student academic skills can improve (Hoyle et al., 2011; Betters-Bubon, 2012). High school students’ connections to their school and the academic success they achieve through the implementation of a positive behavior intervention systems can influence the teachers’ ability to manage and control students in the classroom. By using a student reward system for students based on their positive behaviors at school, this study explored the influence that PBIS have on teachers’ perceptions of school environment in a high school setting (Rhodes, Stevens, & Hemmings, 2011; Mifflen, 2008). The PBIS model is an application of behaviorally based systems that addresses school and classroom discipline problems. PBIS develop schoolwide systems that support staff to teach and promote positive behavior in all students (Betters-Bubon, 2012). Faircloth and Hamm (2005) investigated the dimensions and mechanisms of that sense of belonging relevant to motivation in high school students. In their quantitative study, the authors chose to use survey data as well as students’ perceptions of their teachers and 48 their peers as the motivations behind academic motivation in school. Likewise, Osterman (2000) highlighted dimensions of student-teacher relations and involvement in school activities as the key to social experiences. Prior research suggests that the quality of students’ relationships with their teachers can be linked with student perceptions of their school. Since school climate can be linked to the shared experiences that both students and teachers share, it is not enough to just look at student perceptions alone. In this qualitative interpretive study, longitudinal student discipline data was analyzed to demonstrate improved connectivity and an improved school climate for students. In his study on school climate and teacher perceptions on climate factors, Gunbayi (2007) examined differences in levels of variables related to school climate factors among teachers. In order to gather data for his study, teachers were asked to complete a personal particulars form that used age, gender, seniority, marital status, and education levels as a means to select teachers (Gunbayi, 2007). Like Gunbayi, this interpretive study used a teacher survey to gather demographic data on teachers and to determine participation. In another study designed to determine teacher perceptions on school climate, Collie et al. (2012) investigated how teachers’ perceived climate in their schools and their overall sense of job satisfaction. In their study, teachers were given a questionnaire via email and were asked specific questions about their personal feelings on school climate (Collie et al., 2012). While teachers in this interpretive study were not asked specific questions electronically about their perceptions on school climate, they were interviewed face-to-face to gather this information. What makes this study unique is that while PBIS have a positive affect students, it is not known whether the PBIS program implemented 49 by the teachers themselves, has any influence on their perceptions of the school environment in which they work. School climate generally refers to the quality and character of school life that exists for the students and teachers who interact together (Yang et al., 2013). Through an interpretive design, this study included a teacher survey, teacher interviews, and analysis of student discipline data as a means to answer the research question. According to Wilkinson (2005), scientific practices can be applied through interpretive studies to evaluate the success of an educational program in general education classrooms. Research exists to support the use of an interpretive design as the means of understanding an individual or group in their own natural setting. Likewise, interpretive studies build on existing research and can be used for documenting the effectiveness of a program as perceived by those who experience the program personally (Reid, Flowers, & Larkin, 2005). Through research conducted on the successful implementation of PBIS, students and educators will benefit from this study (Lane et al., 2009). High school students’ have a great deal of social and academic challenges they face every day. Students who are reinforced for positive behavior can increase their sense of belonging and therefore increase the academic success that they have at their school. The direct benefit of the PBIS program for teachers can be improved student-teacher relationships in the classroom, which make the teachers’ job just a little bit easier. Just as NCLB had set the goal of 100% proficiency for students by 2014, the goal of the implementation of PBIS would be to achieve that 100% of high school students feel connected to their school and are academically successful in school and in life. High school students are all unique individuals that all have various wants, needs, and desires 50 that make their high school experience meaningful. A decade of research exists that supports the importance of good classroom management and sheds the light on the dynamics of effectively working with students (Boulden, 2010). The more faculty and staff can create a positive environment through implementation of PBIS and reward students’ both intrinsically and extrinsically for their positive behavior, the more likely those students’ are to connect with their school (Mifflen, 2008). The behavior intervention support team, in which teachers’ are representatives, is a proactive schoolwide behavior management approach that can benefit all students. Through emphasis on relationships with students and their parents, developing known expectations and having high expectations for students improves the quality of education (Boulden, 2010). Teaching is a profession that takes a great deal of time to perfect and being able to relate to students is not always easy. A typical high school is made up of teachers from just one year of teaching experience to twenty plus years of experience. Just as teachers’ are all unique individuals like the students they teach, demographic differences of teachers’ may also affect the way they interact with students. When exploring teachers’ perceptions of school climate, one must also consider the demographic differences that make up each teacher as an individual. Things like age, gender, years of teaching experience, years of teaching at an individual school, and educational experience may also greatly affect how each teacher feels about their school climate. School safety. School safety and factors that contribute to the climate and culture of schools have been a topic of study for the past 30 years (Shelton, Owens, & Song, 2009). For students and school faculty alike, there are long and short-term repercussions 51 that occur when students’ perceive themselves as being unsafe when at school (Yablon & Addington, 2010). Recent events that have publicized school violence have caused schools to take a much closer look at their own safety procedure and safety precautions that guide how they do business. According to Gregory, Cornell, and Fan (2012), safety can be defined as the state of being free from injury or danger. Many schools have taken the approach of locking classroom doors and ensuring their campuses can be locked down from the public more easily and efficiently. In an effort to test these theories and practices, Bosworth et al. (2011) compared and contrasted the relationship of perception of school safety to the standardized test score ranking, the neighborhood characteristics, and the school climate of several Arizona schools. The idea of harm being inflicted on a child at a school is fundamentally unacceptable and unimaginable to most adults in society (Bosworth et al., 2011). According to their study, these authors found that statistics show that even with the much publicized school shootings and school violence, students remain much safer at school than anywhere else they can be (Bosworth et al., 2011). However, depending on the school and the students that attend those schools, safety at school lies within the eyes of the beholder. Direct victims of school violence and bullying at school suffer various negative effects that include physical, emotional, social, and pedagogical factors that can lead to depression (Yablon & Addington, 2010). A student’s perception that their school is unsafe may lead to fear and that fear can produce its own set of consequences that can affect a student’s ability to concentrate, do schoolwork, and participate in activities (Lawrence, 2006; Yablon & Addington, 2010). Each school year, educators and parents alike have dealt with issues of learning 52 that stem from students’ inability to concentrate due to fear that they feel when at school. While school safety is at the forefront of public school education, school safety measures are often met with resistance by the teaching staff, students, and their parents. The measure of relative safety of any school campus is based on the perceptions of students, faculty, and the staff of that school (Bosworth et al., 2011). An extensive research base exists that supports the concept of involving families in their child’s education to ensure their safety (Howland, Anderson, Smiley, & Abbott, 2006). When parents are informed about school safety measures and can support those efforts at home, the chance that students will be safer at school is greatly increased. Disconnections between home and the school can occur through misunderstanding by the school on the cultures of the families and students whom they serve (Howland et al., 2006). A school where these types of disconnects occur may suffer negative factors such as bullying, crime, and violence when they are combined with negative home life factors (Yablon & Addington, 2010). In their study, Bosworth et al. (2011) used twenty-two focus groups with students and faculty that were conducted in 11 Arizona secondary schools based on their size, location, and proximity. All of the highly achieving Arizona public schools were selected with an effort to include a large urban middle school, a large suburban high school, a midsized suburban middle school, and a midsized rural high school. All of the charter schools in this group were large urban high schools and a midsized rural high school. All of the low-achieving public schools were selected to include a midsized urban middle school, a midsized rural middle school on an Indian Reservation, and a large rural middle school on an Indian Reservation. 53 The results of their study showed that in 9 of 11 schools, no faculty or students voiced any overwhelming concerns about school safety. When the authors asked what made a school safe, students tended to report more physical security features that existed (Bosworth et al., 2011). It was found that school climate and staff actions increased feelings of being safe at school. The faculty reported that relationships and climate were the key factors in making schools safe. Research in the area of school climate seems to be the overwhelming difference between schools in which students and faculty reported higher versus lower levels of violence, alcohol, and other drug use at their school (Yablon & Addington, 2010). The increase of school violence and its impact on students’ ability to succeed academically has been a major factor in many schools turning to schoolwide behavior plans as a means to make their schools safe for all students. A schoolwide effort to decrease undesirable student behaviors and reward desirable behaviors has been a big paradigm shift from focusing on negative behavior for most educators. Violence in schools. Several different authors throughout the past 20 years have researched the association between school safety measures and peer victimization (Yablon & Addington, 2010; Miramontes et al., 2011). Researchers have questioned whether there is an association between school safety measures and peer victimization in public schools. Blosnich and Bossarte (2011) collected data and obtained information from the 2007 School Crime Supplement of the National Crime Victimization Survey. Their study used logistic regression models that were constructed to determine the peer victimization outcomes. When analyzing school violence, it was also determined that there might be other influences in schools with more safety measures in place that are already experiencing more violence (Blosnich & Bossarte, 2011). 54 Lunenburg (2010) stated trends of growing violence that includes bullying and chaos in the classroom are unfortunately becoming the norm for many students in schools today. In an effort to try to make sense or even understand why violent acts are happening in school, one must also look outside the school for answers. In an effort to answer the questions, Lunenburg (2010) suggested asking the following questions: (a) are violent acts frequent, (b) how many incidents of bullying occur, and (c) are student disruptions in class perceived to be a problem by students and teachers alike. The answers to these questions will also describe the school environment that the students of any school experience on a daily basis. The environment of the school is frequently measured by the school’s ability to gauge students, teachers, and parents’ satisfaction with the school (Johnson et al., 2011). While all of these different subgroups play a big role in creating a safe school environment, student academic success is often linked to how safe students feel at school. Violence in school is hindering the educational, psychological, and social development of students in schools across the U.S. (Johnson et al., 2011). Unfortunately, children are often exposed to violence at home, at school, and in the community (Laursen, 2011). In a home where students experience violence, those same students will often practice those same violent acts. However, in schools across the country, violence that was once more physical in nature has now turned to psychologically violent acts such as bullying (Laursen, 2011). Bullying is a systematic way of harming others through repeated physical, verbal or psychological attacks, harassment, and intimidating gestures directed against an individual who is not capable of defending himself (Laursen, 2011). Bullying in most 55 schools has moved more from physical acts of violent to what is now known as cyber bullying. Students’ have turned from the pushing and shoving to using electronic means such as social media sites to attack their classmates mentally. Cyber bullying involves repeated forwarding of information or hurtful images or messages by using cell phones and computer sites to humiliate and bash one another 24 hours a day (Laursen, 2011). Bullies in schools have turned to these technological means to harass their victims instantaneously at any time of the day or night and have worldwide dissemination (Laursen, 2011). In the computer age that exists with students’ uncanny ability to function in the electronic age, it is not surprising that the level of violence in public schools is increasing (Lunenburg, 2011). Unfortunately, as students’ learn to become 21st century learners, their ability to use those same skills and hurt other has grown. Violence in schools cannot be separated from the larger problem that exists from violence in the communities they live (Lunenburg, 2011). With the school shootings that have occurred as recently as 2013, a tougher stance for gun control and teaching students how to deal with their anger has become a high priority for many states and the nation as a whole. Very tough measures are now in place in most states for dealing with violent behavior and these measures are especially hard on those who use weapons as a means to commit violent acts (Lunenburg, 2011). The increase of school shootings, which occurred in the 1990s, focused the nation’s attention on school safety and school safety movements (Hurford et al., 2010). The school shootings at Columbine High School shook the nation to its core and made schools boards and school officials stop and look at just how safe their schools were. Due 56 to the increase in school violence, the national focus on bullying and behavior that can lead to violence in schools became greater (Hurford et al., 2010). Part of improving a schools’ climate or culture is helping students find a sense of belonging through positive student/teacher relationships and a shift in educational practices for many schools. Blosnich and Bossarte (2011) suggested that the mediating and/or moderating roles of non-bullying violent behaviors should be explored as a means to make our school safe. Studies exist that also suggest that severely victimized or bullied respondents should not be included since students who experience intense victimization are more likely to drop out of or be truant from school than others. Blosnich and Bossarte (2011) found that school safety measures that only having adults in hallways resulted in a significant reduction in the odds of being physically bullied. It was also proven that having property vandalized or having rumors spread for most students affected how students and staff behaved. The degree of victimization and having adults and/or staff supervising hallways was associated with a decrease in students experiencing additional forms of peer victimization at their schools (Armstrong, 2011). Furthermore, studies have shown that students reported feeling a greater sense of security knowing that teachers were looking out for them (Hurford et al., 2010). The feelings that both students and teachers experience regarding school safety drastically influence the school climate and culture that may or may not exist. Public school safety measures. School shootings and violence in schools have caused a great concern for increased school safety measures in public schools across the country. Just as recently as one year ago, a school shooting took place in a small rural town in Connecticut, showing the vulnerability of school children while at school. In 57 their study, Shelton et al. (2009) wanted to compare and contrast the association of school safety and their geographic region using thirteen-school safety measures to guide their study. The survey included 1052 public schools representing approximately 16,000 across the country. Every part of the country has similar safety concerns that are common amongst each individual school and at the same time have concerns that are unique to their own school. In an effort to combat these safety issues, many schools are turning to schoolwide programs where every staff member follows the same approach to changing unsafe and undesirable student behavior. Shelton et al. (2009) found that differences in geographic regions also affect prevalent security measures at schools. Their study also provided data that proved that the schools located in the western region had a greater emphasis on fire safety measures along with facility safety measures in the form of fencing around the entire school and exterior lighting, which affected school safety measures. It was also concluded that schools in the West have lower reports of visitation supervision. While most schools across the country now have their visitors sign in when arriving on a school campus, Shelton et al. (2009) found that less than half of the schools surveyed had a reported signin policy for visitors, and even fewer had an adult to direct guests to sign in. Another significant finding from their study noted that fewer schools in the West had metal detectors compared to the schools in any other region in the country (Shelton et al., 2009). Due to the increase in school violence, most schools have turned their attention to thorough prevention and preparedness to reduce safety risks and liability. Schools have safety measures, policies, and programs that have been implemented to decrease the risks 58 of school violence on their campus. Often times, school administrators work with their faculty, staff, and students to take steps to improve participation in programs and adherence to the policies rather than reacting when a violent event occurs. Recent school safety studies have shown that perceptions of school safety may have a greater impact on students than those concrete examples that have occurred at other schools (Bosworth et al., 2011). Schoolwide behavior plans such as PBIS have been known to be effective in improving school safety issues for many schools (PBIS.org). School leaders have found that extending participation in school safety measures that would involve various segments of the community may also prove beneficial (Shelton et al., 2009). Community and business leaders, service organizations, governmental officials, and law enforcement personnel may also be used in an effort to provide resources and services not readily available at the schools (Armstrong, 2011). Many schools now have law enforcement officers that are a permanent part of their school campuses in an effort to make their campuses safe. Many schools are now able to make this possible through safety grants that exist, especially in schools where violence in the community is more frequent. Through the efforts of their study, Shelton et al. (2009) determined that the objectives of the review of present school safety procedures could also provide and maintain a safe and secure learning environment for all students. Since students’ perceptions of their own safety directly influences student learning, many schools have taken more drastic measures to keep their students safe. Security cameras that monitor school campuses, fencing and gates that remain locked during the school day, and even 59 locking classroom doors are all strategies that are now employed by many schools across the country (Armstrong, 2011). Because safety or the feeling of being safe lies in the eyes of the beholder, schools now focus on three categories regarding school safety. The first category is identified as physical characteristic and safety features. The tangible and visible items located around the school such as locked gates and security cameras (Bosworth et al., 2011). The second category is described as organization and school discipline. These are the things that are put in place to create an orderly environment, such as schoolwide behavioral plans and classroom expectations (Bosworth at al., 2011). The third category is defined as school safety and relationships, which are the things that enhance feelings of safety and promote a sense of caring and community (Bosworth et al., 2011). Those very real feelings or perceptions that both students and teachers have about their school are what make up the overall school climate that exists. Positive behavior supports. Researchers have begun to examine the interpersonal experiences of adolescents by integrating intrapersonal focuses with current motivational research compared to the interpersonal reliability of schooling (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). Most students in society generally have an innate desire to do the right thing, but often lack the motivation to do so (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). PBIS are being used as the means to change students’ behavior in many schools today (Moore, 2011). Lane et al. (2009) explored the possibility that evidence exist for the reliability and structure of a primary intervention rating scale with the implementation of PBIS. The criteria for evaluating behavioral support programs are changing every year (Miramontes et al., 2011). The increased pressure put on students to be academically 60 successful in school has added to stress levels of students that do not know how to deal with that stress. The absence of effective preventative behavioral strategies in schools causes most schools to rely on punitive practices such as discipline referrals, school suspensions, and sometimes even expulsions to create a safer school environment (Oswald et al., 2005). While having students removed from school creates some relief for teachers and administrators, this does not teach students’ how to behave properly in school. PBIS take a different approach to student behavior plans that once may have been in existence. Instead of focusing on the negative behaviors that student’s exhibit, PBIS strategies focus on rewarding desirable student behaviors through rewards and praise. To test the effectiveness of PBIS, Lane et al. (2009) sampled 617 teachers representing 11 elementary, three middle, and five high schools in Tennessee. These teachers’ participated in a yearlong training series designed to construct a three-tiered model of positive behavior support. The teachers’ chosen for the study were predominantly female, with a little more than half having earned their educational degrees beyond the bachelor's degree. The majority of the teachers in their study were general educators and had earned the majority of their teaching credentials. Demographic factors such as age, gender, education, and years of experience may also influence how teachers perceive school climate. The 19 schools that were chosen for their study participated in a yearlong training series in positive behavior support (PBS) that was conducted at Vanderbilt University (Lane et al., 2009). The criteria for participation required each school to establish a PBIS team that included an administrator with decision-making authority, two general education teachers, a special education teacher, a parent, and a student. The task given to 61 each team was to attend the PBIS training series in an effort to design a plan containing primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of prevention for their students (Lane et al., 2009). PBIS, as part of the design process, require that each team received input on the primary prevention component of the schoolwide plan. Pre-implementation required that the PBIS leadership team present an overview of the proposed PBIS plan during a regularly scheduled faculty meeting so that all teachers understood what was expected (Lane et al., 2009). This study may serve as an example for other schools that desire successful implementation of PBIS and supports the literature that exists on the positive impacts for students. PBIS outline eight key features of the program that must be considered if sustainability of the program is desired (Coffey & Horner, 2012). These key features are: a) A contextually appropriate innovation: Innovation that is aligned with national and state standards serves as a strong model for implementation. b) Staff buy-in: PBIS recommends that at least 80% of the entire staff be in agreement with using the program before a school moves to implementation. c) A shared vision: There must be an agreement between school personnel regarding the core components of the innovation, what the core components look like, and what teachers desire to see as the outcomes from the innovation. d) Administrative support: This is the most critical component to successful implementation. Unless the administration supports the efforts of the group and believes in the program, the program will not be sustained. e) Leadership at various levels: While administrative support is critical, it is also important to have leadership from a team of key personnel as the internal leaders 62 of the program. f) Ongoing technical support: The program will only improve if efforts are made to understand what is taking place and the understanding to be able to improve practices after implementation. g) Data-based decision making: Data must be collected throughout the process and be analyzed and shared with the entire staff in an effort to provide corrective feedback and increase both short and long-term commitment. h) Continuous regeneration: This final piece requires that a set of procedures be put in place to create a system to compare outcomes again current practices and modify those practices over time (Coffey & Horner, 2012). PBIS is a system of change methodology that will minimize individual student behavior, increase their quality of life, and improve their academic success (Coffey & Horner, 2012). The benefits of PBIS can be seen in students’ and teachers’ alike. Teachers in a PBIS school tend to feel more responsible for each individual student in the school and genuinely want to help students improve both behaviorally and academically (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Warren et al. (2006) described PBIS as the schoolwide application of positive behavior supports in a prevention-oriented approach to deal with student discipline that is characterized by defining teaching and defining behavioral expectations, rewarding appropriate student behavior, continual evaluation for effectiveness, and the integration of supports for individual students by the school as a whole. In the conclusion of their study, Lane et al. (2009) found that in each of the three exploratory factor analyses conducted using squared multiple correlations as prior 63 commonality estimates, there was one factor retained for the elementary, middle, and high school version of the PBIS, as determined using the screen plot. It was also determined that at the elementary school level, based on 329 elementary teacher ratings representing eleven elementary schools prior to onset of a schoolwide PBIS program, there were a range in variables that effected consistent outcomes (Lane et al., 2009). At the middle school level, Lane et al. (2009) determined that based on 86 middle school teacher ratings representing three middle schools prior to onset of a schoolwide PBIS program, the range in variables was more closely aligned based on the implementation stage the school was in. Finally, at the high school level, 202 high school teacher ratings representing five high schools prior to onset of a schoolwide PBIS program (Lane et al. (2009). PBIS has been used as an effective means for reducing behavior issues and increasing the academic success for students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels through various studies. What is still unknown is whether there is any benefit for the teachers who are responsible for overseeing the program and making it work. Team decision making. In schools across the country, many schools have moved away from the top down or dictator type leadership and have moved towards decisionmaking by all members of the educational team. Algozzine, Newton, Horner, Todd, and Algozzine (2012) investigated the possibility of a correlation between failure to implement problem-solving processes with fidelity and resolutions to behavior problems. According to their study, it was determined that when both schoolwide PBIS and the schoolwide information were in existence team decision-making became a norm for those schools. 64 As a part of educational reform efforts, many school districts have turned to decentralizing school management and have moved to individual campuses making sitebased decisions for their schools (Noel, Slate, Brown, & Tejeda-Delgado, 2008). In this model, many of the decisions that were normally made at the district level have been delegated to school principals. This process requires that school boards and district offices turn over their control of decisions regarding curriculum and school operation to the local school (Noel et al., 2008). To accomplish this task of making school decisions as an individual organization, school principals’ have recruited teachers, parents, and community members to assist them in making sound decisions. One of those decisions that historically had been the responsibility of individual schools is to determine how they will handle students’ behavior issues. While many schools have a discipline matrix that outlines the consequences that may exist for students who violate school policies, schoolwide behavior plans are often left to the school itself. PBIS is one of the many schoolwide behavior programs that schools are turning to in an effort to manage student behavior. The trend towards a more strategic approach to school management has led to schools using restructuring activities that focus on making sound decisions as a group (Woodfield & Kennie, 2008). These strategies have caused school leaders to move away from traditional roles of teachers and to create groups of teachers who have become the school leaders. In many cases, a two-level, top-tiered structure has become the norm, with a smaller inner group taking responsibility for day-to-day decisions (Woodfield & Kennie, 2008). In a typical high school setting, these inner groups are identified as department chairs or department leaders who become the voice of their individual 65 departments when making decisions at the school level. When considering a schoolwide behavior plan at the high school level, it is imperative that the school principal have buy in from the school’s department chairs before considering moving forward with its implementation. Participation in decision-making roles by teachers is conceived as an aspect of shared leadership when making decisions at the school level (Kipkoech & Chesire, 2011). With the added pressure that has been placed on teachers to perform in the classroom, it is important that teachers feel like their voice has been heard in the decision making process. The literature that exists regarding participative decision-making has focused primarily on teachers and teachers’ viewpoints in the decision-making process (Kipkoech & Chesire, 2011). Since teachers are greatly affected by most decisions made at schools, research has been done to determine how those decisions affect teachers directly. One of the reasons behind involving teachers in participative decision-making is to improve the overall quality of decisions that an individual school makes and to improve the overall effectiveness of that school (Kipkoech & Chesire, 2011). The problem that can exist when choosing to use a team decision-making process is that the appointed leaders must be able to exhibit all of the qualities that a school leader demonstrates (Bergman, Rentsch, Small, Davenport, & Bergman, 2012). Teachers who are selected to become school leaders must be able to put aside friendships with their colleagues and make decisions that are best for the entire school. These teachers must emerge as the leaders that are needed, when the skills, knowledge, and expertise can benefit the team (Bergman et al., 2012). In a school that decides to move to a schoolwide behavioral plan, the team decision-making process will greatly increase the chances that 66 buy-in by the teacher will take place. Algozzine et al. (2012) concluded that to actually benefit from the problem-solving processes, research must be conducted within the context of using rigorous experimental designs to assess the possible functional relationships between a team's implementation of problem-solving processes with fidelity and resolution of student problems. Staff buy-in is the key component that must exist when deciding to use a schoolwide behavior plan on a school campus. Unless there is at least 80 % staff buy-in, the program will fail. In order for the program to benefit students, all teachers must be willing to implement and follow the program as it is designed. Discipline referrals. School leaders and staff members are held responsible for ensuring safe learning environments where all students can learn appropriate academic and social skills (Irvin, Tobin, Sprague, Sugai, & Vincent, 2004). To accomplish this task, school leaders and school personnel have turned to writing referrals and sending disruptive students to the office for more harsh punishments. With the increase of school violence, it seems that those discipline referrals have changed and become even more prescriptive than in the past. Because students’ generally lack social responsibility when acting out and demonstrating disruptive behaviors, discipline referrals are issued. Social responsibility is the ability for students to demonstrate themselves as a cooperative and contributive member of society (Sparkman, Maulding, & Roberts, 2012). Teachers have the ability to both choose from a predefined list of offenses as well as give a narrative of behavior issues a student is having. While exploring the impact of Positive Behavior Supports in an effort to decrease discipline referrals with elementary students, Sherrod, Getch, and Ziomek-Daigle (2009) explored the impact of Positive Behavior Supports as a means to decreases discipline 67 referrals for students. PBIS take a different approach to student discipline by focusing on the desirable student behaviors through recognition and rewards. Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports or SWPBIS focuses on changing the environment to better meet the needs of all students through a comprehensive and proactive approach that the entire faculty agrees upon (Clonan, McDougal, Clark, & Davison, 2007). PBIS allows school faculty the ability to track student behaviors through the use of discipline referrals to determine what types of behaviors are occurring, where they are occurring, and when they occur throughout the school day. This type of schoolwide intervention included lessons that were taught to every student by their homeroom teachers (Sherrod et al., 2009). The lessons that were being taught were created by a team of teachers who desired to see changes in student behavior and focused on teaching the students the schoolwide rules and expectations. Posters were placed throughout the school to encourage the students to follow the rules taught in the classroom (Sherrod et al., 2009). When expectations are clear for students and are posted in every location they walk through each day, the better the chances are they will be able to meet those expectations and improve the school climate. Research exists that demonstrates a connection between academic achievement and the impact that achievement has on student misbehaviors (Garrett, Antrop-Gonzalez, & Velez, 2010). Traditionally, office discipline referrals have been defined as classroom or school events in which teachers or staff observes a student violating a school rule and then submits documentation to the administration who then delivers a consequence to that student (Pas, Bradshaw, & Mitchell, 2011). This type of discipline has been widely used 68 and is the norm in the public school setting, although many have question whether or not this type of practice actually changes student behavior. In order to monitor such student behavior problems and the impact on each school, interventions have increasingly used discipline referral data; however, there is limited research that exists that can validate their use (Pas et al., 2011). Sherrod et al. (2009) found positive results where other variables may have contributed to the decrease in discipline referrals. There is research that exists suggesting that classroom or school factors that influence student behavior may also increase the risk of a student receiving an office discipline referral (Pas et al., 2011). Teachers are individuals who have different rules and tolerances for student behavior. Inconsistent implementation of classroom rules, overall classroom management ability, and classroom disruptions can all result in the writing of office referrals (Pas et al., 2011). When students do not understand what is expected of them or when those expectations differ from teacher to teacher, students often become frustrated and demonstrate impulsive or disruptive behaviors. Impulse control or the ability to resist or delay a temptation to act out often leads to the issuance of discipline referrals (Sparkman et al., 2012). Repeated referrals, suspensions from school, and expulsions have resulted in students’ lost time from classrooms, disengagement, and even alienation that can result in a negative school climate (Bryan, Day-Vines, Griffin, & Moore-Thomas, 2012). In many high schools across the country, the assistant principal is the one who handles office referrals and initiates school consequences for inappropriate student behavior. Changes in school administration can also affect discipline referrals and how they are handled. In a study, the former assistant principal of a school was promoted to 69 principal at another school and a new assistant principal was introduced (Sherrod et al., 2009). The change in the assistant principal is important because in the participating school he or she handles a majority of discipline issues. The assistant principal also decides whether the discipline referral should be processed and entered into the student information system as well as the consequence to be given. Therefore, a change in leadership that results in a change of ideas about managing discipline may also contribute to the number of discipline referrals that are reported (Sherrod et al., 2009). School discipline is no different from any other school initiative and relies on the school leadership to support the methods put in place to succeed. Change in leadership is one of the biggest factors that can lead to a change in school culture since the school leader impacts the school operations. What types of student behaviors will be tolerated and those that will not are driven by the school leadership team and impact the entire school campus. School climate. School climate is a multidimensional construct that exists but cannot be captured by any specific indicator or global measure (Gregory et al., 2012). Schools are institutions in which students, teachers, administrators, and service personnel exist socially (Gunbayi, 2007). The climate of any school is created through many different subgroups that exist within the same educational organization. Climate can be defined as the factors that influence the attitudes, beliefs, and values that motivate people working within that organization (Gunbayi, 2007). Zhang and Liu (2010) investigated the characteristics of organizational climate and its effects on the organizational variables. The variables that exist within a school culture can change the school climate both 70 positively and negatively based on human interactions of the people who exist within the organization (Wynn et al., 2007). Organizational climate describes the members’ perceptions of the environment in which they work (Zhang & Liu, 2010). In a school environment, there are relationships that exist amongst the sub-groups of individuals that play a role in how people feel about the climate in which these relationships exist. Teachers in an educational environment have a variety of obligations that they must meet in their profession (Shurden, Santandreu, & Shurden, 2010). Those obligations go way beyond delivering instruction and evaluating the performance of students. Teachers must ensure that the individual needs of each student whom they teach have their individual needs met as a learner. In order to accomplish this task, teachers must seek to get to know their students as individuals. Having a positive school climate for both students and teachers is indicative of how well that organization is reaching its full potential (Gunbayi, 2007). Part of achieving the positive school climate that is necessary for students’ success requires the involvement of parents. Parental involvement in school continues to be one of the critical issues for all stakeholders in the nation’s education system (Goldkind & Farmer, 2013). As the organizational leader of a school, the school principal plays a significant role in creating the climate of their school (Marler, McKee, Cox, Simmering, & Allen, 2012). Several studies have demonstrated the crucial influence on school culture as well as the way that teachers perceive their school culture (Engels et al., 2008). Principals as school leaders have a great deal of responsibility in finding the balance between identifying teachers and students needs and meeting those needs in an educational environment. The structure and quality of any school environment plays a critical role in 71 the school’s ability to provide educational opportunities for their students (Goldkind & Farmer, 2013). If principals are to establish a positive school climate, then the perceptions of both students and teachers alike must be positive in nature. Principals hold a very important position in their school and it is therefore essential that they function well within that environment (Engels et al., 2008). All educational initiatives that determine how a school will do business and how they will educate their students start with the principal. Principals are the instructional leaders on their campuses and therefore can have the biggest impact on the overall campus base on what they do and do not support. In the world of education that exists, school climate is often defined by the ability of the collective group of teachers to work as a team within the organization (Wynn et al., 2007). Teachers who can engage collaboratively often struggle with questions regarding their work, how to share power, and how to validate their process (Goldkind & Farmer, 2013; Marler et al., 2012). In a school setting where a collaborative effort is used to implement a schoolwide behavioral program, all teachers must agree on the guiding principles of the program and be willing to hold true to the defining principles. Kasnitz et al. (2009) found that creating and sustaining a positive school climate would not be possible unless that school had intentional structures and supports to sustain it (as cited by Rhodes et al., 2011). This type of collaborative effort makes it possible for a schoolwide behavioral plan to not only be effective, but to change the climate on a school campus. Over the past 30 years, there has been an increasing number of studies examining school climate in American schools (Yang et al., 2013). When teachers understand the benefits to the entire 72 school by collaboratively working to improve student behaviors, they are more likely to put out the effort necessary to make it happen. Having these structures in place will make it possible for principals and teachers to meet regularly, participate in shared-decision making, learn together, and work closely with students on their campus (Rhodes et al., 2011). This study attempted to understand the phenomenon that exists between PBIS as a schoolwide behavior plan for students and its influence on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. Summary This qualitative dissertation explored the influence of PBIS on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate through the interpretive approach. Building a rich interpretive study requires that the research utilize multiple sources of literature and research data to support the research being conducted (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). The literature review provides the background for this study and was explained through subtopics throughout the literature review. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused the nation’s attention on the needs of all students and does not allow schools to differentiate their efforts based on socioeconomic status or any other demographic factor (NCLB, 2002). This act has caused shifts in how schools go about hiring teachers and the qualities those teachers possess. The NCLB legislation requires that schools employ highly qualified teachers that will teach students through researched-based instructional practices (NCLB, 2002). The challenge schools face in meeting these requirements is to find a balance between academic success and helping students to find a sense of belonging to their school. 73 The increase of school violence in the past decade has added even more pressure to educators. Not only do schools have to provide a place where all students can learn, they need to ensure that they are academically successful while providing a safe and secure school environment. Teachers’ concerns about discipline issues and the possibility of violence in public schools has resulted in greater efforts to find more effective ways to keep schools safe (Hoyle et al., 2011). If students are going to overcome educational challenges in school, they must be able to feel safe at school and be free of distractions that prevent learning. In an effort to accomplish this great task, schools are turning to schoolwide behavioral plans to provide a positive school environment where discipline problems decrease and academic success can improve (Hoyle et al., 2011). High school students can feel some of the same pressures that the teachers who teach them feel on a daily basis. Since there is such a great deal of pressure on high school students to be academically successful in high school, school administrators must ensure that students find a sense of belonging so that they can be successful. School climate is described as the feeling that teachers and students have about their school and the student-teacher relationships that exists (Gunbayi, 2007). Schoolwide behavior plans are effective in changing problem behaviors on a school campus only if the efforts of the faculty and staff are collaborative in nature. The way students behave at school can have a significant impact on how teachers feel about their school climate. Before implementation of any schoolwide behavior plan on a school campus, several factors must be considered. School safety factors that contribute to the climate and culture of schools have been a topic of study for the past 30 years or more (Shelton et al., 2009). Feelings about school safety and school climate are perceived notions that are 74 experienced by teachers and students alike. Students who perceive their school to be unsafe may have fears which can produce their own set of consequences that can affect a student’s ability to learn (Lawrence, 2006). The degree of safety that students feel at school is largely influenced by school violence, especially as much as this violence has portrayed in the media. Lunenburg (2010) stated that there is a trend of growing violence that includes bullying and chaos in the classroom that has become a reality for many students. Public school safety measures have been drastically increased over time due to the school shootings that have taken place. School leaders have found that by extending participation in school safety measures that would involve a segment of the community may also be beneficial to schools (Shelton et al., 2009). In an effort to create a safe school environment, physical characteristics and safety features, organization, and school discipline as well as school safety and relationships must be considered (Bosworth et al., 2011). Schoolwide behavioral plans are just one of those measures that have been used to improve school safety. PBIS have demonstrated that the use of evidence-based practices that are uniformly administered can be an effective means of changing student behavior (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Before the implementation stage of PBIS can begin, it is important that all faculty members agree to program expectations and are willing to fully support the program. Team decision-making is a strategic approach to school management that uses restructuring activities that focus on making sound decisions as a group (Woodfield & Kennie, 2008). PBIS uses information that can be tracked through student discipline referrals to understand the types of behaviors that exist and where they are happening. 75 Discipline referrals exist because schools and staff are held responsible for ensuring a safe learning environment where all students can learn appropriate academic and social skills (Irvin et al., 2004). Positive behavior interventions are used as a means to improve student behavior and school climate. Climate can be defined as the factors that influence the attitudes, beliefs, and values that motivate people whom work within the organization (Gunbayi, 2007). The feeling or perceptions that students and teachers feel can be different or very much the same. The research involved exploring the phenomena of how PBIS provide benefits to students, but it is unclear whether those benefits impact the teachers themselves. This study explored the underlying benefits surrounding the use of PBIS for teachers who implement and enforce the expectations that surround it (Barnett, 2012). In order to determine the influence PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of school climate, this qualitative interpretive study explored the perspectives of teachers through the transformative learning theory. The transformative learning theory employs two major elements of transformative learning, which are critical reflection and critical selfreflection (Kitchenham, 2008). The research question that guided this study asked what teachers’ perceptions were regarding the influence that PBIS have had on a high school climate. The phenomena being studied were PBIS and their influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate on a high school campus. While PBIS has successfully affected and influenced students in a positive way, it is not known whether there is a relationship between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of school climate. In order to attempt to maximize the results of self-perception of school climate, Wagstaff and Williams (2014) recommended an qualitative interpretive study. To determine teachers’ 76 self-perception on school climate and the influence PBIS plays on those perceptions, teachers were interviewed in their own natural setting. In Wagstaff and Williams’s (2014) study, they suggested that a qualitative interpretive study is the best approach to facilitate exploration of a phenomenon within its context to understand participants’ interpretations of their own experiences. Cherry (2010) also suggested that the ability to increase teacher effectiveness may be a direct result of the teachers’ ability to analyze their own self-perceptions. This study expands on the existing body of knowledge surrounding school safety, the school environment, student connectivity, and the need for schoolwide behavior interventions and supports to improve school climate (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Furthermore, this study expands on previous claims that PBIS improve student academic success leading to a more positive school climate. Through a qualitative interpretive study, teachers provided their perceptions of possible influence of PBIS through a PBIS teacher questionnaire and open-ended interview questions. An attempt to understand how and why PBIS may influence teachers’ perceptions of school climate demonstrate the advantages of using an qualitative interpretive study. Conducting a qualitative interpretive study over a quantitative study allowed teachers to share their individual perspectives and thoughts regarding school climate. Most importantly, through an interpretive study, teachers were able to share their personal beliefs about the PBIS initiative and what influence they perceive that program to have on their school climate. The transformative learning theory suggests that when a frame of reference provides information when dealing with a new situation or challenge that is faced, it is considered an appropriate means for the 77 researcher (Kitchenham, 2008). This study attempted to identify the benefits that may exist of PBIS through the transformative learning theory for the teachers who implement and enforce student expectations. The literature review in this chapter supports the rationale for the methodology that was used in Chapter 3. Chapter 3 will include an introduction to the methodology chosen for this study, identify the problem that was researched, and identify the research question to be used, define the research methodology, identify the research design, and identify the population and sample selection for the study. Sources of data were identified, the rationale for validity and reliability is provided, the data collection and analysis procedures are outlined, the ethical considerations that were used for this study are mentioned, and the limitations that existed when the study was complete. 78 Chapter 3: Methodology Introduction The participant high school in Southern Arizona began implemented PBIS in their school nine years ago in an attempt to reduce student behavior referrals and improve academic success on their campus. Over the past six years of continuous school efforts to teach students what is expected of them in every school environment they encounter, the participant high school has collected student referral data that demonstrates not only improved student behavior, but also that they have reduced students referrals by more than 40% since the 2010/11 school year. As the teaching staff, school administration, and support staff of the school united their efforts to improve the school climate for all students on their campus, they have also been able to reduce classroom disruptions that they had not anticipated would come from their efforts. The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate within a participant school located in Southern Arizona. The phenomena being studied was PBIS and its influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. While PBIS has been noted to impact and influence students in a positive ways, it is not known if there is any relationship between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of the school climate. This study identified teachers’ beliefs regarding the influence the PBIS initiative has had on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. This study also focused on differences or similarities of teachers and teachers to see if there are any differences in teachers’ perceptions of school climate based on a comparison of interview responses from the seven teachers and the responses to the PBIS questionnaire from the general teaching 79 staff. Teachers for this study completed a five question demographic survey and respond to four interview questions in an effort to understand teachers’ thoughts, feelings, and self-perceptions of PBIS and the influence it may also have on their current school climate. The rest of this chapter is outlined in sub-sections to further explain the statement of the problem being studied and introduce the research question that guided this study. The research methodology as well as research design are explained and defended in this chapter. This chapter will define the population being studied and the sources of data were used to gather information for this study. Validity and reliability measures for this study will be discussed as well as the data collections procedures and data analysis procedures that were used in this study. Finally, the ethical considerations used for this study will be discussed and limitations found from this study will be defined. Statement of the Problem It is not known how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate. The NCLB Act of 2001 focused its attention on meeting the needs of all students regardless of socioeconomic status (NCLB, 2002). With the current mandate coming to an end in 2014, and with the implementation of new federally regulated standards, there is now more added pressure on students and teachers alike than ever before. Teachers must be able to produce high academic achievement scores regardless of the students they teach. PBIS have been reported to be very successful in helping teachers achieve expected academic results. If students are going to overcome the educational challenges they face, then teachers must be able to work in an environment free from distractions 80 that would interfere with their ability to teach. In order for teachers to provide the quality of education that they are expected to provide, they must have a positive perception of the environment in which they work (Hoyle et al., 2011). Research Question Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research methodology were all considered as possible approaches to answer the research question for this study. Since this study did not intend to use numeric statistical analysis or to quantitatively hypothesize or investigate relationships between variables, quantitative and mixed methods approaches were not selected (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Hopkins, 2002; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006; Mertens, 2010). Instead, the focus of this study was to understand the phenomenon that exists between the PBIS initiative and teachers’ perceptions of school climate through personal interviews in the teachers own natural environment, which best fits qualitative methodology. Qualitative interpretive research allows for the examination of teachers in their own natural setting. Through qualitative research, it is possible to better understand human conduct rather than a line of argument by seeking to understand the feelings of those being studied (Mus, 2012; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Furthermore, qualitative research is based on the experiences of individuals involved and seeks to understand the phenomenon that exists (Yin, 2013). This qualitative interpretive attempted to answer the following research question: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perception of school climate? Semi-structure interviews were conducted with teachers from the participant high school to gather information about the thoughts and 81 feelings of seven purposefully selected teachers regarding PBIS and their own school climate. The interview consisted of four open-ended questions in relation to PBIS and school climate. Interviews were both audio recorded and transcribed to ensure information was accurately presented. Data collected were coded to find themes and descriptions that may exist. This study also identified whether differences existed in teachers’ perceptions of school climate based on responses from the teachers of this study and responses from the general teaching staff. Demographical data were collected and arranged to find similarities and differences in years of experience, years of experience at the current school, and educational background that exist amongst the participant being used. Only those teachers that have taught at the school for the past four to six years were used for this study and a purposeful sample was selected for the semi-structured interview based on the number of years they have been involved with PBIS at the participant high school. The phenomena being studied was PBIS and its influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate on a high school campus. While PBIS has been known to impact and influence students in positive ways, it is not known if there is any relationship between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of the school climate. Research Methodology Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research methodologies have been discussed by multiple authors and all have their own unique purpose, depending on research design (Merriam 2009; Roberts, 2013; Hopkins, 2002; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006; Mertens, 2010). Generally speaking, a quantitative approach is best used when the study involves statistical calculations that are derived from data collected 82 (Johnson & Christensen, 2102; Hopkins, 2002). The quantitative process also suggests that the research generate more than one hypothesis that was compared through research design that examines relationships between variables (Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Qualitative research design on the other hand is designed for determining reasons behind relationships that exist from a single behavior or from multiple behaviors of a targeted individual or group (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). A qualitative approach is used in the social and behavioral science field and best fits when the researcher intends to interview, observe, or have personal interactions with the teachers being studied (Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). A mixed-methods approach uses both numerical and textual data that combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches to perform research (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Lauer, 2006). Because this researcher desired to interview teachers in their own natural environment in an effort to understand the relationship that exists between the PBIS initiative and teacher perceptions, the qualitative design was the best for this study. In their research, Assessing Social validity of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support Plans, Lane et al. (2009) used qualitative methodology to provide evidence for the reliability and structure of the primary intervention rating scale. While this methodology provided statistical analysis of teacher characteristics and survey items, it was unable to provide teacher’s personal feeling on the matter. In their study, Integrating wraparound into schoolwide system of Positive Behavior Supports, Eber et al. (2011) used a qualitative approach. By using a qualitative approach, the authors were able to understand how wraparound can be implemented successfully in schools to meet the needs of emotional and behavior-challenged students. Through face-to-face interviews 83 and conversations, the researchers were able to gather personal thoughts and feelings from their teachers. While there have been both quantitative and qualitative studies done on school safety, school violence, and students’ behavioral issues in the past, it is through the insights gained from an qualitative interpretive study that this researcher sought to understand the benefits of a schoolwide behavior plan on the school climate of a specific school (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Interpretive study methodology ensures that the issue is explored not only through one lens, but also through multiple lenses, which allows participants to make sense of their own social world and of a phenomenon to be understood (Wagstaff & Williams, 2014; Lauer, 2006). In order to validate the qualitative interpretive design that was used in this study, Snelgrove’s (2014) study, Conducting qualitative longitudinal research using interpretative phenomenological analysis, was examined. In his study the author draws on the experiences of managing interpretive analysis while undertaking IPA patients. Evidence was provided from the author’s literature review originating from possible qualitative interpretive designs. Through his analysis of possible qualitative designs and data, collection methods were examined to demonstrate their effectiveness. The results from the author’s findings demonstrated that a qualitative interpretive study approach is a valid research methodology when the researcher intended to understand participants’ interpretations of their school environment and interact with teachers in their own natural environment (Larkin et al., 2006). According to Wagstaff and Williams (2014), a qualitative interpretive study methodology provides researchers the tools to study participants’ interpretations within their natural contexts. A qualitative interpretive study research design was used to 84 understand the influence of the PBIS and their influence on teacher perceptions of school climate in their own natural environment. A qualitative research design approach is used when a researcher needs a clear picture of the phenomenon being studied and the questions they want to investigate as well as clarifying how a researcher is going to conduct the study (Klopper, 2008). Qualitative research examines individuals or phenomenon within a natural setting (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Focusing on natural settings of teachers while interpreting the influence that PBIS has on teacher perceptions of school climate, a qualitative interpretive study is best suited as the methodology for this study based on the characteristics of qualitative design (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). According to Merriam (2009), in qualitative research the researcher tends to collect data at the site where teachers experience the issue or problem being studied. Interviewing teachers in their own natural environment using an interpretive approach allowed the researcher to better determine if teacher perceptions are based on individual thoughts and feelings. A qualitative interpretive study design allowed the researcher to use interpretive inquiry to understand what teachers are feeling. Other research designs were examined and considered for this study but were not chosen. The quantitative research design is used when the researcher intends to investigate relationships between two variables and use statistical analysis to numerically explain data (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Because this research sought to understand actual thoughts and feeling of the teachers, a quantitative or mixed methods approach that uses statistical analysis would not be effective. While qualitative research design is used when the researcher seeks to interact personally through interviews or 85 observations to try and understand the relationship that exists of a single behavior or series of behaviors, there are several other qualitative strategies to be considered (Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). Ethnography research is a strategy in which the researcher studies and interacts with an individual or group in their natural setting over a prolonged period. Because this research involves trying to understand if an influence exists between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of school climate at the current time based on teacher’s experiences, an ethnographical approach would be less effective. Grounded theory is a qualitative approach in which the researcher used data that has been collected to formulate a theory that has been derived from the views of the teachers (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013). Since this study sought to understand the depth of a schoolwide student behavioral program at a single school, grounded theory was not selected. Narrative research focuses on the lives of individuals and asks individuals to provide stories about their lives (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Mertens, 2010). Because this study focused on the effects of PBIS on teacher perceptions of school climate a narrative approach would not be effective. A qualitative interpretive study design was chosen to better understand whether PBIS has any influence on teachers’ perception of school climate on a high school campus, by teachers in their own natural environment. A qualitative interpretive study was used to answer the research question and semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers at the participant high school in Southern Arizona. Face-to-face interviews allowed the researcher to interact with teachers in their own environment. Since this study intended to interpret the influence of one phenomenon to another, face-to-face interviews that allowed teachers to elaborate were the best approach. A series of four 86 open-ended questions that have been approved by a panel of experts for validity and readability were be used to interview seven purposefully selected teachers for this study. Five demographical survey questions were given to all teachers to provide background information assist in purposeful selection of teachers. Data collected from the seven teacher teachers were compared to the data collected from the PBIS teacher questionnaire given to all teachers in this study were used for analysis. The interviews conducted provided the researcher historical information and allowed the researcher to control the line of questioning (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). The participant high school has had PBIS in place on their campus for nine years and has seen positive results from its existence. Irrespective of the specific policy being implemented, the overall purpose of any educational reform is to improve a school in terms of student achievement, the teaching and learning environment, and overall school management (Kim, 2011). Since student behavior referrals have been reported to be reduced by more than 50% and students are now more actively involved in their school, this study sought to understand the teachers’ perceptions at the participant high school regarding their outlook on their school climate. Research Design While qualitative research seeks to find or explain the causes of changes in social facts through objective measurement and analysis, quantitative research seeks to study a phenomenon to quantify participant responses and interpret those responses (Arghode, 2012). Quantitative research is based on the positivist paradigm that uses numeric data that has been statistically analyzed; qualitative research is based on the phenomenological or interpretive paradigm and seeks to understand behaviors through personal interactions 87 (Merriam, 2009; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006; Mertens 2010). Based on the desire to understand individual behaviors through personal interactions with teachers, a qualitative research design has been selected for this research because the nature of this study best fits the characteristics of an interpretive model (Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). An interpretive study was chosen for this research because the research being conducted sought to establish the meaning of the phenomenon that has been establish through PBIS. The nature of the study lends itself to a qualitative interpretive study because the study examined the meaning of school climate based on the opinions of the teachers’ in their natural setting (Merriam, 2009; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). In a quantitative research design, the researcher focuses on proving or disproving a hypothesis based on teachers’ responses and uses statistical tools to analyze their data (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Qualitative research design interpretations of the teachers being studied is recorded to better understand perceptions and develop and understanding of the phenomenon that exists (Arghode, 2012; Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). Unlike a quantitative approach that is completed by using numeric data and statistical analysis between variables as the approach to conduct research, the qualitative approach allows the researcher to design interview question specific to the phenomenon being studied and to use open-ended question to find out what the participant think and feel (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Lauer, 2006; Mertens, 2010). Because this study is based on phenomenology and sought to determine the perceptions of teachers alone, this study was best accomplished through qualitative methodology (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). 88 A qualitative interpretive study was selected for this study in order to interact with teachers in their own school environment where they could be both interviewed and observed. A semi-structure interview approach along with demographical survey questions for teachers and a PBIS teacher survey were chosen because they best allowed for the discovery of whether or not PBIS has any impact on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. The school being studied has had PBIS in place for six consecutive school years and PBIS has been a part of their school culture. This study identified whether or not a culture exists amongst a group of teachers through the qualitative design of open-ended questioning and conversations with teachers who have been on the school campus for at least three years (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). The teachers in this qualitative interpretive study were teachers who teach in a public high school in Southern Arizona. The teachers for this study have taught at the school being studied for a minimum of four to six years and have been a part of the implementation and sustainability of the PBIS initiative on this school campus. Teachers were purposefully selected as a cross section of the school and teach in the various content areas represented on the school campus. While race, gender, years of experience, number of years teaching, and years of education were asked of all teachers, those responses were not used to differentiate who participated in this study. Teachers in this study participated in a semi-structure interview process that asked four open-ended question of each participant. Participant responses from the interview questions were coded following the three step coding process (Merriam, 2009; Johnson & Christensen, 89 2012). Demographical survey data was also used to gather information on similarities and differences amongst the teachers based on their own personal backgrounds in education. Population and Sample Selection The population for this study was addressed and a descriptive account of those teachers chosen for this study was stated. All teachers were highly qualified under NCLB standards and certified teachers who work on the campus of the participant high school. All teachers on the participant campus were given the PBIS five demographical questions to answer as well as a PBIS teacher questionnaire. The PBIS teacher questionnaire and field notes from those teachers who participated and returned the demographic survey questions were reviewed. Criteria for participation was that each of the teachers chosen have worked on the participant high school campus for at least four to six consecutive years to ensure that they were familiar with PBIS and its impact on students. Based on this criterion, seven teachers were purposefully selected based on the number of years they have taught at the participant high school. The seven teachers were interviewed faceto-face to gather more personal perspectives of PBIS and school climate from the group of eligible teachers on that campus. Teachers’ for the study were selected through purposeful sampling and have all been teaching at the participant high school for at least four to six years and were part of the implementation of PBIS on that campus. Each participant received an informed consent form to voluntarily participate in the study. All risks and the benefits of participating in this study were shared. All teachers were made aware of the nature of the study and were given a copy that outlined the purpose of the study. Teachers were selected through purposeful sampling. Purposeful sampling allowed the researcher to 90 gain, understand, and discover information about the teachers (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Unlike random sampling or probability sampling, purposeful sampling increased the ability to identify themes and generalizations from the study (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013: Mertens, 2010). Three criteria considerations were used for selecting teachers for this study. Criterion sampling strategies were used in order for quality assurance. Teachers were selected for this study based on the following criterion and through careful consideration: 1. Taught at the participant high school for at least four years. 2. Demonstrate a firm understanding of the PBIS initiative. 3. Willingness to participate in this study. Teacher participation for this study was sought based on responses to the demographic questions given to all teachers on the participant campus. Total years teaching experience and the number of years teaching at the participant high school were verified with the current school principal. The sample group consisted of seven teachers who have taught at the participant high school from four to six years. Gender was also included in the purposeful selection in an effort to obtain a true sample of the teaching staff. Permission to perform research on the participant high school campus was obtained from the participant school district governing board and the school principal of the participant high school. A written consent form was given to all teachers and a meeting was held to explain confidentiality safe guards and participation expectations. All selected teacher teachers agreed to participate in the study. 91 Sources of Data PBIS teacher questionnaire. The first instrument, the five item demographic survey (see Appendix H), was distributed to each teacher within the participant school. All responses were voluntary. The teaching staff at the participant school was also invited to voluntarily respond to a second instrument—the PBIS teacher questionnaire. Since the PBIS teacher questionnaire was used to triangulate the data from the interviews, the questions were the same questions that were developed by the researcher and approved by the panel of experts for the interview questions used for the subsample teachers in this study. The questionnaire asked teachers to respond to each question first in a Likert format asking teachers to rate the impact of PBIS on student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits to teachers themselves, and the overall influence on the school climate. Each of the four questions was asked two times. Question format on the PBIS teacher questionnaire first asked the teachers to rate the influence on a Likert scale and the second time the question was asked in an openended format allowing teachers to respond openly and express their thoughts and feelings however they desired. Information from both the Likert-type answers and the open-ended responses were then collected from the teachers (n=31) who were willing to answer the survey. The results of the teacher questionnaires were then analyzed and compiled in order to compare and contrast how the general teaching staff perceived the influence of the PBIS student behavior management system on their campus and how those responses compared to the purposefully selected teachers’ responses to the open-ended interview questions. 92 Open-ended interview questions. The second source of data was four interview questions (see Appendix A) that was designed to determine thoughts and feelings about teacher perceptions of PBIS and the school climate in which they work. Teachers were asked open-ended questions in a semi-structured interview format in an effort to better understand how teachers feel about the PBIS program and whether or not they feel the program itself influences the way teachers feel about their school climate. The four questions used in this study were developed by the researcher and approved by a panel of experts for the validity and readability of the questions being asked. Face-to-face interviews were conducted as a means to increase comprehension of what teachers are sharing as the primary source of data for this interpretive study. Interviews were semistructured and done face-to-face in an effort to increase comprehensiveness of teachers’ answers. Digital audio recording, as well as field notes, also served as sources of observation data for this study. Questions were based on known factors that influence school climate and known benefits of the PBIS program as perceived by teachers through the PBIS staff feedback survey. Member checking was used to determine the accuracy of the findings to ensure that teachers feel they are accurately portrayed. The researcher checked for accuracy of the findings to ensure validity of the study. Documentation of procedures was provided for this interpretive study as well as step-by-step procedures to allow for replication of this study for further research. Audio interview responses were transcribed and compared to field notes for reliability. A transcription of what was said by each participant was shared with each participant individually to ensure what was intended to be shared was actually shared 93 with the researcher. Data transformation was used to allow the researcher to quantify the qualitative data that were gathered (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). After the data were gathered and verified, it was coded to identify themes that existed to conduct a thematic analysis of the information. Student referral data. Student referral data were only available for the past six school years since the implementation of the PBIS initiative on the participant high school campus. Attempts to gain referral data pre-implementation were exhaustive. Referrals were tracked and coded to allow the administration to understand what discipline issues were more prominent than others on their campus. Data were obtained through student discipline referrals that have been issued and are separated by minor behavioral issues that are handled in the classroom by the teachers themselves and by major discipline issues that are handled by school administration (see Tables 1 and 2). Through the collection of discipline data delineated from student discipline referrals, the participant high school has been able to not only track their student behavior issues, but have also been able to use that data to demonstrate the relationship that exists between student referrals and the total school population for the past six years on their campus. Three years of longitudinal discipline data were presented and analyzed in this study to demonstrate the types of student behavior incidents taking place on participant high school campus for the past three-year period. Longitudinal referral data compared to total school population by school year were presented to demonstrate the relationship that exists and the decline in student referrals over a six-year period (see Figure 3). 94 Validity Internal validity is one of the strengths of qualitative research. Using this approach supports validity in determining if the collected data are accurate from the perspective of the researcher, the teachers, and the reader’s account of what has taken place (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Mertens, 2010; Johnson & Christiansen, 2012). In qualitative research, it is important that researchers ensure that their approaches are consistent or establish reliability when working with teachers. Yin (2013) suggested that in an effort to achieve validity, that qualitative researcher should document their procedures of their studies as well as document as many of the procedural steps as possible. In an effort to achieve validity, it is important that researchers follow a detailed interpretive study protocol for their research. Johnson and Christensen (2012) recommended that researchers use multiple validity strategies for their proposal that will allow them to assess the accuracy of their findings and convince the reader of that accuracy. The validity strategies considered for this study were triangulation of data, rich description, and clarifying the bias. Triangulation of data is accomplished by using different data sources of information to build a coherent justification of themes that have been established and will be used (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Mertens, 2010). Rich description is used to convey the findings of the research being done. This is accomplished by providing detailed descriptions of the setting so that results become more realistic (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Mertens, 2010; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). According to Johnson and Christensen (2012), qualitative studies are used when a researcher seeks to explore the depth of a program from one or more individuals. A qualitative study approach requires 95 that there be a triangulation of data in order to ensure validity and reliability of the study. Teacher questionnaire data, open-ended interview questions and student referral data served as those sources of data that were triangulated for this study. Because this study also had a sub group of teachers selected based on years teaching at the participant high school, analysis of their responses improve the significance of the data collection and supports a second triangulation of data which ultimately improved the qualitative interpretive study results for this study. Finally, the research should clarify the bias that they themselves may bring to the study. The researcher must self-reflect in an effort to create an open and honest narrative as well as include interpretation of the findings for the reader (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Field notes and audio recording for this study were used to ensure that the information that was written down was the same as what was said by each participant and to describe the physical actions and reactions of the teachers being interviewed. Individual recordings and written responses were given to each individual participant to ensure what was recorded was what they had meant to relay to the researcher. A description of the school, the setting for the interviews, and the PBIS program as it exists was included to ensure validity of the research being done. The four open-ended interview questions used for this study were given to a panel of experts to ensure that the questions being asked clearly represented elements of school climate. All panel members agreed that the questions being asked were appropriate to obtain teacher perceptions of their own school climate. A personal account of the panel of expert’s background and experience was the basis for interpretation of the findings on school climate. 96 Reliability Baxter and Jack (2008) stated that qualitative reliability is an indication that the researcher’s approach is consistent across different researches and different research studies. In an effort to ensure reliability for this interpretive study, safeguards were used to ensure that field notes were transcribed accurately and that the definition of codes were clearly defined. Each participant interviewed for this study was given a set of questions and time to read them through before being asked to elaborate on them. Teachers’ were given a number that associated with their responses throughout the study. Interviews were audio record and hand written notes were transcribed to record teachers’ individual response. To ensure reliability, field notes were then compared to the audio recording to ensure that what was said and what was written was accurately recorded. This also includes the demographical data that were recorded about each participant. As a final reliability check, teachers were given a copy of the written transcription of their individual interview to also ensure what was recorded was what they meant to portray. According to Merriam (2009), in a qualitative study the researcher must establish reliability by analyzing data that has been collected and documenting the procedures that have been used. The following procedures were used in order to ensure reliability for this study: 1. Collection and analysis of data. 2. Member checking. 3. Identifying the researcher’s bias that may exist. 97 Data Collection Procedures The researcher for this study has been certified through completion of the CITI training modules. No research was completed prior to obtaining IRB approval from the Grand Canyon University Internal Review Board. Human subjects and data were protected according to the guidelines set forth by Grand Canyon University. Research for this study did not begin until complete Grand Canyon University and its Institutional Review Board had granted approval. The participant Unified School District Governing Board and the principal of the participant high school were contacted in order to obtain site authorization for this study. Participation consent was obtained through written consent forms signed by all teachers. Referring to teachers by number and not by name protected responses provided by teachers. Teachers on the participant campus use the PBIS program on a daily basis and teachers were familiar with the student discipline data that has been collected. All teachers on the participant campus were given an explanation and purpose of this study along with a PBIS teacher questionnaire and a five question demographic survey. Upon receipt of the staff demographic information, responses were sorted based on the information provided by teachers on the number of years they have been teaching at the participant high school. Seven teachers from each of the sub groups that have been teaching at the participant high school for four to six years (i.e., the school started collecting student referral data post implementation of the PBIS initiative) were asked to participate in this study. Those teachers were given the informed consent procedures for the study as well as being informed that they could have opted out of the study at any given time. Seven teachers were purposefully selected based on the number of years they 98 have been teaching at the participant high school and by gender. Information from the demographical survey questions that teachers’ provided were used to develop themes that may have existed based on the demographic information that teachers have in common. This data were then grouped and prepared for analysis by number of years teaching at the participant high school. All teachers selected agreed to participate in the interview process were assigned a number 1 through 7 to protect their names and to record information about each individual as they responded. Interviews with each participant were conducted at the participant high school so that teachers were sharing information in their own natural environment. During the semi-structured interview phase, each teacher was asked four open ended questions in which they were asked about school climate and the PBIS program. Interviews were done face-to-face, responses of each participant were audio recorded, and hand written field notes were transcribed to gather teachers’ thoughts and feelings. The interviews were semi-structured in nature to allow for flexibility during the interview to allow teachers to further clarify or elaborate on information being shared. The initial interview questions have been development and approved by a panel of experts and were constructed based on the research questions for this study. At the conclusion of the interviews, information obtained was organized to prepare for data analysis (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Data were then read through and transcribed from the audio recordings of each interview participant. A copy of each individual participant’s written responses was then given to each participant for member checking to ensure the accuracy of what had been said by each participant. Discrepancies were then corrected in the presence of the participant to 99 ensure validity of the research being done. All data will be protected and stored to protect the participant of the study and will be destroyed concluding the completion of this study by using several procedures. All teachers in this study signed written consent forms agreeing to participate in this study and provided the researcher with demographic information and personal perspectives. Teachers were informed that at any time during this study they had the option not to continue in the study. Teachers were ensured that confidentiality will be maintained and that they will remain anonymous. To ensure anonymity of the teachers all personal identifiers were removed from demographic information and interview responses. All demographic data and teachers’ hand written responses were scanned to become electronic data sources for analysis. Electronic resources were housed on an electronic external hard drive that is password protected. Once the research data is collected, it was stored electronically so that only the researcher has access to the data. This data will be stored for a three-year period following completion of the research for future inquiries. All hand written files for this study will be destroyed and all electronic files will be kept on a password protected external hard drive for the same three-year period of time. Data Analysis Procedures The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore the phenomenon that may exist between having PBIS on a high school campus and whether PBIS influenced how teachers perceived their own school climate. Current literature exists to show that PBIS indeed does improve students’ behavior issues, increases academic success, and improves school climate (Coffey & Horner, 2012). Student referral data 100 have been collected every year that the PBIS initiative has been in place on the participant high school campus and was presented and analyzed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the PBIS initiative. This study explored how having PBIS on a high school campus influenced how teachers perceived their own school climate through semistructured interviews and analysis of data. Following Merriam’s (2009) outline, raw data were collected through audio recording and field notes through the interviews of teachers. Raw data were organized and prepared by the researcher prior to analysis. All data were read to obtain a general sense of the information and will reflect on what teachers shared and to determine the credibility of the information collected. Data collected were hand coded to organize the material into larger chunks of information. That information was separated into themes and descriptions to determine if interrelating themes or descriptions exist in this interpretive study. Finally, data were analyzed to interpret the meaning of the themes and descriptions identified to validate the accuracy of the information gathered. This interpretive study was used to explore how teachers felt about their own school climate when students behave well and there are less classroom disruptions as a direct result of the PBIS initiative. This qualitative interpretive study presented a detailed explanation of the phenomenon that exists between PBIS and school climate (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Hopkins, 2002; Lauer, 2006). The information obtained from teachers was done in their own natural setting and information was obtained through talking directly with the teachers and digitally recording their responses. To manage the data that were collected, coding was used. Coding is an approach used by researchers to assign themes and designations to the data collected (Merriam, 2009; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). The process of coding allows for the 101 review of data collected and combining data through research reflections. Merriam’s data analysis for qualitative research design was used to organize and prepare the data obtained for analysis (Merriam, 2009). The coding for this study included identification and interpretation for analysis for conceptualization (Merriam, 2009; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Merriam (2009) suggested several ideas. With regard to setting and context codes, the researcher analyzed information regarding the school in which teachers work, the need for schoolwide behavioral plans, and the nature of the general perception of the program’s effectiveness and created codes to be used for the data gathered. With respect to perspectives held by subjects, the researcher analyzed information that was obtained regarding how teachers feel, support from administration, need for school improvement, and the influence PBIS has on school climate. This information was arranged into themes that commonly exist for further analysis. With regard to relationships and social structures, the researcher analyzed information regarding student-teacher relationships, teacher-teacher relationships, teacher-administrator relationships, and district support to determine what themes may exist and may need to be further analyzed. Finally, with regard to problem behaviors and number of occurrences, the researcher obtained three consecutive years of discipline data from the school to demonstrate what types of behaviors regularly occurred on the campus and how often. This information is detailed to demonstrate a decrease of discipline referrals and a lack of what would be considered serious behavior issues on the campus. In this study, coding was used to discover new data, conceptualize data, provide rationale for possible reasoning, and provide questioning. Merriam’s (2009) qualitative 102 analysis requires that the coded categories be placed in themes, which were used to explain the phenomenon being studied. In this step, teachers’ perceptions of school climate were deemed negative, neutral, or positive in nature. Premise for being placed in one of three labels was based on the overall responses of each individual participant. Responses from the seven purposefully selected teachers were compared to the interview questions that the teachers provided. Responses to the interview questions were coded based on years of experience teaching at the participant high school. The researcher used this information to compare similarities and differences to responses based on responses from teachers and the general teaching staff. This step assisted in understanding the influence of teaching experience and experience with the PBIS initiative on how teachers responded to each question. Themes were presented by their corresponding comparative findings that allowed the researcher to tell their story through the voice of the teachers. Merriam (2009) used seven themes as the subject of the narrative descriptions for the interpretive study. Interpretive experiences begin by presenting the perceptions that each participant had on PBIS and its influence on their school climate. The narrative gives rich detail and a description of how teachers feel about their school climate. The narrative concluded with an explanation of how each participant feels PBIS has affected their school campus and what, if any, influence PBIS has had on how they personally perceive the state of the current school climate. Finally, a hierarchical approach presented the data and findings in hierarchical order to make interpretations (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Information gathered from the seven teachers was arranged hierarchically based 103 on their gender and years teaching at the participant high school. Only teachers who have taught at the participant high school for at least four to six years were selected to participate because they have enough knowledge and background of student discipline data and the success of the PBIS initiative on their campus. In this step the researcher was able to present interpretive study conclusions and also recommendations for future research. Responses that were collected from the teachers of this study were compared to existing concepts/dimension from theories of educational climate and schoolwide behavior plans that already exist in the literature. In an effort to better understand the theory that exists, this qualitative study implemented data coding (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Snelgrove, 2014). Coding was developed to create a qualitative study database (Yin, 2013). The qualitative database consisted of interview notes, interview transcriptions, survey information, and demographic information. Interview transcripts were read, demographic data were compared, and reflections from the PBIS staff feedback survey results were stored in the interpretive study database. As the interview transcripts were examined from each participant, comments and queries were written in the margins (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Snelgrove, 2014). The researcher’s marginal notes were compared to the research questions and analyzed through the theoretical framework. Categories were constructed for each participant and a list of concepts was developed (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Merriam, 2009). Creating categories caused reoccurring patterns to surface in order to develop and generalize emerging themes or theories that assisted the researcher in drawing conclusions (Snelgrove, 2014; Merriam, 2009). 104 Ethical Considerations Prior to collecting any data for this study, site approval was applied for and gained from the Institutional Review Board of Grand Canyon University. The site authorization was sought and approval was gained from the Participant Unified School District Governing Board and the principal of the participant high school. Approval sought to conduct this study also included participant recruitment information and informed consent from teachers themselves. In an effort to protect teachers’ anonymity as well as the educational institution, the researcher assigned numbers to teachers and removed all personal identifying attributes from information collected. All teachers for this study were asked to read and understand the informed consent. The informed consent outlined the teachers right to avoid participating and their ability to withdraw from the study at any given time. All information gained from the teachers through interviews and data collected from this study have been stored on a password-protected external hard drive to maintain the chain of evidence until the completion of the research (Merriam, 2009; Yin, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Data that were collected was presented in the words and viewpoints of the teachers’ themselves and was not manipulated in any way and was maintained to protect teachers’ confidentiality. The Participant school district also had the right to avoid participation or withdraw the selected teachers at any given time. Teachers were not given any compensation and it was the intent of this researcher that there was no risk incurred by teachers for their participation in this study. All teachers were selected through the use of purposeful sampling for the purpose of maintaining ethical integrity. 105 Limitations This study identified limitations that may exist based on the lack of theoretical foundation for teachers’ perceptions of school climate that have been influenced by the PBIS program. While there may be previous research and literature that has been studied that suggest that PBIS is effective in improving student behavior, little research exists to determine whether the PBIS program has any influence on teachers’ perceptions of school climate. While previous research and literature exists that studied teachers’ perceptions on school climate and schoolwide behavior initiatives for improving student behavior, little research has been studied to determine the influence of PBIS on teachers’ perception of school climate (Gunbayi, 2007; Zhang & Liu, 2010; Miramontes et al., 2011; Coffey & Horner, 2012). Teachers being studied in their own environment with already established values and beliefs may lead to potential bias by teachers in this study. Attempting to assure reliability could minimize bias in a study. In order to ensure that reliability existed throughout the study, specific qualitative study protocols were followed by the researcher to avoid preconceived notions (Yin, 2013). Qualitative research by design seeks to determine the reason behind a single behavior or a series of behavior when referencing a specific topic or group (Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). Limitations may be acknowledged because the teachers for this study had only been exposed to PBIS as a schoolwide behavior management system. Since the implementation of PBIS nine years ago, teachers have been trained in the use of PBIS to improve student behaviors and have never explored any other options. Because there was buy-in by the school administration and the 106 majority of the teaching staff, teachers may not feel like they could challenge the plan that was set in motion. Since no other behavior management plans have been considered or looked at, teachers may have had potential bias in their responses (Yin, 2013). With concern to interpretation and validity of findings, there are limitations that exist within qualitative research studies. Possible bias by teachers in this study and the researcher does not necessarily guarantee that the views of teachers in this study are typical. A second limitation that may be acknowledged is the fact that teachers in the study had taught at the participant high school for at least four to six years. Teachers who were interviewed for the study agreed to implement PBIS on their campus and were a part of the initial trainings and in-services that went along with full implementation. Because the teachers may be convinced that PBIS was the program that would be best used on their campus, they may have some false bias as to the influence that program had on their own personal perspectives of school climate. A third limitation that must be acknowledged is the positive impressions the teachers have about their students. Since student referral data did not exist pre-implementation of the PBIS program, benefits to teachers themselves and their school climate may be more associated with their own perceptions or expectations rather than the PBIS program itself, not demonstrating causality. The purpose of this qualitative research was to understand the role the researcher plays in gathering data, analysis of data, and interpretation of the data collected from this study (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012; Mertens, 2010). 107 Summary In this chapter, the methodological considerations for this study were addressed. In Chapters 1 and 2 the statement of the problem and research question to guide this study were addressed. This qualitative research methodology utilized an interpretive study design to explore the degree in which PBIS influence how teachers perceive their own school climate. In an effort to understand the influence that PBIS has on student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits for teachers’ themselves, and the school’s culture, multiple sources of data were used in an effort to develop a rich qualitative study (Merriam, 2009; Roberts, 2013; Johnson & Christensen, 2012). Chapters 3 and 4 will provide the rationale for the methodology and the interpretive study approach chosen for this study. A complete review of the population being studied, the sample size being used, and the rationale for applying purposeful sampling was formalized in this chapter. The three methods of data collection were identified and explained within the sources of data. Participant interviews were also discussed and included in the sources of data. The data analysis section describes the three sources of data and how that data were used to triangulate the data, which increases the reliability and validity of this study. Data for this interpretive study was not collected until permission and consent were granted from Grand Canyon University, the research school, the school district, and teachers themselves. Sources of data for this interpretive study consisted of a teacher PBIS questionnaire, demographical survey information used to select and describe the teachers, field notes from semi-structured interviews, the audio recording of those interviews, and data from three years of longitudinal student referral data. 108 According to Mertens (2010), the use of interviews and direct observation of teachers allowed the researcher to better understand the environment in which the study is being conducted. Direct questioning and interview transcriptions allowed each participant to express their own personal perception confidentially (Lauer, 2006). Within the data analysis section, a coding technique was used that allowed the researcher to simplify data and transfer the data collected into emerging codes. Ethical considerations were used in order to protect the anonymity of the teachers in this study; all identifying personal aspects were removed and replaced with numbers. In an effort to ensure that files containing data will be both protected and secured, information was stored on a password protected external hard drive. Merriam’s (2009) hierarchical approach to a systematic process for data analysis was utilized in this study. Through the use of an interpretive study approach, it is important that the possibility of limitations that may exist be discussed. In an effort to overcome limitations that may exist, ensuring that reliability and validity exists within the study through confidentiality of teachers and storage of the data collected was of the highest priority. Multiple sources of data were used to present the findings of this study through rich descriptions of data analysis. The methodology used in this research will provide the foundations for developing and completing Chapters 4 and 5 of this dissertation. Chapter 4 will include the analysis and data collection, presentation and protocol for the semistructure interview process, and interpretive descriptions for this chapter. While data analysis will provide information that exists on emerging themes, school climate, schoolwide behavior plan, and teacher demographical information will be detailed further in Chapter 4. 109 Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Results Introduction The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate within a participant school located in Southern Arizona. Through analysis of student referral data, a PBIS teacher questionnaire, and face-to-face interviews, the self-perceptions of seven high school teachers on their school climate and the influence that PBIS had on those perceptions was collected. During this interpretive study, four open-ended interview questions exploring the teachers’ perception of their school climate was researched to determine if PBIS had any influence on those perceptions and, if so, how and why? In order to understand the influence of PBIS in relation to teachers’ perceptions of school climate, which includes student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits for teachers, and the school culture that exists, the limitations and influences of PBIS were analyzed. The difference in years of teaching experience and level of education allowed the researcher to explore differences between participant responses and the responses from the general teaching staff as well. Additionally, because PBIS has been in existence for nine years and teachers in this study have been using them for a minimum of four to six years in their classrooms, the influence that PBIS has on school climate was studied. The following research question guided this study: R1: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate? This study used the qualitative interpretive study design in order to generate deep, rich data in an effort to understand how PBIS influenced teachers’ perceptions of their 110 own school climate. PBIS teacher questionnaire data, student referral data, and face-toface interviews that were conducted over a four-week period at the beginning at the 20142015 school year have been triangulated. Data were gathered and collected for the entire 4-week period from September to October. The remainder of this chapter presents the descriptive data and demographic information of the teachers in this study and provides an analysis of the data that were collected. The data analysis is organized to demonstrate how it relates to the four interview questions through themes that emerged. Results from the data analysis describe the factors that contribute to the phenomena being studied and identified the influence that existed. The results in this chapter are followed by the conclusion that provides a brief summary of the findings for this study. Descriptive Data Six years of longitudinal student referral data, a PBIS teacher questionnaire, and responses from four open-ended interview questions by the teachers were triangulated in order to demonstrate the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. For this qualitative interpretive study, three criteria were used to select the teachers using purposeful sampling. The seven high school teachers were selected for this study through careful consideration criteria. The teachers had to have taught at the participant high school for at least four to six years. They had to demonstrate a firm understanding of the PBIS initiative and had to be willing to participate in the study. Teachers and environment. For this qualitative interpretive study, seven teachers were selected from the demographic information that they provided. Five of the teachers were female and two were male. The teachers’ ages ranged from 28-years-old to 51 years of age. The total years of teaching experience ranged from four years to eighteen 111 years and their highest educational degree ranged from BA/BS to MA/MS. In an effort to maintain confidentiality for each participant, the teachers were coded to protect their identity. Participant 1 was coded as Teacher 1, Participant 2 was coded as Teacher 2, Participant 3 was coded as Teacher 3, Participant 4 was coded as Teacher 4, Participant 5 was coded as Teacher 5, Participant 6 was coded as Teacher 6, and Participant 7 was coded as Teacher 7. Teacher 7 is the most experienced teacher in the group with18 years of teaching experience. She is 46 years of age. Teacher 7 does have a degree beyond her BS and has obtained her MA/MS degree. Teacher 7 has been teaching at the participant high school for six years. Teacher 2 is the second most experienced teacher in the group and has been teaching for 18 years now. He does not have a degree beyond his BA/BS and has been teaching at the participant high school for four to six years. Teacher 2 is the oldest teacher in the group at 51 years of age. Teacher 3 has been teaching for six years and does not have a degree beyond his BS. He is 34 years of age and has been teaching at the participant high school for four years. Teacher 4 has been teaching for 10 years and has her MA/MS degree. She is 44 years of age and has been teaching at the participant high school for five years. Teacher 5 has been teaching for four years and has her MA/MS degree. She has taught all four of those years at the participant high school and is 49 years of age. Teacher 6 has been teaching for nine years and has her MA/MS degree. She has been teaching at the participant high school for five years and is 34 years of age. Teacher 1 is the youngest participant in the group at 28 years of age. She does not have a degree beyond her BA/BS degree and has been teaching for 5.5 years now. Teacher 1 has been teaching at the participant high school for four years. 112 Each of the teachers have been part of the PBIS initiative at the participant high school and have been trained annually on strategies and expectations of the program at their school. As a member of the teaching staff, the teachers were required to teach lessons about PBIS and to help establish expectations for students through advisory lessons and conversations with students. A school rewards system was established and all staff members who work at the participant high school put procedures in place to ensure consistency with expectations and awards. Some of the teachers also serve on the schools leadership team for the PBIS initiative and work as liaisons between the teaching staff and the school administration. Teachers at the participant high school are all expected to deal with students’ discipline behaviors that are deemed as minor infractions in the classroom and to track those behaviors as part of the schools discipline data. Student misconduct that is deemed major in nature is sent to the office through office referrals written by the teaching staff. Those disciplinary interactions are done by school administration and tracked as part of the schools overall discipline data. The idea behind PBIS is to identify students through a tiered level system that allows the school to identify particular students at the various levels and to implement strategies to change their problem behaviors. The tiered system and levels of identification are illustrated in Figure 1. 113 Figure 1. PBIS model (PBIS.org). In an effort to fulfill their mission, of Connections, High Standards, Success, at the participant high school the adults and students on their campus work in unison to empower each other to live out their mission every day. One way they accomplish this is using a student reward system to focus students on their positive behaviors. They have several rewards or privileges in place to enhance their student’s school experiences. One of the most successful methods of accomplishing this is through their student reward cards called Phat Cat cards. These Phat Cat cards are the scratch type cards that can be earned by students for demonstrating one or more of their mission qualities. As a part of this program any student can earn a Phat Cat card for a simple act of kindness or selfimprovement. In an effort to be consistent as a faculty and staff, all adults on campus carry these cards to hand out to deserving students when they encounter them. The cards have a scratch off front that reveals the prize that a student has earned. The prizes vary and can be anything from a free admission to an athletic or fine arts event, a free lunch, a navy prize, a copper prize, or they can be entered into a Phat Cat drawing for a grand 114 prize at the end of the year. By keeping positive behavior at the forefront of what the participant high school is doing for their students, student referrals continue to decline on the participant high school campus. Data Analysis Analysis of this study took place during the data collection process. According to Merriam (2009), the process of data analysis involves making sense out of the data that has been gathered. This interpretive study was deeply rooted in grounded theory and established themes and code moving deeper and deeper into understanding the data that was collected (Merriam, 2009). Analysis of three years of student referral data outlined the different types of student behavior issues that were most prevalent on the participant high school campus over three consecutive years. Student referral data over a three-year period also demonstrated the number of student referrals by type and by school year. Analysis of the considerable amount of data collected from each of the four research questions revealed four main themes and six sub-themes for this study. The evidence from the research that was completed advocated that a particular research question surfaced more often than others and was more prominent than others in participant responses. The remainder of this chapter explains the analysis of the data for this study as well as the results from the research done according to participant responses to each research question. Analysis of the data for this study occurred during the data collections process. According to Merriam (2009), in a qualitative study the researcher must establish reliability by analyzing data that has been collected and documenting the procedures that have been used. This study, entrenched in the transformational learning theory, 115 established codes in order to analyze and interpret the meaning of the themes and descriptions identified to validate the accuracy of the information gathered. In an effort to ensure validity existed through surfacing themes, the data were triangulated to confirm perceptions of teachers. Once themes were identified or emerged through analysis, they were refined and integrated while being tested to explain the phenomenon being studied. Participant responses and the number of times that each participant referenced each topic or that was triangulated from the data collection instruments generated the four main themes and six sub-themes that emerged. In an effort to ensure validity of the study, field notes and audio recordings were used to ensure that the information that was written down was exactly the same as what was said by each participant. Field notes were also used to describe the physical actions and reactions of the teachers being interviewed. Individual recorded and written responses were transcribed and then given back to each individual participant to ensure what was recorded was what they had meant to relay to the researcher during the interviews. Direct interaction with the teachers through face-to-face interviews allowed the researcher to experience the environment while capturing the body language and gestures while recording responses to assist in supporting the themes that emerged. Data analysis began with a systematic approach that started with raw data being organized and prepared for analysis (Merriam, 2009). During the teachers fall break at the end of September, analysis of the teacher demographic data and student referral data was conducted. Thorough examination of the student referral data that exists from the past six school years, as compared to the total student population for the same six-year period, 116 provides the percentage of referrals in relationship to the total student population. The participant high school has completed its ninth year of the PBIS initiative last school year and has tracked their students’ referral data for the past six school years. The number of referrals by school year as compared to the total student population for that same year is reflected in Figure 2. The participant high school is on a semi-annual school calendar and therefore has discipline data that has been collected for eleven months out of the year. Specific numbers reflect student referral data and student populations for the school years 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 in bar graph form. Total Referrals by School Year 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 # of Referrals 638 748 759 617 464 473 Student Population 1781 1897 2059 2046 1867 1863 School Year Figure 2. Total Number of Student Referrals by School Year by Total Population. When comparing the number of referrals by year, the highest year in any one year was in 2010-11 with 759 referrals. That same school year was also the highest year for total school population with 2059 students attending. The second highest year for total referrals was in 2009-10 and the second highest year for student population was in 201112. The lowest number of referrals in any one school year was in 2012-13 with only 464 student referrals with the lowest year for student population being in 2008-09 with only 1781 students attending school that year. To understand the relationship of annual student 117 referrals to annual student population by specific year, a chi-square test was completed to reflect the relationship of referrals by student population. Figure 3 was created to demonstrate the specific data contingency table of student referrals compared to total population by year. The expected value is based on the percentage of the total student body for that year who were referred, relative to the percentage of referrals for each of the other years. Table 1 Student Referral by School Year Data Contingency Student Referral by School Year Contingency Table 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 Referrals 638 572.22 ( 7.56) 748 609.49 ( 31.48) 759 661.53 ( 14.36) 617 657.36 ( 2.48) 464 599.85 ( 30.76) 473 598.56 ( 26.34) 3699 Expected Referrals 1143 1208.78 ( 3.58) 1149 1287.51 ( 14.90) 1300 1397.47 ( 6.80) 1429 1388.64 ( 1.17) 1403 1267.15 ( 14.56) 1390 1264.44 ( 12.47) 7814 1781 1897 2059 2046 1867 1863 11513 χ2 = 166.469, df = 5, χ2/df = 33.29 , P(χ2 > 166.469) = 0.0000 Note. expected values are displayed in italics individual χ2values are displayed in (parentheses) Table 1 was created to demonstrate the total number of actual referrals in relationship to the expected number of referrals by school year as compared to the total student population since the school began collecting referral data. When comparing student referral data by year, the school years 2009-10, 20012-13, and 2013-14 where the total student population was relatively the same suggests that the relationship to the number of referrals tracked in relationship to the total population had a strong correlation. The highest number of referrals in any one school year with 759 student referrals were 118 issued in 2010-11. The school year of 2012-13 had the lowest number of referrals with 464, over the six school years. The school year 2013-14 was just slightly higher than the previous school year with a total number of referrals reaching 473, which were just nine more referrals than the previous year. To further explain the influence of the referral data that has been collected in relationship to actual teacher perceptions of school climate, a comparison of the total number of student referrals by school year to the total student population was also completed. Using a chi-square test, and under the assumption that by chance alone each year should have 50% of the total number of referrals for the same six year period of time given that student population was roughly an equal size for the student bodies compared each year. To put that data into perspective, the deviations of the observed values from the expected values were statistically significantly different across the years with larger populations than those school years where the population was relatively the same. Managing student behavior at school is a task that all teachers and administrators share on a daily basis. As issues surrounding student behavior evolve, schools and school districts have turned to schoolwide behavior programs as a means to deal with student behavior that is less than desirable in the classroom. In regards to student discipline, schools have historically focused on creating safe environments that promote student learning and a place where learning is of highest priority (Gunbayi, 2007). In an effort to create a learning environment by combining learning with student safety, schools have turned to schoolwide behavior programs and student reward models that promote a more positive school environment for students. Sergiovanni and Starratt (1988) found that every educational environment establishes a climate that makes it unique from other 119 schools or organizations. The act of blending the way that students behave in a school environment and the way that teachers interact with those students is what defines the school climate. In schools, having a positive climate is the necessary link between a school’s operational structure and teacher attitudes and behaviors (Gunbayi, 2007). To understand what types of student behaviors have been taking place on the participant high school campus over the past three-year period, the types of student referrals by school year were also analyzed. The participant high school has also tracked student referral data by problem behaviors in an effort to identify the areas that they must focus on as a faculty and staff. The numbers of student referrals by problem behavior by school year are defined in Table 1. When looking at the data represented by problem behavior incident by school year, the number of referrals in 2011-12 are the greatest in the areas of defiance, truancy, and other. The 2012-13 school year has the most referrals in the area of disruption and lying, while the 2013-14 school year leads the way in skipping class, technical issues, and tobacco use. Problem behaviors that appear to be very consistent are in the area of theft. When comparing all three school years by number of referral incidents, there are years that are very similar in number but not necessarily consistent by consecutive years. 120 Table 2 Problem Behavior Incidents by Year Problem Behavior 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 Defiance/Insubordination 88 53 62 Physical Aggression 1 4 4 Disruption 70 73 6 Disrespect 0 0 1 35 25 31 Abus/Inapt. Language 6 0 10 Skip Class Tardy 108 132 144 Harassment 15 27 7 Bullying 0 1 2 Fighting 32 29 13 0 1 2 Truancy 34 1 0 Theft/Forgery/Plagiarism 17 17 17 Out of Bounds Technology Violation 15 12 18 Property Damage/Vandalism 5 1 6 Lying/Cheating 13 23 3 Dress Code Violation 5 1 3 Inapt. Display of Affection 3 2 0 Use/Possession of Tobacco 13 5 34 13 23 3 5 1 3 Lying/Cheating Dress Code Violation Inapt. Display of Affection 3 2 0 13 5 34 Use/Possession of Drugs 24 18 7 Use/Possessions of Weapons 5 6 5 Use/Possession of Combust. 2 8 0 Use/Possession of Alcohol 3 3 15 Gang Affiliation/Display 2 2 5 123 20 19 0 1 0 617 464 473 Use/Possession of Tobacco Other Behavior Minor Other Behavior Total Thorough review of the student referral data for specific problem behaviors by actual number of incidents per school year for three school years and comparison of the total student population for the past six years further triangulates the data for this study 121 and suggests that student referral numbers may have been improved. The comparison of problem behaviors by school year as defined, the behavior labeled, and other behavior was the biggest issue in 2011-12, with a total of 123 incidents. The second most incidents were skipping class with 108 incidents, while defiance or insubordination (88 incidents) and disruptions (70 incidents) were also problem areas for that school year. For the school year 2012-13, skipping class had the most recorded incidents with 132 incidents. During the 2012-13 school year, defiance/insubordination dropped back to 53 incidents and disruption was up slightly with 73 incidents. Finally, in the 2013-14 school year, skipping class escalated to 144 incidents and defiance/insubordination also went up to 62 incidents. During the 2013-14 school year, disruptions fell slightly to only 65 incidents. Analysis of the student referral data for a three-year period while focusing on incidents that had very few referrals issues, bullying by students was almost nonexistent, with only two incidents in 2013-14. Also noted in the schools past three-year longitudinal referral data was the very low number of dangerous incidents such as fighting, drugs, alcohol, possession of weapons, harassment, and inappropriate language being low in incident number which appears to be somewhat consistent for three years. At the beginning of the second week of the second quarter of instruction for the teachers, face-to-face interviews were conducted on the participant high school campus. Transcription of those interviews and analysis of field notes from teachers’ responses to interview questions began immediately the following week. In a review of the interview transcriptions and direct face-to-face interactions with the teachers, initial categories were established based on information provided about the teachers’ self-perceptions of their school environment and the influence that PBIS may have had on those perceptions. All 122 teachers responded to each of the four interview questions and articulated their thoughts and feelings. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed within 48 hours. Member checking was established by allowing each participant to review the transcription of their interview as individuals. The third piece of data used for this study was the PBIS Teacher Questionnaire. The questionnaire was given to all teachers at the participant high school electronically and responses to the questionnaire were gathered and tabulated. The questionnaire allowed all teachers who chose to respond to share their perceptions of the influence the PBIS had on student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits to teachers, and the overall culture and climate of their school. Teachers' responses to the questionnaire are demonstrated in Figure 4 and were used to demonstrate the number of responses by ranking of influence from the 31 teachers who answered the questionnaire. 30 25 20 Academics Buy-in 15 Personal Climate 10 5 0 1 Not at all 2 A little 3 Neutral 4 Somewhat Figure 3. Teacher's total responses by influence. 5 A great deal 123 Data Analysis Procedures Interview questions for this study were established prior to the study taking place and were approved by a panel of experts to ensure that these questions would allow teachers to share their thoughts and feelings about the influence PBIS may have on their school climate. These questions were not shared with the teachers prior to the day of the interview so that they were not able to plan, prepare, or rehearse their responses prior to being interviewed. The face-to-face interviews consisted of four open-ended questions that asked each participant to share their thoughts and feelings about how PBIS influenced their own perceptions in their classrooms and at their school. Specifically, the interview questions were designed to find out what each participant perceived PBIS to influence the academic success of their students, how teachers in general reacted to the PBIS program, the benefits of having PBIS on themselves personally, and the impact PBIS has on their own school climate. At the beginning of the second week of the second quarter of instruction for the teachers, face-to-face interviews were conducted on the participant high school campus. Transcriptions of those interviews and analysis of field notes and teachers responses to interview questions began immediately the following week. Through review of the interview transcriptions and directed face-to-face interactions with the teachers, initial categories were established based on information provided about the teachers’ selfperceptions of their school environment and the influence that PBIS may have had on those perceptions. All teachers responded to each of the four interview questions and articulated their thoughts and feelings. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed within 48 hours. In consideration of validity in this study, member checking 124 was established by allowing each participant to review the transcription of their interview as individuals. In order to assure that the thoughts and feelings of each participant were recorded and transcribed to portray exactly what each participant had shared during the interviews, a copy of the transcription was emailed directly to each participant so they could review the transcription and validate they were accurate. Interviews were conducted to compare the perceptions of each participant in their own natural environment. The purpose of the interviews was to add rich detail and supporting data for each of the four research questions. Because the interviews were done face-to-face and in an open-ended format, information about participant perceptions were both verbally recorded and field notes were taken while observing body language and facial expressions of each participant. Due to the research question design, responses from each participant varied slightly based on their own individual perceptions of the PBIS program. An attempt was made to get each participant to be as specific as possible with their thoughts and feelings while also allowing teachers to provide their own personal perceptions. All teachers responded to all four-interview questions during the interviews. Interviews were audio recorded, filed notes were taken, and member checking was established by allowing each participant to review the interview transcriptions. The collection of data and data analysis remained the same for every participant. Due to the amount of data collected from each of the seven teachers, it was necessary to assemble the data. 125 Table 3. Coding E R B C Q1 7 6 7 7 Q2 6 7 5 7 Q3 7 6 7 7 Q4 7 4 6 7 Total 27 23 25 28 Throughout the face-to-face interviews, initial themes surfaced around a positive classroom environment: (E) the ability to provide quality instruction due to students’ attitudes about learning, Respect and Rapport; (R) the ability of both teachers and students to understand and appreciated each other, Personal Benefits; (B) benefits to teachers directly through having the PBIS system in place, and Positive School Climate; and (C) the attitudes that teachers have about their school and their desire to work at the participant high school. Next, these codes were then analyzed and paired with those responses that related them into a common theme and then moved into common categories that were derived from the codes (Merriam, 2009). Table 3 identifies the categories that surfaced and led to an emerging theme regarding teacher perceptions about the influence of PBIS on their school climate. Table 4 provides the total number of responses by theme that derived from the data that was collected. 126 Table 4. Total Responses by Theme E R B C c s p m c b d s t v g h c s P1 3 2 1 4 2 2 2 2 4 3 3 3 2 3 P2 2 4 3 3 1 3 4 1 3 2 3 3 2 3 P3 1 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 3 2 2 2 1 2 P4 3 3 3 2 3 2 2 2 4 3 2 2 1 2 P5 2 3 1 4 2 2 2 2 3 2 3 2 2 2 P6 0 2 2 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 2 P7 1 2 2 2 2 3 1 2 1 3 2 2 2 2 Sub 13 18 13 13 11 15 14 11 20 16 17 15 12 16 Total 44 58 47 60 Table 5. Themes and Subthemes Code Descriptor Theme Sub-Theme cE Classroom Environment Influence Confidence sE Classroom Environment Influence High Standards pE Classroom Environment Influence Proactive mR Respect and Rapport Influence Mutual cR Respect and Rapport Influence Comfortable bR Respect and Rapport Influence Buy-In dR Respect and Rapport Influence Data-Driven sB Personal Benefit Influence Stress Level tB Personal Benefit Influence Limited Disruptions vB Personal Benefit Influence Shared Values gC School Climate Influence Good People hC School Climate Influence Happiness cC School Climate Influence Common Language sC School Climate Influence School Climate In review of the data from the face-to-face interviews, participant responses were analyzed to demonstrate a practical and theoretical understanding of the data. Responses of teachers were broken down into sub-themes from the four themes that existed initially. 127 When looking at the average of sub-themes that existed from each theme based on responses from the seven individual teachers, the averages were nearly the same in each category. Their responses as broken down by themes and sub-themes ensured that saturation had indeed been achieved in this study (Merriam, 2009). The themes of Positive Classroom Environment, Respect and Rapport, and Positive School Climate all averaged the same percentage while the theme of personal Benefits for teachers was just one percentage point higher than the other three themes. Figure 5 presents the averages of sub-theme categories. These numbers represent the amount of times the sub theme surfaced by each participant during his or her interview. Table 6 provides the description for coding. 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Environment Respect and Rapport E Figure 4. Subtheme averages. R Benefits(Personal) B C Climate (Positve School) 128 Table 6. Initial Coding Table Code Descriptor Theme P Classroom Environment Influence R Respect and Rapport Influence B Personal Benefit Influence C School Climate Influence In order to explain how this data relates to the research question for this study, the remaining section will frame the analysis around the themes that emerged from participant interviews and the PBIS teacher questionnaire. Results There were four questions used to solicit responses from teachers about their thoughts and feeling regarding their own perceptions as to what extent, if any, the PBIS behavior management system had on their own school climate. The responses from all seven teachers were used to develop the themes and sub-themes that have been previously described. This study used teacher demographic information as a means of deciding which teachers would be selected to participate in the face-to-face interviews. Teachers who had been teaching at the participant high school for four to six years were the target group selected for this study. Seven of the nine teachers who met the criteria for participation outlined in this study did agree to participate. Six years of student referral data in comparison to the total student population were gathered and analyzed to demonstrate the relationship of the number of referrals to student population at the participant high school and teachers’ perceptions of school climate. Responses from seven teachers who participated in face-to-face, semi-structured interview were transcribed, analyzed, and coded to demonstrate the themes and sub-themes that existed 129 from their responses. From those responses, the teachers’ thoughts feeling and perceptions of the PBIS behavior management system were defined. In an effort to triangulate data and to have a rich descriptive data that would support or contradict the teachers’ perceptions of the PBIS student behavior management system, a PBIS teacher questionnaire was given electronically to all teachers on the participant high school campus. This questionnaire asked teachers to respond to the same question asked of the teachers in two different ways. First, each question was asked in a Likert type fashion that required the teacher to rank the influence PBIS has had on their student academic success, teacher buy-in to the program, personal benefits that may exist, and the overall influence of PBIS on the school clime. The teaching staff was also asked the exact same questions in an open-ended format where they could express their own personal thoughts and feelings just as the teachers did in the interview. Thirty-one teachers (25%) responded to the questionnaire. All 31 teachers responded to the Likert scale questions, but not all took the time to answer the question in the open-ended format. The open-ended responses from the teachers who took the time to answer the questions were very similar to the benefits described by the participant in their interviews. Since all teachers completed the Likerttype questions that identified the influence that the PBIS student behavior management system had on student academic success, teacher buy–in, personal benefits, and their school climate, that data was analyzed and is demonstrated in Figure 4. Teachers were asked to rank their personal thoughts and feelings about each area of influence form one to five on the scale. A score of 1 meant that there was no influence at all and a 5 meant that PBIS very much influenced that focus area. 130 The research question for this study was: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate? In this study, three sources of data (interviews, longitudinal referral data, and the PBIS questionnaire) were collected and analyzed to answer the research question and define exactly how teachers perceive the influence of PBIS on their school climate. In order to answer the research question, How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate, data were analyzed to determine the extent to which each teachers’ perceptions were impacted. As a means to improve school climate, research exists (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005; Eber et al., 2010; Warren et al., 2006; Miramontes et al., 2011) that demonstrates the benefits of having PBIS on a school campus. According to Coffey and Horner (2012), when classrooms are free of student behavior issues that disrupt the learning environment for all students, teachers have more time to deliver the quality instruction necessary for increasing the academic success of those students they teach. The teachers in this study articulated their own personal beliefs as to the PBIS behavior management system. They discussed the influence on the academic performance of their students, how well accepted the PBIS system was received by teachers, whether there were perceived personal benefits that existed for the teachers themselves from having the PBIS system in place, and if the teachers felt their school climate was indeed influenced by the existence of the PBIS system. Responses from each participant were triangulated through interviews and the PBIS questionnaire and compared to the student referral data for the last three years to ensure what was perceived was also present in the referral data that was collected. 131 The teachers’ self-perceptions of the influence that PBIS had on their school and themselves were compared by looking for evidence through the teachers’ interview transcriptions. Similar themes and sub-themes emerged from the data, which became meaningful with the frequency and intensity in which they appeared. From the data, key similarities and differences between participant’s responses, as triangulated with the questionnaire data and referral data, were discussed and then concluded. The purpose of this study was to explore teachers’ perceptions of the influence having the PBIS behavior management system had on the participant high school campus and their school climate in general. The results of participant responses are discussed in relation to each of the four interview questions. The first interview question was: How do you feel the PBIS behavior management system influences the academic performances of your students? With identifying how PBIS affects students academically in the classroom, the self-perceptions of the teachers revolved around having a positive classroom environment. The subthemes that were identified were student confidence, having high standards, and being proactive with students. The teachers described the influence of PBIS on student academic success as laying the foundation for students to have a positive classroom environment where learning can take place. Participant 1 described impact in terms of minimizing discipline issues. Participant 1 stated: We are not usually bringing anything to a halt. Usually then the behavior would tend to halt the academics and that does tend to happen. Everyone else is able to continue learning or the lesson switches shortly and it is more of a life lesson that is implemented in the middle of an academic lesson and then we are able to go 132 back to our academic lesson. Because student behavior does not influence the entire classroom we are able to continue teaching and that is how it influences academic success. (P1: E: sE: 18). Participant 2 characterized the influence as being one of a mindset and a way of being. He explained: Having come from a school district where there was nothing of this sort in place, being enacted or even discussed, I think overall it raises the standard and the bar is defiantly higher. It is an overall mindset that it does not deal with just one aspect, as with many things there is a ripple effect. What affects behavior will affect and impact academic behavior not just in a social setting but also in an academic setting? So, scholastics or whatever you want to call it, all of that is impacted and anytime a bar is raised in one area, it then begins to be raise if not in an overt manner, then certainly the implication. If students start to be rewarded for their behavior, it starts to spill over in other areas. Not everyone is a scholar, but through rewarding positive behavior you see more of a tolerance for that and less tolerance for being a “slacker” or one who does not wish to put out the effort. (P2: R: cE: 18). Participant 6 outlined the fact that benefits exist academically because it recognizes students for their citizenship. She stated: Yes, I do think it affects the academic performance. For instance, we have what is called “Top Cat” it does not necessarily have to do just with academics because it is based on your citizenship and your GPA. Therefore, it is about half-and-half maybe and as long students are getting their good citizenship and good grades 133 then they get like coupons for the next quarter for doing good things. Because of PBIS and this program, students are starting to be good citizens as well as keeping their academics up. (P6: E: pE: 18). Academic success and discipline issues have had a long-standing correlation and teachers recognize this obstacle that must be overcome. The teachers believe that when students feel appreciated, understand what is expected of them, and then are supported regularly, then academically they are able to gain much more. Participant 3 describes this process, as he perceives it. He explained: I always see confidence as a major roadblock with any sort of academic success. I think having that positive language built in to what we do and using it to reward students for doing it right thing can help build confidence. I think anytime you can build confidence and convince people that they are good enough and that they are smart enough they automatically start doing better. (P6: E: cE: 18). Participant 5 mirrors the thoughts of Participant 3 describing the importance of understanding the impact of being positive in a teacher’s interactions with students. Participant 5 stated: I think that when you get to the high school level, kids have been trained to think in terms of doing the right thing. I think that the higher you get in education the more critical we become in children’s education. Flipping your response to children from the negative to the positive is like a chain reaction. That is something new that I have been doing. I look for something positive when I give feedback on their papers and work. Finding something positive, putting that at the top, putting it at the bottom, making some corrections, but always making sure 134 that they saw how much I appreciate the effort that they put in. Finding something, some strength in their work that I can highlight and shine. (P5: E sE: 18). Participant 5 also felt very similarly to Participant 5 and Participant 6 in her thoughts on the impact academically to students. Participant 7 explains: I think it puts the spin on the positive and helps us to notice the good in students. We are able to be more proactive and positive rather than to be retroactive and use punishment more. For kids that are struggling and have to be put on a plan, there is much more of a positive aspect to it. I think it is giving them the recognition that we think they do the work and not that they cannot or teachers are going to punish. Encouraging the students to do all that they can through a different aspect rather than the constant negative when you interact with them. PBIS is using a different facet to get the most out of students. (P7: E: pE: 18). When answering this question and providing details to describe their thoughts and feelings, teachers, regardless of their demographic background, unanimously suggested that having PBIS on their campus and using the program as it was designed improves the academic performance of the majority of students that they teach. They all expressed that having the program causes them to be much more positive and proactive with their students in the classroom. They identified having positive classroom environments as being very important to the academic success of their students. Participant 4 communicated: One of the things that works really well in my classroom that is part of that positive intervention. I like to use laughter to modify behavior. Laughing with 135 students and not at students is key to building relationships. Students tend to laugh at me when I correct behavior and it usually works very well with particular groups of kids. Having the positive relationship helps students’ academic success because they are not afraid to ask me questions. (P4: E: pE: 18). Part of having a positive classroom environment is having good relationships with your students. This was corroborated by the responses from the teachers (n=31) on the PBIS questionnaire and further triangulated from the student referral data. The theme of Relationships and Rapport emerged from the second interview question. The second interview question was: How do you think teachers react to the PBIS behavior management system at your school? This question sought to determine the perceptions of teachers on how well received the PBIS system is by all teachers at the participant high school and to what fidelity is the system being practiced. Results from the student referral data demonstrate a decline in the overall number of referrals from 2011-2012 to 2012-13 and then remained nearly the same for school year 2013-14. Responses from teachers represented a connection to students and a way of being at the participant high school. Teacher buy-in and teacher effectiveness with the use of the PBIS program were described in detail. The role that each teacher plays in using the program effectively and with fidelity was also described. Participant 7 stated: To be honest, we have been doing this for so long, I don’t think that anybody even realizes we have anything other than this. I don’t hear any negative feedback and we have already done it this way for most people. I never hear any complaining about the program mainly because I think there is a lot of buy in. (P7: R: bR: 15). Every year the administration puts up the statistics and those statistics show us 136 how we are doing, but also gives us the data that proves success. The data also demonstrates that the program is working and improves its success each year they have used it. The student referral data is what increases buy-in for the teachers. (P7: R: mR: 18). Participant 3 also felt very similarly to teachers 7. Having been on the participant high school campus for six of the years that the PBIS program has been in place, he explained teacher acceptance and use as engaging. Participant 3 explained: I think teachers are all very open to PBIS and that students are also engaged. They believe in it and work towards it. I don’t know if any teachers complain that it is an extra thing we have to do. I think we all agree with the validity and are all overall on board with it. The staff is bought into the system and uses it regularly. (P3: R: cR: 11). Teachers explained that the success of the PBIS program, as with the success of any program, the people using it must believe in it and must support the efforts. The participant high school has been using PBIS for nine years now and teachers in this study have been using the program for a minimum of four to six years. The self-perceptions of the teachers on teacher buy-in and support were reflected very positively and the teachers in their responses to this question described the relationships that exist with students due to the programs existence. Participant 1 describes her experience with the program and the influence it has on building student relationships. Participant 1 stated: I think overall most are very positive. Overall I would say that the entire campus is on board because the students also respond more positively. It is not just that we are being more respectful to students, it also encourages students to be more 137 positive toward us, so it is mutual. It is neat that it is safe enough and comfortable enough and an encouraging enough environment that students feel comfortable coming to talk to us as teachers. (P1: R: mR: 18). While all teachers, regardless of demographic difference, were able to articulate the buy-in of the staff and the benefits the program has had on building very positive relationships with their students, the two most veteran teachers in terms of years of teaching experience, also felt like the buy-in of the teaching staff may have differed slightly depending on how long they have been teaching. Participant 2 stated: In me perspective, I would think the older teachers have a little more of a difficult time and are more resistant to the program. I will be honest I am old school in that regard because that is how I came up through the system and it wasn’t necessarily accepted. For younger teachers, they probably think that the PBIS program is just how teachers interact with students today and at least think that way. I feel like the younger teachers had an easier time adapting to the philosophy behind the program. (P2: R: dR: 15). Participant 4 also felt like while teachers are bought in to the program at the participant high school that that buy-in comes a little differently, depending on how long a teacher has been teaching. She detailed that buy-in in her response and explained a little further. According to Participant 4: The old ones close to retirement think it is just another swing of the pendulum and the middle ground ones kind of watch it with skepticism and they do it but until you see it actually work they don’t have full buy in. (P4: R: bR: 15). She went on to explain, 138 Newer teachers just assume that is the way schools are, the middle teachers will apply it but don’t really buy into it until they see it work and the older teachers just say it is another transition, just go with it and do what it is and they do. A lot of those teachers do it, but just don’t know what they are doing is part of that labeling that defines the program. (P4: R: cR: 11). The extent of teacher buy-in and the fidelity in which teachers use the PBIS program differed just slightly by the two more experienced teachers. However, the common theme that emerged from their responses to this interview question demonstrates that all teachers value the PBIS program and are able to articulate the positive relationships and rapport they have with their students because of it. According to Participant 6: Yes, I do think that PBIS effects academic performance. For instance, we have a program that is called Top Cat. To be a Top Cat does not necessarily have to do with just academics because the program focuses on citizenship as well as GPA. Teachers like this program because the use of the program as a part of the PBIS program, students are starting to be good citizens as well as keeping up their academics. That helps to promote teacher buy in. (P6: R: bR: 15). Participant 5 is a part of the schools Freshmen House that is a program dedicated to the incoming freshman to their school and shared the following: Gosh it is hard to speak for anybody other than the Freshmen House. The Freshmen House is unique because it is a very strong foundational start to school. There are a lot of things we do to build positive behavior in freshmen. Whether it is the Commitment to Graduate Program or having an assembly just for 139 freshmen, we use a very positive approach. In the Freshman House teachers all have the same goals, which include PBIS to help establish a foundation for the rest of their next three years. (P4: R: cR: 11). While all four themes that emerged from this study had almost equal percentages of sub theme responses, the strongest theme of this study emerged from the interview was a positive school climate. Responses from the teachers (n=31) on the PBIS questionnaire and the student referral data that was analyzed both corroborated and triangulated this theme. The third interview question was: Do you believe that there are benefits to you personally that exist from having the PBIS behavior management system in place your school? All seven teachers, regardless of years of experience were unanimous in feeling that the PBIS system being in place benefits each of them as individuals because they implement the program on their campus. The teachers were able to describe how having a student behavior management system in place on their campus improved the quality of life for each of them personally. While they all agreed that there were indeed benefits for each of them individually, those benefits differ slightly from each of the teachers’ personal perspective. According to Participant 1: I think it is one of those benefits that been around for years with us that it is not always having to be a conscious thought. It has now moved to some of the subconscious on how people approach things because it has been here long enough. So it is just a part of the way we are and it is really neat of course whenever you get a brand new teacher because everything is so new. They ask 140 tons of questions and they are reminded you of the practices that are just given. People here are very calm when they are frustrated and none of the adults lose their cool, which is a wonderful thing. (P1: B: sB: 11). Participant 6 shared the following: For the most part teachers react very positively. I have never heard any negative feedback from them. Coming from a school that didn’t have PBIS to one that does, you completely see the difference. Everything is not punitive and I feel like we have more things that are positive than are punitive. They may not realize this as students, but it pushes them towards that track of doing good and getting rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do. (P6: R: bR: 15). Participant 7 went on to elaborate further and explained: As a teacher, it puts me on a more positive side with her students and it gives all teachers and students a more common language to use. Because students know what the expectations are and teachers are all using the same language, there is no ambiguity. I like the fact that we come at things from a different facet and try to be more proactive about issues with students and not just hammering or punishing students. It is much more respectful to students and being positive is good for everyone. (P7: B: vB: 16). Participant 3 echoed similar thoughts on this question. He shared the following perspective: I personally believe that our classrooms have very little behavioral issues that occur in them. Our school is a very positive environment where there is a foundation of mutual respect and understanding between teachers and students. 141 Our general stress level goes down and we actually get to teach and spend less time managing behavior which teachers value. Ultimately, I think as a teacher it provides a good classroom environment that is more based on academics and it makes decisions a little easier. (P3: B: tB: 20). Teacher teachers shared their insights on the great deal of pressure teachers have to endure to guarantee that quality education is taking place in their classrooms and that they must prepare their students for academic success on high stakes testing. This pressure can lead to teachers feeling very stressed. According to Participant 4: I like the fact that just because a kid is misbehaving they don’t automatically get a referral and think of themselves as a bad kid. Having the PBIS program makes it easier because there is an outline and everything doesn’t have to escalate to a big deal, which takes some the pressure off my back. (P4: B: sB: 11). Once students understand the expectations set before them because teachers are using a common language and management system, the pressures that teachers feel can be greatly reduced. Participant 2 explained: I would say that there are benefits in the classroom simply because many of the behaviors that I have seen before that I had to deal with on a regular basis are being addressed. I don’t see nearly the number of cases or kinds of cases here. I came from a huge intercity school where you would expect stereotypical issues to exist. I think that a large part of our success here is that you see the same type of values coming from the home that are being practiced here and the result is the 142 two feed each other who are vying for a better foundation or better overall experience. (P2: B: vB: 16). Participant 5 shares very similar thoughts regarding personal benefits of having PBIS in place: There are definitely benefits to me personally. What I have noticed after five years of teaching with PBIS in place is that the “clown” can keep you from getting to know the rest of the kids and I hate that. I go home at night and reflect and think. Did I get a chance to connect with every student? They all have their own stories and they all have their own issues. For me, it helps to instead of allowing the power to be in the hands of “clowns” I can focus on the positive behavior of other students and that settles my heart and my nerves down. (P5: B: sB: 11). Participant 6 also felt that there were definitely benefits to them personally and shared the following thoughts: Because our students know that PBIS exists, they might do things just in case they would earn a Phat Cat card. They are going to do the extra stuff to positively impact the classroom. I benefit personally because students are more willing to be helpful and are much more positive in general. (P6: B: tB: 20). Responses from the teachers (n=31) on the PBIS questionnaire and the student referral data that was analyzed confirmed the teachers perceptions. The fourth interview question was: What impact does the PBIS behavior management system have on your school climate? The general focus of this entire study is described in detail through student responses to interview question number four. This 143 question focuses on the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. Each participant described school climate as a feeling that employees have about how they feel personally about being at the place the place that they work. While there was a great deal of information to support their thoughts and feelings about their place of employment, having a positive school climate was the emerging theme that was derived from this interview question. The effectiveness of the PBIS behavior management system had a great deal of influence on how these teachers feel about their school. All seven teachers were able to articulate their own personal perspectives about their school climate and explain how the PBIS program plays into those perceptions. Participant 4 shared: Because of PBIS there is a more friendly relationship between students and teachers, which leads to a positive school climate. Students don’t hesitate to interact with teachers and that makes the environment we live in much more positive. I have seen the difference being positive has made, even with such a big campus. We have always wanted to have positive relationships with our kids and with PBIS being here there are a lot more opportunities to have those types of interactions with kids outside of your class. (P4: C: sC: 16). Participant 6 echoed that thinking and stated: I think PBIS makes the school more positive in general. The kids really don’t know what is going on, but we are pushing them toward being more positive and making good decisions. Everything just seems to be more positive here. Students want to do good and they approach things differently because they know we expect the positive in them. (P6: C: hC: 15). 144 All seven teachers, regardless of demographic differences, described their school climate as being a very positive and all seven teachers explained that the PBIS system has played a big role in achieving the current school climate that exists. Each participant had something to add about the influence that PBIS has on his or her school climate. Participant 5 explains the relationship as: I think we do a really good job of incorporating the best of what our school has to offer and blending those ideas. The PBIS system whether it is used in classes, with staff for students, or with staff for staff, it is effective with is groups on campus. To me that is a big deal when you can break the barriers and find the commonality in people instead of finding the differences and building up the walls. I think that is what make our campus so successful is because it includes so many different aspects of our campus. (P5: C: gC: 17). Teachers had no problem relating PBIS and the way they interact with students to the way they feel about being at work. They described the majority of their interactions as being those of the positive nature and in turn they related those positive relations as being a large part of having a positive school climate. Participant 3 explained: I think people like to be here at our school more because of the PBIS program. You know on a certain level, school is still school and there is a certain level of that here. I think we have a positive environment here and that most people are happy to be here. I think we have a common language that we speak here. Anytime you have a common vision it makes collaboration and decision-making easier for our staff. (P3: C: cC: 12). Participant 7 and Participant 1 both shared similar perceptions: 145 Participant 7 stated: As far as I perceive things, PBIS makes our school a much happier place and we have a much more positive climate here at our school. We notice the things that are good and again we have a shared language we use. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of student behavior issues in my classroom. Everything is very common and it is all understood by teachers and students alike. (P7: C: cC: 12). Participant 1 elaborated further: We only have a handful of teachers who really examine our data with our administrations, but they always communicated how well we are doing. Overall we have a very positive environment and even our security guards are positive. They have a tough job, yet they are still able to handle things in positive manner and they go through those steps. None of the adults on our campus lose their cool, which is wonderful. (P1: C: hC: 15). She stated further, Relationships are so positive that even in the middle of a frustrating situation or discipline issue the adults are still able to joke with students and talk with students and not at them. I feel that part of our climate is due in large part to PBIS as well. (P7: C: sC: 16). Teachers were able to articulate their positive feeling about working at the participant high school and shared that the more positive that employees find their place of employment, the better job they do for the students themselves. Participant 2 was able to reflect and articulate the general feeling of the teachers about their school. Participant 2 explained: The positive school climate I would argue that PBIS is a necessary ingredient for the success that we have had at the participant high school and the overall 146 attitudes and environment that also exists. Teachers are willing to do whatever is necessary and are willing to put in maximum effort if it will help students. I feel that because of PBIS being in place, that teachers’ at the participant high school do not face a lot of the trials and tribulations that they might if it did not exist. I think that PBIS may not be the only reason for that, but it certainly has been one of them and has played a very large role in that regard. (P2: C: cC: 16). All four interview questions effectively allowed teachers to express their personal perceptions and feeling about how PBIS has positively influenced their high school campus. Participant were able to articulate how the PBIS student behavior management system influenced their students’ academic success, how PBIS being in place benefited themselves personally and how PBIS has indeed contributed to teachers’ perceptions of their own school climate. Responses from the teachers (n=31) on the PBIS questionnaire and the student referral data that was analyzed both corroborated and triangulated this theme. Summary Seven teacher interviews, questionnaire data (n=31), and longitudinal referral data was studied to explore how PBIS influenced teachers’ perceptions on school climate within the participant school. Each participant was purposefully selected to participate in this study based on years of teaching experience at the participant high school and gender. Each participant was interviewed face-to-face in his or her own natural environment and had been teaching at the participant high school for a minimum of four to six years post-PBIS implementation. Through analysis of six years of total referrals and three years of longitudinal student referral data, PBIS teacher questionnaire data and 147 participant responses to four open-ended interview questions, data was coded and four themes emerged as patterns from responses by all seven teachers. The themes of positive classroom environment, respect, personal benefits, positive school climate and subthemes of confidence, high standards, proactive approach, mutual respect, comfort, buyin, data driven calming effect, limited disruptions, shared values, notice the good, happiness, common language were validated and supported by the responses from the general teaching staff to the PBIS teacher questionnaire. The PBIS behavior management system may have played a role in the influence of teacher perceptions and may be linked to how teachers felt about their own school climate. From the themes and sub-themes, the analysis of data and research question focused on the self–perceptions of teachers on the effectiveness, responsiveness, and overall influence that the PBIS system has had on the participant high school campus. Using student referral data, teacher questionnaire data, interview transcriptions, and field notes, the emergence of themes was coded and developed. Continuous member checking with teachers themselves added additional validity by allowing for accurate analysis and interpretation of the data. Making the decision to implement a schoolwide behavior system at a school is not done easily. There must be a great deal of research and analysis done to find the program that best fits a school and their needs. Through the triangulation of interviews, a PBIS teacher questionnaire and six years of student referral data, the results of this study may benefit school leaders who are considering implementation of the PBIS behavior management system. The deep, rich data that has been presented may assist a school leader in gaining an understanding on how and why those programs may influence school climates as perceived by teachers. Important to PBIS, this study provided a different 148 approach in trying to understand what having a schoolwide student behavior management system in place does for the teachers themselves who are implementing the program. A summary of this study, the findings, and conclusions is presented in Chapter 5. Additionally, Chapter 5 will discuss the implication and recommendations for future research and practice. 149 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations Introduction While it is not known how PBIS influence high school teachers’ perceptions on school climate, PBIS and other schoolwide student behavior plans continue to be used by schools and school leaders to improve student behavior in the classroom, while attempting to improve accountability for personal misbehaviors. In an effort to help change unwanted student behaviors, schools continue to use student referrals as a means of documenting student misbehaviors so that the school can have a better understanding of what student behavior issues are happening on their campus. Many schools have to turn to PBIS as a means to take a more positive approach to changing student misbehaviors. Results from previous research studies have addressed schoolwide student behavior plans and student behavior outcomes as a means to improve the quality of education. This study focused on the influence that PBIS has on teacher perceptions of school climate in regard to four factors that contribute to creating school climate— student academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits to teachers, and the culture. Important to the field of schoolwide student behavior programs and school climate, this study attempted to add to the limited amount of research that exists in regards to the influence that PBIS has on teacher’s thoughts and feelings about their school climate. A qualitative interpretive study exploring PBIS’s influence on teacher perceptions, data collection included seven teacher interviews, 31 questionnaire responses, and longitudinal archived data. This study took place over a four-week period to provide insight to how the PBIS student behavior management influences teachers’ self-perceptions of their school climate. Field notes, digital recordings, face-to-face 150 interviews, a PBIS teacher questionnaire, and six years of longitudinal student’s behavior data were collected and analyzed to determine the findings for this study. The remainder of this chapter identifies and addresses the conclusions, implications, and recommendations for further research and educational practices. Summary of the Study In order to identify the effect that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of school climate, this study investigated the self-perception of teachers who have experienced and used PBIS on their school campus for a minimum of four years. The purpose of this qualitative interpretive study was to explore the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. The findings of teachers’ self-perceptions of school climate were explored through their individual perceptions of the influence that PBIS had on student academic success, teacher buy-in to the program, personal benefits to teachers themselves, and the culture that was created that all make up the schools climate. One research question guided this study to provide the framework of exploration for this study. Throughout this study seven teachers’ perceptions of how much having PBIS in place at their school influenced how they felt about their own school climate. In order to understand the benefits or influence that PBIS has on school climate, the factors or areas that make up school climate were analyzed. Demographical differences that existed amongst the seven teachers were also described to further add to the richness of this study. The responses from the seven teachers’ interview questions were compared with the thoughts and perceptions of the general teaching population to further examine the influence that PBIS has on school climate. To understand the influence that PBIS has 151 on teacher perceptions of school climate, this study followed a qualitative approach for research. This qualitative interpretive study allowed the researcher to gather data based on the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of the teachers. The interpretive study design allowed the researcher to interact with teachers in their own natural environments in an effort to better understand their feelings. Teachers for this study were selected through purposeful selection based on their responses to an electronic demographic survey. Data collection consisted of interview responses from teachers that were digitally recorded and transcribed, field notes, six years of longitudinal student referral data, a PBIS teacher questionnaire provided by the teachers themselves. Analysis that was conducted through open-coding constant comparative analysis provided for the emergence of four themes and 14 sub-themes. The four themes that emerged from the self-perceptions of teacher teachers consisted of (a) classroom environment, (b) respect and rapport, (c) personal benefits, and (d) school climate. Additionally, each of the four themes had sub themes that also emerged. Sub-themes of classroom environment were: 1) confidence, 2) high standards, and 3) proactive approach. Respect and rapport consisted of: 1) mutual respect, 2) comfortable, 3) buy-in, and 4) data driven. Personal benefits were further defined as: 1) stress level, 2) limited disruptions, and 3) shared values. School climate consisted of: 1) good people, 2) happiness, 3) common language, and 4) school culture and climate. Chapter 5 provides a comprehensive summary of the qualitative interpretive study in addition to how the study results related to current literature and what is known about 152 PBIS, how the research question was answered, and how the theoretical framework was supported by the data collection and analysis of that data. Summary of Findings and Conclusion The conclusions and findings from this study were consistent with much of the literature while addressing the specific gap. It is not known how PBIS influences teachers’ perceptions about their school climate. From three sources of data, the research question related to the emerged themes of school climate. Distinct theories about how and why teachers’ self-perceptions of the influence of PBIS on school climate were identified. Each of the seven teachers stated that they believed that having the PBIS behavior management system in place on their campus influenced the factors contributing to school climate in a positive manner. All teachers agreed that having PBIS in place on their campus improved the academic success of their students, had personal benefits to themselves as teachers, and created the positive school culture and climate that is in existence at their school. The only factor of school climate that had any discrepancy or difference in opinion was with teacher buy-in. Two of the seven teachers felt like buy-in for more experienced teachers might be slower to buy-in to the program and need to see proven success before completely getting on board. Through the triangulation of longitudinal student referral information, PBIS teacher questionnaires, and responses to interview questions, rich descriptive data presented itself. The summary of the findings and conclusions guided this study’s research question: How does Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) influence high school teachers’ perceptions of school climate? 153 The results indicated that the teachers did feel that having the PBIS program in place contributed to their own self-perceptions of their own school climate. School climate was broken down into four major components, which included students’ academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits, and culture and climate of the school. School climate is defined as the collective feelings that both students and teachers have about the environment in which they interact. In an effort to explore the research question further, school climate was examined based on these four factors that each contribute to the overall feelings or perceptions of individuals. The first interview question was: How do you feel the PBIS behavior management system influences the academic performances of your students? Students’ academic success can be greatly influenced by disruptions in the classroom and other distractions that may come from misbehaving students. Teachers in this study all believed that having PBIS in place on their campus both influenced and influenced their own students’ academic success in their classrooms. Participant 2 had this to share: It is an overall mindset that it does not deal with just one aspect, as with many things there is a ripple effect. What effects behavior will effect and impact will academic behavior not just in a social setting but also in an academic setting? So, scholastics or whatever you want to call it, all of that is impacted and anytime a bar is raised in one area, it then begins to be raise if not in an overt manner, then certainly the implication. (P2: R: cE: 18). When teachers are free from classroom disruptions and are therefore able to maximize their instructional time in the classroom, students are the direct beneficiaries of good classroom management. Participant 6 added the following comments: 154 I always see confidence as a major roadblock with any sort of academic success. I think having that positive language built in to what we do and using it to reward students for doing it right thing can help build confidence. I think anytime you can build confidence and convince people that they are good enough and that they are smart enough they automatically start doing better. (P6: E: cE: 18) The general teaching population agreed with the participant’s thoughts and feelings which were demonstrated by their responses to the PBIS teacher questionnaire. In their Likert scale responses, 78% of the responders agreed that having PBIS influences student academic success. They described this influence in the terms of student safety, mutual respect of students and teachers, honesty, and integrity. In comparison to the six years of student longitudinal referral data, the referral data suggests a decline of student referrals for major incidents over the past three years and the ability of teachers’ to feel comfortable enough to be able to handle minor incidents in the classroom further corroborated teacher’s perceptions and triangulated the results of this study. As schools and school leaders continue to evaluate ways to improve academic success to meet the high demands in the classroom, PBIS may be a schoolwide student behavior program they should consider. The value of this study for school leaders is that it reflects teachers’ perceptions on the influence that PBIS has on increasing student academic success in the classroom. The second interview question was: How do you think teachers react to the PBIS behavior management system at your school? When measuring effectiveness of any schoolwide initiative, the extent to which teachers’ are bought in to the initiative and the fidelity in which they use the initiative weigh heavily on the overall impact that can be 155 obtained. Highly effective teachers are generally associated with being good classroom managers that are able to command the classroom. Within this study, the teachers share their thoughts and feelings on how teachers on the participant high school campus felt about both having and using the PBIS program. Results from the data demonstrated that teachers for the most part felt that all teachers were bought in to the PBIS program. Participant 1 shared: That overall the entire campus is on board because they like having the positivity that it brings. I also feel like the students respond more positively to teachers because teachers treat students with respect. It is not just that we are being respectful to students; it encourages the students to be respectful to us, so, it is mutual. (P1: R: mR: 18) Participant 7 added, “To be honest, we have been doing this for so long, I don’t think that anybody even realizes we have anything other than this” (P7: R: bR: 15). However, there was some discrepancy based on the responses of the two veteran teachers. Participant 4 shared her thoughts on teacher buy-in: While I feel like teachers are bought in to the program at the Participant high school, that buy in comes a little differently depending on how long a teacher has been teaching. She detailed that buy in in her response and explained a little further. (P4: R: bR: 15). Participant 4 went on to say: The old ones close to retirement think it is just another swing of the pendulum and the middle ground ones kind of watch it with skepticism and they do it but until you see it actually work they don’t have full buy in. (P4: R: bR: 15). Newer 156 teachers just assume that is the way schools are, the middle teachers will apply it but don’t really buy into it until they see it work and the older teachers just say it is another transition, just go with it and do what it is and they do. (P4: R: cR: 11). Data collected from the PBIS teacher questionnaire again supported the responses of the teachers in their interviews. Thirty-one teachers responded to the PBIS teacher questionnaire. Responses from the general teaching staff to this question showed that 27 of those responding (87%) felt that teachers both agreed with and were bought in to the PBIS program. Again, the student referral data further triangulates these findings and demonstrates the relationship that exists in relation to the number of referrals and the total student population at the participant high school. The value of this study demonstrates the possible benefits of a schoolwide behavior management system when the teachers who implement it are both bought in and agreed with the program being implemented. This information is supported by numerous other studies and research done on schoolwide behavior initiatives. Interview Question 3 was: Do you believe that there are benefits to you personally that exist from having the PBIS behavior management system in place your school? This study began out of a curiosity to find out if there were any benefits at all to teachers themselves when a schoolwide student behavior management was in place at a high school. While there is very little research available to answer this question, the teachers at the participant high school were able to offer their personal self-perceptions regarding its influence. As traditional classroom teachers, the teachers all unanimously agreed that because of the PBIS behavior management being in place at their school, they personally reaped benefits. The teachers all felt like when students are focused and on task in a 157 classroom that is free from disruptions, then the quality of education happening in that classroom greatly increases. Participant 6 shared the following statement, “I benefit personally because students are more willing to be helpful and are much more positive in general.” (P6: B: tB: 20). Participant 7 elaborated further on the benefits: As a teacher it puts me on a more positive side with my students and it gives all teachers and students a more common language to use. Because of that fact I feel like the program is good for teachers and good for students. Benefits to me personally come from the fact that students know what the expectations are and teachers are all talking the same way. I feel like the fact that teachers approach things from a different facet and try to be more proactive about issues with students, I benefit by not having to be punitive and punishing kids. I feel teachers are much more respectful to students on the participant high school campus and that just that being positive is good for everyone. (P7: B: vB: 16) The high pressure put on teachers and students alike due to increased academic accountability and pressure to perform on standardized tests can add a great deal of stress to teachers in the classroom. All teachers were able to articulate and explain how having the PBIS program on their campus improved the quality of the work place for teachers and in some cases decreased the stress level that teachers can sometimes have. Participant 3 explained: I personally believe that our classrooms have very little behavioral issues that occur in them. For that reason, I feel there is a very positive environment and a foundation of mutual respect and understanding between teachers and students. I 158 also feel like having the program in place causes teachers’ general stress level to go down. I personally enjoy being able to actually teach and manage less, which is something that I value. (P3: B: tB: 20). The general teaching population’s responses also support these perceptions and further triangulated these findings. Teachers described the personal benefits as being relational where teachers and students have positive relationships in the classroom. They also describe these relationships as being key to students feeling good about themselves. From the respondents who answered the PBIS questionnaire, 30 of 31 (97%) felt that PBIS being in existence brings personal benefits to teachers themselves. An examination of the types of incidents that occur on the participant high school campus for the past three years, one can see that defiance, disrespect, insubordination, and noncompliance are almost nonexistent with only 10 total incidents occurring over that three-year period. These findings led to a better understanding of how having an effective schoolwide student behavior plan in place increases the personal benefits of the teaching profession for teachers themselves. Interview Question 4 was: What impact does the PBIS behavior management system have on your school climate? This fourth and final question circles back around to the driving research question that guided this entire study. Responses to the previous questions demonstrated the perceptions of the teachers in this study. Their selfperceptions of the benefits and influence that PBIS has on the first three components of school climate were depicted. From the results of those three questions, it can safely be determined that based on participant’s responses regarding the components of school climate, that their responses to this final question would be similar. Teachers 159 overwhelmingly and unanimously agreed that the PBIS behavior management system being in place on their campus greatly influences the school climate and culture that exist. All seven teachers were able to articulate how PBIS defined their school culture for them as individuals. Participant 1 shared: PBIS makes our school a much happier place and we have a much more positive climate at our school. I feel like we all notice the things that are good in people and that we have a shared language, which creates the positive climate at the participant high school. (P7: C: cC: 12). Participant 7 added: People at the participant high school are very calm even when they are frustrated. None of the adults lose their cool, which is wonderful (P1: C: hC: 15). Relationships here are so positive that even in the middle of a frustrating situation or discipline issue the adults are still able to joke with students and talk with students and not at them. I feel that part of their climate being so positive is due in large part of PBIS being in existence as well. (P7: C: sC: 16). Participant 2 added his thoughts and feelings regarding the influence of PBIS as: I would argue that PBIS is a necessary ingredient for the success that we have had at the participant high school and for the overall attitudes and environment that also exists here. I feel like teachers are willing to do whatever is necessary and are willing to put in maximum effort if it will help students. I feel that because of PBIS being in place, that teachers at the participant high school do not face a lot of the trials and tribulations that they might if it did not exist. I think that PBIS 160 may not be the only reason for that, but it certainly has been one of them and has played a very large role in that regard. (P2: C: cC: 16). Responses from the general teaching staff are in line with the thoughts and feeling that were shared by the teachers. When asked to rank the impact or influence that PBIS has on the influence of school climate, 31 out of 31 (100%) of all respondents felt that PBIS directly influences their perceptions of their school climate. Their responses, when triangulated with the six year longitudinal student referral data, support these findings. In the third year of collecting student referral data with the PBIS initiative being in place on the participant high school campus they reported cutting the number of students’ discipline referrals by 40% overall from 2010-11 (759) to 2012-13 (464). Over the past three school years, the school has continued to demonstrate improvement or maintaining their efforts. In 2011-12, the school had 617 student referrals. Those numbers decreased again in 2012-13 to only 464 referrals and then went up just slightly in 2013-14 to 473. The Chi Square test that was completed comparing total referrals by year and student population by year for six years, further supports the decrease in student referrals over time and demonstrates a significant difference that exists across the years. The triangulation of this rich descriptive data further supports the teachers’ responses to this question. Specifically, the influence that PBIS has on teachers’ perceptions of their school climate has been explained by the teachers themselves and was supported by the PBIS teacher questionnaire responses. The value of this study was demonstrated through the triangulation of descriptive data and further validated through the PBIS questionnaire information responses provided by the teachers themselves. 161 Implications From the findings of the research, theoretical, practical, and future implications are implied. These implications assist the research in determining the strengths and weaknesses in studying the influence that PBIS has on the self-perceptions of teachers’ about their school climate. This section describes what could happen because of this research. It also tells the reader what the research implies theoretically, practically, and for the future. Additionally, it provides a retrospective examination of the theoretical framework presented in Chapter 2 in light of the dissertation’s findings. A critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the study, and the degree to which the conclusions are credible given the methodology, research design, and data, should also be presented. The section delineates applications of new insights derived from the dissertation to solve real and significant problems. Implications can be grouped into those related to theory or generalization, those related to practice, and those related to future research. Separate sections with corresponding headings provide proper organization. Theoretical implications. Based on the theoretical framework of transformational learning theory described by Mezirow (1997), this study explored the influence that PBIS had on teachers’ personal self-perceptions of school climate. Overall, school climate was comprised of four key factors of influence, which included students’ academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits to teachers, and the culture and climate of the school. These four factors allowed teachers to articulate the influence that each factor had based on their own personal experiences and to express those thoughts and feelings in relation to the school climate they said existed. PBIS has been in existence for nine years on the participant high school campus and have created a mindset for 162 disciplining students on that campus. From the findings, teachers experienced positive outcomes in several areas from the PBIS program being in existence. These teachers decision to take ownership of the program and to implement it in their classrooms with fidelity reshaped the influence that the program had on school climate. From the theoretical framework, transformational learning occurred during the implementation and sustained the PBIS program for several years on one high school campus. As educational demands and the implementation of a national formal assessment increases, it is critical that teachers be able to teach without disruptions in the classroom. Based on the findings, to implement and sustain schoolwide behavioral management systems impacts teachers positively in many ways. As educators begin to shift their thinking from focusing on the negative behaviors of students to instead rewarding the positive behaviors of students, transformation in thinking is taking place. While the teachers present the findings of this study favorably, the study conducted was limited to seven teachers who all have experienced or implemented PBIS for at least four to six years. In comparison to previous thoughts and ideas about schoolwide behavioral programs, there are similarities and differences that will add to the growing literature of schoolwide student behavioral management systems. Warren et al. (2006) stated that in an effort to meet these demands and to ensure that every student receives the quality education they deserve, schools and school districts have turned to schoolwide behavioral plans that outline the expectations that they have for their students. Along this same line of thinking, Coffey and Horner (2012) shared that the PBIS model or approach for changing behavior uses systems of change methodology in an effort to minimize individual student’s problem behaviors, increase the quality of education, and also 163 increase the likelihood that students will be academically successful. Additionally, further research exists that suggests that the understanding of the impact of choosing the correct behavior program for the school that is implementing it can also have its challenges. According to Miramontes et al. (2011), criteria for evaluating behavioral support programs is a moving target. One such criterion is the teachers themselves who are responsible for the implementation of the program. How teachers feel about the program, their willingness to participate, and the benefits they see from the program all drive program effectiveness. In complex educational settings, educators may feel overwhelmed with promised results from behavioral plans that can be implemented (Miramontes et al., 2011). Teacher perceptions on the influence of a number of schoolwide initiatives have been the focus of much research in an effort to determine the impact that can be made on teachers themselves in relation to those programs. According to Kim (2011), in an effort to be successful in a time of continuous school reforms, the abilities of educators to manage student behavior effectively is key to academic success. Oswald et al. (2005) further explained it has been determined that students who feel valued and trusted at their school are more likely to have high academic success than those students who feel a sense of disconnect to their school. Trying to understand the influence that exists can best be done though a qualitative approach. According to Mertens (2010), qualitative research requires the collection of data at the site where teachers experience the issue or problem being studied. Since perceptions are based on individual thoughts and feelings, it will be necessary to use interpretive inquiry to understand what teachers’ are feeling. 164 In their study, Wagstaff and Williams (2014) examined specific design features of an interpretive phenomenological analysis study. Their research solidifies the notion that a qualitative interpretive study explores the sense that participants make of their personal and social worlds. Through a natural inquiry approach, this study sought to understand if an influence exists between PBIS and teachers’ perceptions of school climate in their own natural setting. The results of this study indicated that regardless of demographic differences of teachers, teachers felt strongly that PBIS had indeed influenced their own self-perceptions about their school climate. However, since the collection of interview data was done through electronic surveys and face-to-face interviews, the researcher did not directly observe teachers in their classrooms. From the results of this study, PBIS may influence the factors contributing to school climate in a positive manner and thus improve feelings about school climate. The results of this study provide depth to the insights of how and why teachers feel PBIS influences their perceived school climate. The results of the teachers’ responses to interview questions, responses to the PBIS teacher questionnaire, and analysis of longitudinal student referral data defined teacher perceptions of their school climate. Practical implications. The data from this study also reveals practical implications. Based on responses from the semi-structured interviews, the PBIS teacher questionnaire, and three years of student referral data, the data collected both validates and advances the current research. These advances are primarily concerning teacher selfperceptions of the influence that PBIS has on their own school climate, which may provide practical applications worthy of future research. Improving school climate for teachers through improved student behavior is the primary focus of the findings for 165 implication. According to Gregory et al. (2012), school climate is a multidimensional construct that exists but cannot be captured by any specific indicator or global measure. Teachers in this study were interviewed in their own natural environment and data were collected over a four-week period. Just like any other high school, at the participant high school the climate of the school is created through many different subgroups that exist within the same educational organization. According to Gunbayi (2007), climate can be defined as the factors that influence the attitudes, beliefs, and values that motivate people whom work within that organization. No teachers in this study were new to PBIS and its benefits for the students they teach in their classrooms. Since all teachers had used PBIS for a minimum of four years, they were readily able to articulate the benefits that existed for students from the programs existence. However, they had not taken the time to rationalize how this behavior management program might benefit teachers themselves. With the increased demands of a national curriculum and high stakes testing, the teachers were able to focus on the importance of student academic success. Teachers in an educational environment have a variety of obligations that they must meet in their profession (Shurden et al., 2010). Schools that are looking to explore the implementation of a schoolwide behavior management system will need to research the various programs that exist for use. According to Engels et al. (2008), several studies have demonstrated the crucial influence on school culture as well as the way that teachers perceive their school culture. In congruence with these ideas, schools and school leaders must focus on improving the quality of education for both students and teachers alike. As the organizational leader of a school, the school principal plays a significant role in creating the climate of their school 166 (Marler et al., 2012). The results indicated by this research will assist school leaders in understanding possible benefits for students as well as their teachers themselves from having an effective schoolwide behavior plan in place. It can be determined from this study that having a consistent school leader in place who has developed consistent expectations for faculty and students, the results of those efforts can lead to a much more positive school climate for the entire school as a whole. Future implications. In addition to the practical implications, studying the influence PBIS has on teachers’ self-perceptions of school climate creates implications on future research that can be based on what the study did or did not do. Findings from the study determined that having PBIS in place and utilized effectively for a sustained period, did indeed positively influence teachers’ perceptions about their school climate. Teachers in this study believed that having PBIS in place on their campus influenced their own perceptions of school climate more positively and also believed that having the program may have also influenced in a positive manner their students’ academic success, had positive benefits to themselves personally, and led to greater teacher buy-in. However, the level of teacher buy-in may be falsely portrayed in the findings. At least two of the teachers felt like the level of buy-in by all teachers could be slightly different based on the number of years they have been teaching. Additional findings from the PBIS teacher questionnaire also indicated that there might be a slight variation in teacher buyin. Important to the findings of the study, transformative learning theory defined by Mezirow, provided the framework for this study. Success of a program is dependent on a 167 person’s ability to change or improve their values and beliefs about something. When this is accomplished, transformational learning occurs when an individual is able to buy-in to the beliefs of that program in order to grow, learn, or change (Mezirow, 1997). Strength from the findings is that all teachers unanimously were able to identify the positive influence that a schoolwide student behavior management had on the components that make up their school climate. The consistent use of a schoolwide behavior program offered the teachers an effective tool for managing their students. However, this study only focused on the self-perceptions of teachers as they related to the influence that PBIS has on school climate. Teachers believe that PBIS positively influenced their school climate through responses to interview questions, responses to the PBIS teacher questionnaires, and six years of longitudinal student referral data. However, the positive impressions the teachers have about their students and the benefits to themselves and their school climate may be more associated with their own perceptions or expectations rather than the PBIS program itself, not demonstrating causality. These findings only provided the thoughts and perceptions of the seven teachers and the 31 of the general teaching population who chose to participant in this four-week study. Future implication would require research in support of more than one high school or other grade level schools when exploring the influence of PBIS on school climate. This would require using qualitative and quantitative data as a means to identify and determine the level of influence a program has through a thorough evaluation of that program. Furthermore, this study did not seek to understand the thoughts and feeling of teachers with less than four to six years of experience using the PBIS initiative. Another implication would require an understanding of the perceived influence by teachers with more or less teaching 168 experience than the target group for this study. Based on these findings, the recommendations for future research and practice will be explored to illustrate the need for further understanding of the influence of PBIS on school climate. Based on Mezirow’s transformative learning theory, theoretically, the results from this study demonstrate that when a schoolwide behavior program is in place for an extensive period of time, the positive influence it may have may be far reaching. Important to the significance of this study, the teachers were able to identify and articulate the influence that PBIS had on their students’ academic success, teacher buy-in, personal benefits, and the overall culture and climate that exists on their school campus. Allowing teachers to self-reflect throughout this study became a significant advantage to share how they felt. However, electing only to use seven teachers to represent 125 teachers also offered a weakness to the study. With only a few teachers who had a great deal of experience with the PBIS behavior management system reduced the ability to explore differences in self-perceptions by teachers with less experience with the program. The strengths that surfaced as a direct result from this study surfaced around semi-structured interviews, face-to-face interactions, and the PBIS teacher questionnaire. Teachers were able to discuss accurately their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs on the various influences that PBIS had on the components that make up school climate. By allowing teachers to speak openly about how they each personally felt about the PBIS program demonstrated the most significant advantage for the teachers themselves. Recommendations This qualitative interpretive study offers several recommendations that may lend themselves to improve future research on the influence that PBIS might have on teacher 169 perceptions of school climate. These recommendations may provide new information in areas on how to evaluate further the influence that PBIS might have on school climate. These recommendations will provide insight for further research and future practices from using a schoolwide behavior management plan and how its use might influence teachers’ perceptions about their school. Recommendations for future research. These recommendations were developed from the summary of the findings that were presented in the previous sections. From the findings of this study, four future studies have been recommended that may add to the significance to the field and as natural extensions to fill the gaps that exist in the literature. Furthermore, the method of this study is also suggested for future research. These recommendations are based solely on the findings of the study, which found that PBIS did positively influence teachers’ perceptions of their school climate. Teachers for this study met the criteria for being purposely selected based on the number of years they have been teaching at the participant high school. The teachers for this study have been teaching at the participant high school from four to six years and are very familiar with the PBIS student behavior management system since they have used it for a minimum of four to six years. Extending the same study to teachers with less than four years’ experience with the PBIS program may produce different findings. Through maintaining a qualitative approach the thoughts, feeling, and beliefs about the influence that PBIS has on the factors that contribute to school climate may be similar or very different than those originally selected. Furthermore, the findings of this study may reflect more raw knowledge about the program since the participant will not be as knowledgeable as to how to use it. 170 The other factors that can also influence the way teachers perceive school climate such as school leadership were not addressed in this study. The school principal has been in place for the past thirteen school years prior to this school year. This school year there is an interim principal in place until mid-year and then a new principal will be appointed in January. A future study utilizing quantitative research that examines the different factors that can also determine how teachers feel about their school may provide a more statistical analysis of the influence that each of those factors may have on the overarching theme of school climate. Considering that the school leadership and classified support staff who can influence school climate were not included in this study, a formal evaluation of the entire schools perceptions might lend itself to a more thorough examination of the influence PBIS actually has. The literature review that informed the development of this study focused on school issues that impact or influence school climate in the world of education. The participants for this study were full-time teachers who have been on the same campus with the same school leader for at least the past four years. All participants were teachers on the school campus and all have experience with classroom management strategies. A future recommendation for research involves repeating this qualitative interpretive study with a sample of all staff members on a school campus. Certified staff members, such as secretaries, security guards, food service workers, and facilities members, would have a more complete picture of all staff members’ perceptions of the influence that PBIS has on school climate. Another recommendation for research involves exploring how teacher participants within a particular school setting perceive their school leadership and the influence they 171 have on school climate. That study would also include discovering what aspects of school leadership are perceived as being positive and which are perceived more negatively. The research would employ some of the same surveys, questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews used for this study, but would focus more on school leadership that is on a schoolwide behavior program to build on the converging line of inquiry. One qualitative study cannot adequately investigate teacher perceptions of their own school climate. The researcher recommends that this study be replicated or that other aspects surrounding school climate be studied. For example, since school climate can be influenced by school leadership, district initiatives, and other political factors that impact teachers, this researcher recommends that more than one factor surrounding school climate be researched simultaneously. The participants for this study were all experienced teachers who have used the PBIS program for at least four consecutive years. They have seen the decrease of student referrals first hand and have used the PBIS program effectively. All participants have worked under the same school leader who had been at the school since the inception of the PBIS program. Because they think highly of their school leader and will follow her recommendations, their perceptions regarding their school climate may be tainted. Thus, future research might include more quantitative and qualitative inquiries exploring the connections between school leadership, teacher experience, and student behavior programs. A fourth recommendation for future work includes a study of school leaders, such as principals and assistant principals, and their understanding of the impact of leadership on school climate. The study would still be qualitative in nature but would utilize a case study design. However, the focus would be to understand what shaped the leadership 172 style and approach for leadership that are being used and how that compares to teachers perceptions of their school climate and how leadership ties into their thoughts and feelings. As a qualitative case study approach, extensive time interviewing participants and gathering elaborate field notes would lend itself to better understanding those perceived feelings of the participants interviewed. A fifth recommendation would be to combine qualitative and quantitative research. A mixed-methods approach may also expand this study’s findings by incorporating both qualitative and quantitative data to look at the influence that exists on a more large-scale model. The suggestion that would be recommended for a large-scale, mixed-methods approach would consist of increasing the number of teachers and a larger variance in teacher experience with the PBIS program. Using results from face-to-face interviews, responses to the PBIS teacher questionnaires, and demographical differences amongst teachers, the researcher could begin a statistical analysis of the data that is collected. The quantitative data from the PBIS teacher questionnaire and the teacher demographic surveys that used a Likert scale may provide more statistical evidence of the perceived influence of PBIS on school climate. In this study, pre-implementation referral data did not exist. A more extensive approach using referral data that are supported from other sources of data with corroborating evidence will better explain if there were actually changes in the key outcome variables and whether any changes that might have occurred can actually be ascribed to the PBIS intervention. Furthermore, a sixth recommendation for using a mixed–methods approach extends this research to focus on determining the influence of all factors that might contribute to influencing school climate be examined. This study used one approach to 173 attempt to understand the influence of PBIS as perceived by teachers on school climate. However, using a mixed methods approach would allow the researcher to not only identify all the extenuating factors that may lead to teachers’ self-perceptions of school climate and through a quantitative approach determine the statistical influence that each factor actually has. Studying the effect of each factor and the impact it actually has on the overall feelings of school climate will give a more complete picture to those who are examining it. This study could also be done in either a high school or a middle school where there are greater influences on how teachers feel. Recommendations for practice. The findings of this study lends themselves to five recommendations that have been identified for future practice. The first recommendation of practice revolves around increasing teacher buy-in and increasing longevity in their current position at their school. Creating a sense of ownership in the proposed schoolwide student behavior management system by shifting from a relationship of compliance to one of participation by including all stakeholders in the decision-making process. Creating a sense of teacher ownership involves professional development about the program being considered and provides stakeholders with informational data that can demonstrate the benefits of the proposed program being considered. This equates to teachers not only complying with policies and procedures, but also being included in leadership roles and decision-making responsibilities for implementation of the proposed program. PBIS is being effectively implemented in many schools with great success where teachers are included in all facets of the implementation process. 174 A second recommendation is identifying the actual influence of each factor of school climate by measuring the effectiveness through teachers’ feedback and experience with the schoolwide behavior program. With the increase of academic pressure put on students to perform well in the classroom, that same pressure is being put on teachers to deliver quality instruction. Teachers’ experiences with a variety of programs that have proven to be effective extend beyond the academic results being achieved by students. Immediate results that can be identified through student/teacher relationships that exist should be used to help guide the direction the school program is going. The experience of teachers as it relates to the practical application and implementation of schoolwide initiatives should be considered. Understanding these relationships and decoding those needs is crucial to a schools success. A third future recommendation for implementation and practice rely on transitioning away from the traditional methods for disciplining students. In order for this transition to take place, teachers must be willing to increase their communication with students and truly try to understand them. In order to move away from focusing on those students who consistently choose to misbehave to focusing on all of those students who choose to do the right thing regularly is a huge shift in thinking for most teachers. Through the establishment of consistent expectations that are common knowledge and never changing in all school environments, students have a better chance of meeting those expectations and being successful. A teacher’s role should be one of consistent mentoring or coaching of students, rather than only focusing on negativity. This can make a significant impact. The significance of that impact greatly influences how both students and teachers alike perceive their school climate. In order to improve teachers’ 175 self-perceptions of their school climate, teachers must feel valued and must have a complete understanding of what is expected of them. A fourth recommendation for future practice involves a team decision-making process or approach. Involving all key stakeholders in the decision-making process before implementing a new program or idea lends itself to increased buy-in and the overall success of the program being implemented. Before making a decision to implement a schoolwide student behavior program, school leadership should involve a cross section of people to assist in making that decision. A team approach to identifying the needs of the school and sharing the data that will guide the design or program needed and can be a very positive approach to take, but may also have its challenges. Using data as the basis for the decisions being made and for tracking the success of the program being implemented will serve as the basis for the needs of the program. Empowering people to be a part of the decisions-making process demonstrates trust and respect, which in turn lends itself to followers being more loyal and supportive of their leaders. A final recommendation for future practice is to involve outside and community stakeholders in supporting a schoolwide initiative. Communicating with community members and outside stakeholders in an effort to support a new schoolwide student behavior initiative can be very beneficial to a school leader. Identifying the data that guides the direction the school is moving in and then sharing that information with key stakeholders in the community will assist in gaining community support. That community support can be very beneficial with obtaining items that can be used to reward students for positive behaviors demonstrated at school. Many schoolwide student behavior programs, such as PBIS, use a reward system as a means to focus on students who are 176 doing the right thing instead of focusing on negative student behaviors. 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