Year of Publication

1999

Season of Publication

Summer

Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Robert J. Drummond

Second Advisor

Dr. David Fenner

Third Advisor

Dr. Charles Galloway

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Joyce Jones

Department Chair

Dr. John J. Venn

College Dean

Dr. Katherine L. Kasten

Abstract

Questions explored in this study were: (a) Is learner centeredness related to teacher role stress and/or career commitment; (b) If so, can learner centeredness explain variance in teachers' role stress and/or career commitment; (c) Is the discrepancy between teacher and student perceptions of teacher practices related to teacher role stress and/or career commitment; and (d) if so, can this discrepancy explain variance in teachers' role stress and/or career commitment? The current need to provide every child with qualified and committed teachers in the face of a growing, national teacher shortage supported the significance of the research. The study was based on open systems theory (Thompson, 1996). An open system consists of inputs, process, and outputs, as well as feedback loops connecting these three components. All systems adjust to changes in their search for equilibrium (Katz & Kahn, 1966; Thompson, 1996). The xiii changes inherent in the shift toward learner centeredness can be expected to disrupt role expectations and lead to role stress for teachers (Connor, 1992; Fullan, 1991). A related construct, career commitment, is critical to sustaining teachers through the stresses of change (Firestone & Pennell, 1993). Middle school teachers (N = 318) in three northeast Florida counties completed four surveys that measured their learner centeredness, role stress, career commitment, and demographic background. In addition, 60% of the sample (N = 192) had one class complete a survey about teacher practices. A total of 4,539 students completed this survey. Findings from Pearson product-moment correlations suggested that teachers who were more learner centered in their beliefs and practices experienced less role stress (role insufficiency, role ambiguity, and role boundary) and higher levels of career commitment (career identity, career resilience, and career planning) than teachers who were less learner centered. With strength~ of relationships ranging from low to moderate, it appears that learner centeredness offers measurable benefits to teachers. In addition, findings from stepwise multiple regression suggested that learner-centeredness was a predictor of role stress and career commitment in teachers. The variance that was explained by learner-centered beliefs and practices ranged from 19% to 25% for role stress (role insufficiency, role ambiguity, and role boundary) and career commitment (career identity, career resilience, and career planning). Thus, teachers may be able to influence some of their own role stress and commitment to the profession through their beliefs and practices. Using Pearson product-moment correlations, a low relationship was found between the discrepancy between teacher and student perceptions of xiv teacher practices and two dimensions of role stress, role ambiguity and role boundary. In addition, discrepancy was related to career commitment: The relationship to career identity was negative but low, while the relationship to career planning was negative but moderate. Finally, results of multiple regression indicated slight predictive value of discrepancy for role stress and career commitment. The variance that was explained by discrepancy ranged from 3% to 11% for role stress (role boundary and role ambiguity) and career commitment (career identity and career planning). An open systems model was developed to show the influence of learner-centered beliefs, practices, and discrepancy on teachers' role stress and career commitment. Tentative suggestions for practice, as well as recommendations for further study, concluded the dissertation. Focus was placed on the need for continued research of the complex issues that impact teachers' resilience.