The effects of professional development on one teacher: Rhetoric and reality

Michael Lewis Shaw, Fordham University


This case study investigation used ethnographic procedures to document the literacy education practices of an experienced fourth-grade teacher to determine the effects of professional development on her instructional practices. The teacher had voluntarily participated in a district-sponsored whole language professional development program and a university-sponsored writing institute. The researcher compared the teacher's stated beliefs to the reality of her instructional practices. The data revealed that the teacher stated she was practicing instruction that she believed to be consistent with whole language philosophy but the reality was that she was practicing teacher-controlled instruction that was heavily weighted toward transmission philosophy. She also stated that she was pleased with her instructional approach because she believed it satisfied the school administration and parents. The teacher did not perceive a conflict between her stated beliefs and her instructional practices. The findings indicate that conflict between stated beliefs and instructional practices may develop when teachers take an activity approach to instruction rather than a learning approach and when they depend on the perceived expertise of others to tell them what to do. It was hypothesized that teachers may begin to make a paradigm shift when they explore alternative practices and engage in a critical dialogue with more experienced educators and peers. It was further hypothesized that teachers' literacy education practices are influenced by perceptions of school expectations. The results of the study indicate that it is important for teacher education programs to support critical reflection and teacher research.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Elementary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Shaw, Michael Lewis, "The effects of professional development on one teacher: Rhetoric and reality" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9631052.