Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Derek C. Briggs

Second Advisor

Hilda Borko

Third Advisor

Benjamin Kirshner

Abstract

A loss of engagement on the part of teachers can lead to decreased learning opportunities for students, high turnover costs for schools, and personal and professional issues for teachers. Transformative professional development (TPD) programs that focus on the person who teaches, rather than content or technique, have been shown anecdotally to offer a valuable source of support for teachers. As little empirical evidence exists, this quasi-experimental study attempts to fill that gap by estimating the effect that participation in Courage to Teach (CTT), a TPD program, has on subsequent engagement with teaching. The subjects of this study are samples of alumni from CTT and the National Writing Project (NWP), a professional development program used as a control group. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) was used to measure engagement with teaching, and survey data were also collected on issues related to retention, perceived benefits of participation, and demographics. Propensity score matching techniques were then used to match the PK-12 teachers from the two programs as closely as possible on a set of potentially confounding variables. On average, the CTT respondents reported higher levels of professional efficacy (indicating greater engagement), and higher levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism (indicating lesser engagement) than the NWP respondents. The CTT respondents were also compared to the normative sample of the MBI and other contemporary studies, and consistently showed higher engagement on all three subscales. Descriptive and exploratory data were obtained regarding respondents' demographic characteristics (CTT respondents are older and more experienced), the perceived effects of the program on respondents' retention decisions (a larger percentage of CTT respondents appeared to be questioning their career choice at the time of their participation), and the most valuable aspects of the program (CTT respondents focus more on personal and professional benefits, while NWP respondents focus primarily on professional aspects). Future research is needed to explore aspects of professional development that promote engagement, whether a content focus is a necessary requirement, and to resolve some of the issues that arose around proxy variables and temporal precedence.

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