• We Did It! Examining how First-Generation College Students Graduated from a Four-Year College or University through a Positive Psychology Lens

      Johnson, Joleesa Adriana; Tift College of Education
      More and more first-generation college students have been enrolling in colleges across the United States; however, enrollment does not mean graduation. Research has shown that first-generation college students are less likely to graduate than their non-first-generation college peers. A gap exists between first-generation college students’ enrollment rates and their graduation rates, as well as their graduation rates and the graduation rates of their non-first-generation college peers. This qualitative study was conducted to understand the lived experiences of first-generation college students. It explored how first-generation college students graduated from a four-year higher education institution by examining their positive characteristics, specifically their character strengths (Norrish et al., 2013). The researcher employed a phenomenological approach to help understand the lived experiences of first-generation college students as they relate to the character strengths they utilized to graduate from college. The researcher used purposeful and snowball sampling to recruit participants for this study. This studied included 10 first-generation college graduates who attained their bachelor’s degree within the past 10 years. To collect the data, the researcher conducted one semi-structured, virtual interview with each participant. The researcher also followed verification procedures to mitigate researcher bias and increase the trustworthiness of this study. The results of this study showed that the participants faced many challenges while in college; however, giving up was not an option as the six themes emerged: Agency, Supportive Circle, Future-mindedness, Stick-to-it-iveness, External Motivation, and Positive Emotions illustrated their persistence toward graduation and the desire to attain their degree. The participants employed the following character strengths: perseverance, self-regulation, love, hope, gratitude, bravery, and leadership to graduate from college. According to the definitions of these character strengths, they were found to demonstrate the six themes and the six themes gave context to the realization and utilization of these seven character strengths. The results of this study demonstrate the possibility of higher education institutions creating an environment that includes interventions that encourage and empower their students, especially first-generation college students, to identify and use character strengths to assist in the persistence and graduation of this population. Recommendations for future research include conducting more qualitative studies to explore how first-generation college students graduated from college. Also, conducting mixed-method studies that use the Values in Action (VIA) Survey to increase the accuracy of identifying first-generation college students’ character strengths.
    • What Factors Influence A Teacher's Decision To Renew National Board Certification? / By Kelly Lynne Teague.

      Teague, Kelly Lynne
      Building on the research of National Board Certification and its effect on teacher quality, student achievement, and professional development, this dissertation seeks to explore the factors that influence teachers when it is time to renew their National Board Certification. Using a qualitative methodology, this study seeks to describe the process of National Board Certification, the process of renewal of National Board Certification, and the individual stories of nine Nationally Board Certified teachers and the factors that influenced them when it was time to renew their National Board Certification. A case study approach was utilized to address the research question. Data were collected through an online survey, individual interviews with nine participants, and two focus group interviews, one with five participants and one with three participants. Data analysis employed open coding and a priori coding of the individual interviews and the focus group interviews through the use of QDA Miner. QDA Miner is a qualitative data analysis software program that assists researchers in managing, coding and analyzing qualitative data. Interviews were transcribed within 48 hours and uploaded into the software and examined by the researcher to identify patterns and themes related to the factors that influence teachers when it is time to renew their National Board Certification. Excerpts from participant responses in individual interviews and focus group interviews are included. Identification of conceptual categories and sub-categories were identified. The main reasons for non-renewal of National Board Certification were: 1) lack of financial assistance to offset the cost of the renewal process, 2) no financial supplement offered, and 3) lack of prestige surrounding National Board Certification. Recommendations for further study include additional research regarding the National Board Certification process, the process of renewal in other states, and teacher prestige. It would be advantageous to replicate the study in other counties in Georgia and in other states in which incentives are offered for achievement of National Board Certification.
    • When Y = Mx + B Can Not Be Applied To Change: Exploring Teacher Concerns About A History Of Rapid Curriculum Change

      Latten, Sajata
      The purpose of this study was to explore levels of concerns that teachers have about implementing and executing rapid curriculum changes. Research on teacher concerns has traditionally targeted technology implementation rather than curriculum reform measures. This research was designed to provide quantitative data in understanding teacher top concerns. For the purpose of this research, rapid curriculum change referred to a different course, edited program offering, or changes in program objectives identified with a teacher’s duties and responsibilities at the classroom level that occur in a short timeframe before ample evaluations are made. The Stages of Concern Questionnaire was used to evaluate secondary mathematics teachers peak concerns regarding a history of rapid curriculum change. This study used a correlational analysis to evaluate significance levels of teacher experience when compared to each stage of concern. Participant data included 114 secondary mathematics teachers from the Atlanta metropolitan school districts. There was no statistically significant difference between teachers’ level of concern and stage of concern, nor was there any statistically difference between teachers’ curriculum experience type and stage of concern. A qualitative analysis of an open-ended question revealed that the peak concern lay within Stage 4: Consequence. Results indicated that Stage 4 teacher concerns focused on the outcome effects of the curriculum change on their classroom students. Suggestions for further research include gathering additional qualitative data from participants to secure themes from concerns.
    • Who is the Woman in Mark 5?

      Samuels, Rochelle; McAfee School of Theology
      This study explores the potential impact the woman in the Mark 5 biblical text weighs on Jesus’s ministry. The research gives texture to a character that is often used as an object lesson of faith in the scope of biblical exegesis. Using redaction criticism and a Womanist discourse the research finds the woman to be a critical element of the inclusion of woman and other marginalized persons in Jesus’s ministry.
    • Women Rising: The Pathway To Becoming A Female Superintendent In A Metropolitan Area Through The Lens Of Assistant Superintendents

      Brookins, Holly
      HOLLY M. BROOKINS IT WOMEN RISING: THE PATHWAY TO BECOMING A FEMALE SUPERINTENDENT IN A METROPOLITAN AREA THROUGH THE LENS OF ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENTS Under the direction of CAROL ISAAC, Ph.D. This qualitative study investigated the scarcity of females in the superintendency in the U.S. public school systems through the lens of the little-studied female assistant superintendent. Females remain underrepresented in the superintendency, with very little change in the last century. While 76% of the K-12 educators in the United States are female, only 22.6% of superintendents are female. To understand this issue, the researcher conducted a constructivist, grounded theory study, framed within social role theory and feminist standpoint theory. Through semi-structured interviews, 12 female assistant superintendents in a metropolitan area presented the barriers, motivators, and relationship they have had with power as they climbed the career ladder. After interviewing the participants, the data revealed collective trends. Analysis indicated that these women had to be “okay�? with choices made and how it impacted them, personally and professionally. Motivation and leadership qualities were evident for these women at a young age, and for most, their families encouraged and supported them as they pushed for excellence. These women spoke of influence by others and influence of others. Many had been “tapped by others�? to move into leadership roles; in turn, they were motivated by empowering others. It can be concluded that barriers, including gender bias, stereotypes, cultural norms, social roles and expectations of what a female can and cannot do in terms of leadership, play a large part in the scarcity of women in the superintendency. Further research in the area of gender studies and cultural norms is necessary, along with more research into the superintendency from the male’s perspective. Continued research could lead to more innovative and inclusive leadership and hiring practices, and mentorship programs, which could increase the numbers of females in educational leadership roles, including the superintendency. Although advances have been made for women in the last 30 years, a pervasive problem remains that cannot be ignored as the number of women qualified for the superintendency is well below the number of women achieving this role. This problem is present in other sectors aside from education, as highly qualified women continue to be underrepresented in positions of power.
    • Writing Self-efficacy And Self-regulated Strategy Development Instruction : Perceptions Of Three Sixth-grade Students With Learning Disabilities / By Kathryn Lynn Kinsler.

      Kinsler, Kathryn Lynn
      Kathryn Lynn Kinsler Writing self-efficacy and self-regulated strategy development instruction: perceptions of three sixth-grade students with learning disabilities Under the direction of Sybil A. Keesbury, Ed.D. Students with learning disabilities (LD) continue to fall behind their typical peers in the area of writing (Graham & Harris, 2011; National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008). Studies indicate that self-efficacy influences writing performance and that self-regulation may be an important aspect of both metacognitive and affective aspects of writing (Bruning, Dempsey, Kauffman, McKim, & Zumbrunn, 2013). The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of three sixth-grade students with LD as they participated in explicit self-regulation strategy instruction and to understand how those experiences influenced their writing self-efficacy. The following research question guided this study: How do sixth-grade students with LD describe their writing self-efficacy before and after participation in explicit self-regulation strategy instruction? This study was grounded in the triadic reciprocality of social cognitive theory (Zimmerman, 1998, 2000). In this qualitative case study, three sixth-grade students with a Georgia special education eligibility of Specific Learning Disability were bounded by their shared participation in a five-week writing instructional intervention, utilizing the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) instructional model developed by Harris and Graham (1985). Data collected included participant interviews, perceived self-efficacy questionnaires, observations, and researcher field notes. Data were analyzed and interpreted thematically through the lens of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997). Interview transcripts were evaluated to identify participants’ affect and judgment of esteem (Martin & White, 2003), students’ responses to the perceived self-efficacy questionnaires were compiled and analyzed, and observation protocols and field notes were analyzed. Results indicated that explicit self-regulation strategy instruction may be beneficial to sixth-grade students with LD in developing writing self-efficacy and knowledge. Additionally, the SRSD instructional model may serve as an effective way to combat the common writing challenges faced by students with LD. Despite the positive findings in this study, continued research is needed to substantiate the direct impact that self-regulation strategy instruction may have on the writing self-efficacy of students with LD. Future research studies should also consider integrating the explicit strategy instruction into the general writing curriculum throughout the school year in order to aid in long-term retention and skill transfer (Harris, Graham, Brindle, & Sandmel, 2011).
    • Writing To Learn In Middle School Mathematics: The Effects On Academic Achievement

      Markert, Laura Payne
      The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the effects of a writing to learn intervention on sixth-grade students. Participants were students enrolled in a sixth-grade class in a Southeastern United States private school. Through random grouping, students were placed into two groups. The control group (N = 18) received skill practice drills and the intervention group (N = 20) received a writing to learn intervention with a word problem. The data collection period was six-weeks. An Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to understand the impact of a writing to learn intervention and the impact on student achievement as measured by a posttest. The results indicated there was no statistically significant difference between students who received the intervention and those who did not receive the intervention (p = .133). The results also indicated that the covariates of gender (p = .660), class designation (p = .444), and ethnicity (p = .428) were not statistically significant. Discussed implications and limitations within this study illustrate the need for future research. Suggestions for future research included using different writing interventions, measuring different outcomes, conducting research over a more comprehensive time span, conducting research over different school settings, obtaining participants in a different grade level within the grades 6-8 category, researching the full scope of writing within the K-12 setting, or conducting a qualitative study rather than a quantitative study.