The Influence of Teachers' Belief Systems on Group Decisions to Retain in Elementary Schools: An Application of the Theory of Planned Behavior
Andrews, Terrie W. (Terrie Weiland) (author)
Proctor, Briley E. (professor co-directing dissertation)
Lenz, Janet G. (professor co-directing dissertation)
Lewis, Sandra (university representative)
Cox, Bradley (committee member)
Canto, Angel I. (committee member)
Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
In this study, the author explored the grade retention beliefs of elementary teachers and how those beliefs affect teachers' intentions to retain at-risk students. Secondly, the author explored the congruence between teachers' beliefs to retain and grade retention decision-making teams' (GRDMT) ultimate retention decisions. Each year, over 2.5 million students are retained annually in the American public education system at a total cost of more than $14 billion per year. It is estimated that between 30% and 50% of students will repeat a grade at least once by the time they reach the ninth grade. In prior decades, teachers and principals were primarily responsible for making the decision to retain. However, in the age of accountability and high standards, GRDMTs have been created and are used in over two-thirds of retention decisions. Teachers are always present at the GRDMT decisions and may be just as influential in the decision-making process as in earlier decades when the decision was up to only the teacher and principal. Researchers have frequently argued that grade retention is not in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act and the majority of published literature finds it to be an ineffective intervention. In the elementary setting, grade retention produces positive short-term outcomes, which substantiate teachers' beliefs that grade retention is helpful to students. In fact, 98% of teachers believe strongly in retaining struggling students, a belief that has remained relatively static over the past 30 years. However, the long-term outcomes are often detrimental to struggling students. The question remains as to why schools continue to retain an estimated 2.5 million students per year when grade retention, which is not federally regulated, is (a) ineffective, (b) increases additional financial burden for school districts, and (c) increases the likelihood that the student will drop out, exhibit socio-emotional difficulties, and have poorer employment outcomes. An exploration into teachers' belief systems and how often those belief systems are congruent with team decisions is needed to understand if, and to what extent, teachers influence the GRDMT process. Understanding the relationship between teachers' beliefs and team decisions will shed light on the practice of grade retention. The following research questions were identified for this study: 1. Utilizing the Theory of Planned Behavior, what are the current beliefs of elementary school teachers regarding grade retention? 2. Of those teachers who referred at-risk students to the GRDMT, how often were the teachers' beliefs about retaining at-risk students congruent with the teams' ultimate decisions to retain? To answer these questions, data were analyzed from 404 public elementary school teachers. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) provided the conceptual framework to study teachers' beliefs. Participants completed the Teacher Belief Questionnaire (TBQ) to measure teachers' beliefs (attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control [PBC], and intentions) and GRDMT ultimate retention decisions. Structural equation modeling was used to test the first research question. Results indicate that teachers' attitudes, subjective norms, and PBC significantly predicted and accounted for 72% of the explained variance in teachers' intentions to retain students who are academically struggling or lack basic skills. To examine the second research question, binary logistic regression was used to examine the congruence between teachers' beliefs and GRDMT decisions in a sample of 306 teachers. Results indicate that teachers' beliefs were not congruent with GRDMT decisions, and did not significantly predict GRDMT decisions to retain or promote struggling students. Regardless of the strength of teachers' beliefs to retain, the majority of GRDMT chose to retain 75% of the time. The majority of students in jeopardy of retention were minority males who exhibited academic difficulties. Additional findings suggest that the GRDMT group memberships, decisions, policies, and alternatives used in lieu of grade retention varied greatly. Other factors or persons may be just as or more influential than teacher influence on group decisions. A discussion of the findings, limitations of the study, and implications for research are presented. Recommendations for future research are also presented, as the results of this exploratory study are limited in their scope of generalizability. Further research in the areas of teachers' beliefs and the GRDMT can further extant literature, as teachers' beliefs and GRDMT are here to stay and will continue to permeate the educational landscape.
belief systems, elementary teachers, grade retention, group decision-making, intentions, structural equation modeling
June 11, 2012.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Briley E. Proctor, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Janet G. Lenz, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Sandra Lewis, University Representative; Bradley Cox, Committee Member; Angel I. Canto, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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