Dissertation Defense Announcement

College of Education announces the Final Dissertation Defense of

Wanda Terral

for the Degree of Doctor of Education

May 2, 2019 at 1:00 PM, Online

Advisor: Dr. Clif Mims

Self-Directed Professional Learning of Elementary School Teachers: A Basic Qualitative Study

ABSTRACT: School leaders invest time and money in the professional development (PD) of their teachers. A characteristic of PD found to improve teacher practice and student learning is teacher self-directedness. Self-directed learning (SDL) is a process in which learners take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, to diagnose the need to learn, set learning goals, identify resources, select and implement strategies for learning, and evaluate learning outcomes (Knowles, 1975). Self-directed professional learning (SDPL) is a process in which teachers engage to positively impact the students in their classroom. An understanding of existing teacher SDPL can be beneficial to schools as they seek to increase the effectiveness of teacher PD programs through the inclusion of SDPL. At the site of the study, questionnaire data was gathered and analyzed. Next, interviews were conducted with five teachers from the site. The data were used to answer three research questions: What are elementary teachers' experiences with self-directed professional learning? What benefits and barriers to self-directed professional learning are identified by elementary teachers? According to elementary teachers, in what ways can schools support teachers' self-directed professional learning? The findings from this study show that participating elementary school teachers are motivated to engage in SDPL to improve the learning of their students, to improve their teaching practice, and in hopes of sharing what they learn with others. Participants are utilizing a variety of material and human resources including online resources, support staff, and colleagues. While participants shared benefitting from the SDPL process by acquiring knowledge on a topic of their choosing, they also reported an increased feeling of self-efficacy for learning in self-directed ways. Teachers reported the lack of time to engage in SDPL as the primary barrier to the process. Participants offered suggestions to the school to improve support for SDPL including ideas to help overcome the barrier of a lack of time. The results of this study will be used to inform the inclusion of SDPL in the PD program at the site of the study as well as other schools.