Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Nancy Robb Singer


Lisa Dorner, Ph.D.

Rebecca Rogers, Ph.D.

Sally Ebest, Ph.D.


Schools spend a great deal of time, resources, and money seeking ways to both understand and increase student achievement on state standardized test that scores have become the customary measure of a school’s quality and success. Due to this narrow focus on standards and testing becoming more and more central in education, schools and teachers often do not implement the pedagogical strategies that work to increase student learning and thinking (Burke, 2010; Langer, 2001; Christenbury & Kelly, 1983; Nystrand, 1997; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). In addition to a lack of focus on pedagogical practices, schools often ignore the impact culture has on both student achievement and teacher practice (Deal & Peterson, 2009). This study examines how culture and power structures within a school influence teacher practice. This year-long qualitative case study sought to answer the following questions: 1) What impact does a school’s culture have on teacher practice? 2) In what ways does classroom discourse position teachers and students as creators of knowledge? 3) How are reading and writing implemented to create environments where learning is valued? 4) How does the use of pedagogical labels allow teacher and schools to believe they are implementing effective practices? Through analysis of field notes and interviews, the research suggests that schools and teachers seeking to improve their educational outcomes examine honestly the practices in place and explore the impact that the school culture has on those practices. Findings suggest that for schools to succeed in improving their academic achievement both school and classroom culture need to value and have learning at the center.

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