Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Department or School/College

School of Education

Committee Chair

William P. McCaw

Commitee Members

Roberta Evans, Merle Farrier, Frances O'Reilly, Darrell Stolle


classroom practice, leadership, narrative, school change, teacher perceptions, trust


University of Montana


Teacher commitment and capacity are critical factors in school reform. However, school change models underestimate the complexity of teaching, which undermines teachers' ability to implement and sustain changes. This grounded theory of teacher sensemaking explored teachers' perceptions as they participated in school reforms targeting pedagogy.

A multi-site sample was purposefully selected and included 12 elementary school teachers from eight schools. One-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with each teacher and analyzed using inductive analysis. The three analytical coding procedures were (a) open coding, (b) axial coding, and (c) selective coding. Open coding analyzed the concepts emerging from the data and pursued relationships among the concepts. Six categories emerged from the data: "individual influences," "student influences," "relational trust," "culture," "leadership," and "influences of institutional structures." Data were decontextualized and analyzed at a micro level in relation to the categories through axial coding procedures. The microanalysis revealed interrelationships among the data that were not originally evident. Finally, selective coding employed macroanalysis to provide an explanatory narrative. This narrative synthesized the relationships that had emerged from the data around a core category, labeled "Teacher Sensemaking." The narrative report detailed the study's findings and explored the interrelationships between all categories.

The first finding from this study concluded that teachers perceive themselves as the leaders in their classrooms with the right and responsibility to provide an effective and engaging classroom learning experience for each of their students by mediating the effects of the other influences. Teachers are most committed to their students and to their classroom responsibilities. The second finding was that there is an interpersonal basis for teacher commitment to the organization. Interpersonal factors include principal leadership, relational trust within the organization, and the levels of collaboration available. The third finding reveals that structural conditions influence teacher perceptions of challenge versus overload. Inadequate structural supports and insufficient resources add to teachers' burdens, creating strong feelings of being overwhelmed. Adequate supports and resources help new situations feel like positive challenges. This study concluded with a discussion of how teachers apply their sensemaking processes to create and protect a healthy classroom environment in a climate of change.



© Copyright 2007 Dorothea Reynolds Wood