Bertolini, Katherine Ann-Smith; Ph.D.
Program of Education
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University
The Starfish Project: A Mixed-Methods Study of Student Achievement and Teacher Efficacy Following Sustained Professional Development Mentorship Training
Major Professor: Dr. Kathy Enger and Dr. Nathan Wood
This mixed-method, concurrent, transformative research study was conducted for the purpose of examining the impact a sustained professional-development program would have on the faculty students, and greater culture within a secondary-level system that included both a traditional high school and an alternative high school. Using both quantitative statistical methods and grounded theory analysis of qualitative data, the study addressed the following questions: (a) Does a positive mentor-mentee relationship result from the use of Downey’s (2008) four clusters: i. teacher student rapport; ii. classroom climate; iii. instructional strategies; and iv. student skills? (b) Does risk-behavior reduction occur within mentees when they are mentored with the four clusters? (c) Is there an increase in teachers’ self-efficacy when supported by an integrated series of professional development? (d) Does additional professional development in teacher leadership and pedagogical methods for a small group of teachers positively impact cultural change?
The research site had a purposive, homogeneous sample of 80 teachers and their selected mentees. Data were analyzed concurrently with descriptive and inferential statistics supported by grounded theory methods of qualitative analysis that utilized open coding, axial coding, and selective coding; analysis concluded with theoretical integration.
The following conclusions are supported by the study: (a) the teachers and students realized positive affective outcomes from the effort of mentoring; (b) risk reduction for office referrals declined with statistical significance and also showed significant correlations to specific mentor behaviors. Grade point averages remained stable over the course of the year-long study; (c) teacher efficacy declined over the course of the year, but was not statistically significant except in the two cases; (d) cultural change was realized in a variety of ways, including an increased holistic focus on students, recognition of needs and ability to critically evaluate and identify solutions within the greater school community, and development of a more cohesive faculty.