Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Teaching and Learning
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Number of Pages
Despite the efforts of traditional and alternative teacher education programs (i.e. pre-service teacher education) in the United States, teachers frequently report feeling unprepared by the time they begin teaching full time in the classroom. Teachers with low levels of self-efficacy are correlated with lower job satisfaction, higher levels of stress and anxiety, and lower student achievement gains in the classroom. To assist with ameliorating these gaps, schools, districts, and private distributors provide training opportunities for teachers once they have begun the job (i.e. in-service teacher training) in the form of teacher professional development. Mainstream professional development approaches are traditionally simplistic in nature, offered only as single sessions, lectures, or occasional workshops, and are defined by a lack of direct application hands-on practice, are limited in scope, and frequently do not involve follow-up or feedback opportunities. While these approaches may be suitable for simple classroom procedures, they are rarely effective for long term retention of complex skills or for shifting pedagogical paradigms.Coaching is a professional development practice that holds several affordances beyond the traditional approaches. It is highly customizable to each teacher, student group, and overall context, allowing for differentiation and scaffolding for each unique situation. Additionally, feedback and frequent follow-up provide teachers with ample data to inform their practice and growth while also being held accountable to the goals of the professional development. These affordances are well-suited for complex professional development goals, but gaps remain in the coaching literature. Notably, there are few documented experiences of the coach themselves in addition to the coachee. In research where the coach is documented, the internal decision-making processes or justifications of the coach are rarely clarified or examined. This is concerning, as it represents a ‘black box’ in the field that obfuscates the actual moment-to-moment process(es) that a coach utilizes when providing training and support to their coachee. This study sought to address the following research question: as the coaching cycle progresses over time, how does a coach make decisions based on the interactions between internal thought processes and observed teacher and classroom behaviors? To address this question, the study used an adapted self-study methodology modeled after instructional coaching cycles of observations and debriefings, with a heuristic evidentialist theoretical framing guiding the moment-to-moment and larger-scale interactions. The study utilized a moment-to-moment form of integrated analysis during the coaching cycles, as well as a second stage database analysis where all of the data was examined a second time using content analysis for overarching themes and a model to describe the coaching decision-making that took place. The coach/researcher was paired with a teacher by the principal of a Southwestern small charter school for approximately five months, twice a week for most weeks plus additional meetings after hours. The findings of the study lead to the creation of the black box model of coaching decisions, which describes a cyclical process of decision-making as informed from teacher’s observed actions, behaviors, and statements. Two themes of the decision-making process were revealed following the second stage of analysis: the perception of the teacher-coach relationship and its influence on the decision-making process, and the presence of seen/known and unseen/unknown factors’ interactions with decision-making. The findings suggest that there needs to be a greater emphasis in coaching research on the emotional realities of coaches (identity, background, experiences, trauma, etc.), as there are many underlying factors that are not initially observable in the decision-making process without prolonged reflection and action research. In particular, action research served as a cost and time-effective means of identifying unseen/unknown factors, and bringing them into increased awareness as seen/known factors that could actively be included as part of decision-making reflection process. Through this cyclical process of opening the coach’s black box, more complex reflection was possible, leading to more informed decision-making.
action research; coaching; decision making; literature review; self study; teacher education
Teacher Education and Professional Development
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Hightower, Andromeda L., "The Closing of One Black Box, The Opening of Another: A Self-Study of How an Instructional Coach Makes Decisions" (2023). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 4697.
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