Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology


Educational Psychology

Advisor 1

Lori J. Olafson, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

LeAnn G. Putney

Second Committee Member

Pamela Staples

Graduate Faculty Representative

Linda Quinn

Number of Pages



Educators concur that teacher competency requires more than teaching knowledge and skills; competency requires appropriate professional dispositions. The development of professional dispositions is an expected outcome of teacher education programs. Since 2002, program accreditation has been contingent on documentation that prospective teachers have met national standards for dispositions. The body of educational research on disposition assessment has been growing. Research on disposition learning and development, however, has been impeded by the prevailing conceptualization of dispositions as fixed traits resistant to change. The present study conceptualized dispositions as malleable constructs within a theoretical framework that synthesized a cognitive model of thinking dispositions and a cultural-historical theory of development. The study aimed to explore and describe the processes by which a group of K-5 teachers developed professional dispositions.

Participants were 30 elementary school teachers enrolled in a graduate teacher education course at a large, urban university in the southwestern United States. Most were female (80%), Caucasian (83%), teaching in a low-performing, urban school (83%), and completing their second year of teaching (93%). Median age was 24 and ranged from ages 22 to 44.

A single-case study, embedded design was employed. The case was the process of disposition development, and the units of analyses were the affording and hindering mediators of disposition development. Data were collected from individual interviews, focus groups, and document reviews. Grounded theory methodology and a qualitative data analysis computer application were used to organize and analyze the data. Three key findings were identified. First, career commitment, which was derived from career awareness and interest, was necessary to initiate and maintain disposition development. Second, available mentors were necessary for beginning teachers to benefit from opportunities for learning that arose. Third, mediators of disposition development could be affordances or hindrances depending on the dynamic interplay between extrapersonal, intrapersonal, and interpersonal factors. The findings have practical implications for teacher educators who design curriculum and instruction and theoretical implications for educational researchers who investigate dispositions.


Beginning teachers; Cultural-historical; Development; Disposition; Elementary school teachers; K-5; Learning; Professionalism; Teacher education


Developmental Psychology | Elementary Education and Teaching | Teacher Education and Professional Development

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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