Making connections: Implementing an integrated thematic instruction curriculum model to assist teachers of at-risk middle school students
by Cook, Spike C. Ed.D., Rowan University, 2009, 237 pages; AAT 3359922
In the era of the No Child Left Behind Legislation (NCLB) schools are responsible for the achievement of all students including those who are labeled at-risk. In order to reach the at-risk students at Henry Catherine Middle School I led a year long implementation process using integrated thematic instruction to connect learning throughout the school curriculum, thus providing a deeper understanding of disciplinary content (Anderson & Pellicer, 1998; Beane, 1993; Campbell & Harris, 2001; Wood & Jones, 1994). The conceptual framework of this four cycle action research dissertation centered on the teachers’ use and perception of integrated thematic instruction. Throughout the cycles I used mixed methods of qualitative and quantitative measures in order to understand the change process. The action research paradigm allowed me to build, expand, and reflect throughout the various cycles. The discoveries I made through this research revealed how teachers used integrated thematic instruction in their classroom learning environment. Teachers felt that the integrated theme required extensive planning time, similarly grouped students, and collaboration. Further, the teachers felt that in order for integrated thematic instruction to flourish at Henry Catherine Middle School the structure of the school day would need to change. As the leader of this project, I explored how my espoused theories on leadership compared with my theories-in-use. In order to accomplish this I used reflective journaling, interviews, and feedback from the Leadership Practices Inventory. I found that my espoused theories were similar to my theories-in-use. These discoveries about integrated thematic instruction can inform other school districts seeking innovative curriculum approaches for teachers responsible for at-risk students. A similar model could be implemented as a year long professional development project. It is assumed that by providing professional development for teachers will, in all likelihood, benefit at-risk students in their classroom.