Transforming educational paradigms : a case study of two different schools on the path toward implementing personalized mastery practices

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


This embedded, multiple-case study was conducted to investigate perceptions of academic optimism and transformational leadership behaviors in two schools implementing personalized mastery educational paradigms. Personalized mastery educational paradigms require that students demonstrate mastery of established standards prior to moving onto more complicated concepts. This model represents a dramatic departure from traditional models of education where student progress through the curriculum is primarily determined by seat time. Teacher perceptions of academic optimism have been shown to have a positive effect on student achievement (Hoy, Tarter, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2006) and transformational leadership behaviors have been linked to second-order change required for successful implementation of new educational models (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006). Academic Optimism and Transformational Leadership were examined in two schools at different stages of implementing a personalized mastery model of education. The case is bound by the system of personalized mastery education, bound by place in terms of one school in Wyoming and one in Montana, and bound by time during February and April of 2014. This research was framed by the following central question: How do teachers at two high schools at different stages of implementing personalized mastery learning describe their perceptions of transformational leadership, academic optimism, and the organizational change process? The School Academic Optimism Scale (SAOS) (Hoy, 2005) was used to assess teachers' perceptions of Academic Optimism and the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) (Avolio & Bass, 2004) was used to assess their perceptions of Transformational Leadership. In addition, semi-structured teacher interviews were conducted to obtain a richer and deeper understanding of perceptions related to academic optimism and transformational leadership during the organizational change process. Finally, a critical incident analysis was performed on principal journal entries describing principal perceptions of transformational leadership behaviors and teacher academic optimism during the organizational change process. Findings suggest increased perceptions of academic optimism and transformational leadership behaviors within both schools. Additionally, teachers in the school where the personal mastery model was implemented over a longer period of time suggested the school was recultured to accept this new educational model and felt a greater sense of collective leadership.




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