Effective implementation of teacher training: is it a heuristic or an algorithmic process?
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Providing quality education for our students is one of the great challenges of our time. In this endeavor, teachers and the quality of their instruction is key. A common mode to achieving quality instruction is training teachers to update instructional practices. Training has traditionally been evaluated by perceptions of the training itself. Yet less is known about the effectiveness of teacher training in terms of transfer into classroom practices and impacts on student learning. The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the nature of implementation of teacher training (heuristic or algorithmic) and its effects on student achievement. Training with a new early elementary reading initiative, Reading First, was employed to examine (1) the influence of teacher characteristics on their implementation, (2) the potential mediating effect of the nature of implementation on the relationship between teacher characteristics and student achievement, and (3) the potential moderating effect of quality on the relationship between the nature of implementation and student achievement. These research questions were investigated in two separate studies using the same methodology, one with Englishspeaking classrooms and one with Spanish-speaking classrooms. For Research Question 1, I found that there were teacher characteristics that predicted implementation of training for both studies. Teachers’ Flexible Thinking and Autonomy Support were both associated with English-speaking classroom implementation. For Spanish-speaking classrooms, teachers’ attitude toward the program affected their implementation. For Research Question 2, I found that the nature of teachers’ implementation could predict student achievement in reading. For both studies, using the features of effective instruction had a positive impact on student achievement. For the English-language study, implementing SBRI content heuristically was associated with higher student achievement and teaching SBRI content was found to negatively impact student achievement. For Research Question 3, I found that quality of innovations does impact student achievement in reading. For the English-language study, teachers who were heuristic when teaching SBRI content, increases in student achievement depended on the quality of those innovations. For the Spanish-language study, the impact of a heuristic approach to implementation on student achievement depended on the quality of teachers’ innovations with content.