Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr. Terry Huffman

Second Advisor

Dr. Susanna Steeg

Third Advisor

Dr. Ken Badley


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand and describe third-grade teachers’ experiences of instructional decision-making. Three third-grade teachers participated in a series of in-depth interviews designed to reveal what it is like to make instructional decisions in the complex environment of public elementary schools. Previous studies have examined a number of different factors involved in classroom instruction. The teachers in this study not only spoke about the factors that were common in the literature such as: curriculum, testing and teachers’ beliefs, but also the way they responded to the tension created by those competing factors in their instructional decision-making. The study revealed four themes across teacher interviews: accountability to curriculum, pacing guides and tests; stress over meeting expectations; concern for students’ learning and well-being; and support from others to take risks in decision-making. Teachers’ responses to the decision-making factors added a phenomenological description of the experience of instructional decision-making that are broader than the existing factors in the literature. Teachers’ words revealed how the factors are lived out in their classrooms as they described the tensions of instructional decision-making in today’s high-stakes teaching environments. The experience of making instructional decisions is inexorably linked to the experiences of teaching, the study of which can improve teaching and learning.

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