Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Ecology

Major Professor

Deborah W. Tegano

Committee Members

Mary Jane Moran, James D. Moran, Howard R. Pollio


The purpose of this research is to achieve an understanding of the lived experiences of teachers’ awareness of making decisions for their classrooms, by using phenomenological methods involving dialogic interviews and hermeneutic analysis of the resulting texts. Eight early childhood teachers participated in open-ended interviews during which they were asked to describe specific times when they were aware of making decisions for their classrooms. The findings indicated that the teachers in this study were aware of (1) the multiple facets of the process of deciding, (2) the self as decision-maker, and (3) the constraints and possibilities found in individual teaching settings.

The first theme, the multiple facets of the process of deciding, revealed that teachers were aware of the complexities of making decisions even as they were involved in the very acts of decision making. The process was experienced as constant, multi- focused, and multidimensional as well as involving varying levels of conscious awareness, i.e., some decisions were experienced as "spontaneous," "intuitive," and "in the flow," while others were reflected upon and even "agonized over." In addition, the teachers experienced decision-making as a recursive and responsive process. In the second theme, the teachers’ awareness of self as decision-maker, the teachers described themselves as confident and with an empowering acceptance of their responsibility to decide as needed. They experienced themselves as acting within a framework bounded by their personal beliefs and values, their knowledge of children, and their perceived pedagogical options. In the third theme, the constraints and possibilities found in their individual teaching settings, the teachers’ described awareness moved to the contexts within which their decisions were made. For some, their settings were experienced as either places of support or unobtrusive backgrounds. For others, the settings were much more figural with rules, mandates, and other people’s actions strongly impacting their decision-making possibilities.

The discussion focused on the impact of these differences and addressed possible implications for teacher preparation programs when mentoring teachers mainly discuss their awareness of personal decision making as it is affected by prescribed mandates and perceived lack of options rather than their use of pedagogical knowledge.

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