Teachers' Awareness and Perceptions of the National Standards

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This study investigated current levels of teachers' knowledge and perceptions of the standards. 26 teachers voluntarily participated in this study. Data were collected through field observations of 78 lessons taught by the teachers, 26 formal interviews with the teachers. All formal interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. The data were analyzed by using constant comparison technique. The trustworthiness was ensured through using different data sources and confirming and disconfirming findings by different researchers.

The findings indicated that the teachers' awareness of the standards varied along a wide range from no knowledge at all to an extensive knowledge of the standards. Of 26 teachers, eight had an extensive knowledge of the standards. This reflected that they were studying the standards carefully, seeing where the standards fit their curriculum goals, and integrating the standards with their curriculums and daily teaching practices based on their students' levels in psychomotor, cognitive, and affective aspects. Twelve teachers were aware of the standards. For example, they knew the standards or discussed the standards during in-service programs because their school districts or departments expected them to use the standards as a basis for designing their curriculums. Six teachers were totally unaware of the standards because they had never even heard of them. Even though others heard that the standards existed in our field, they never bothered to read and learned about them.

We also found that teachers had different opinions about the standards. The teachers who had favorable views of the standards believed that: (a) the standards provided targeted directions for what teachers should help students achieve in terms of three domains, (b) the standards are good guidelines for designing progressive and developmentally appropriate learning experiences, and (c) the standards gave our profession more accountability.

Some teachers commented that the standards were too general in nature. They articulated that the standards provided a starting point but did not actually give specific information about what types of learning experiences and what kinds of teaching strategies teachers ought to use help students reach certain benchmarks. These teachers were more concerned about how to put the standards into teaching practices. Other teachers stated that the standards were difficult for some students to achieve. They reflected that the "real" school and teaching situations they had to endure, such as students' skill levels, large class sizes, inadequate facilities and equipment, and limited teaching schedules, hindered them in helping students achieve desired learning outcomes.

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