Date of Award

2008

Access Restriction

Campus Access only dissertations

Degree Name

Doctorate in Education

Department

Education

School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Martin T. Connell, S.J., Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Emily Arms, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mary K. McCulllough, Ph.D.

Abstract

Catholic schools make distinct claims about their mission and the identity of their schools as communities - places where teachers and students are to be formed as "persons-in-community" (Bryk, Lee & Holland, 1993; National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB], 1972). Yet, there is a paucity of qualitative research that has explored the experiences of beginning teachers' induction into Catholic school communities. One way to address this lacuna is to use ethnographic methods to explore the experiences of beginning teachers and write a thick description (Goeertz, 1973) of the newcomers' experiences. I conducted such a qualitative inquiry at Our Lady of Grace Academy (OLGA), an independent, Catholic girls day and resident college-preparatory school. I spent one semester with a group of six newcomers-four classroom teachers, an academic counselor, and a librarian/technology specialist-as a participant observer in their daily work lives.

Implementing qualitative ethnographic methods, encompassing life history interviews, participant observation, and journal writing, newcomers described their experiences and dispositions on topics germane to Catholic school mission and community, in particular, what brought newcomers to OLGA in the first place and their experiences of a sense of membership in the community by way of their socially mediated participation in multiple communities of practice.

Time constraints and my insider status were limitations. The goals of the study were met, but more conclusive findings would have resulted from a longer study. There were limits to what I could ethically report due to the fact that I conducted fieldwork on my own workplace. Ethnographic inquiry is a viable way for a practitioner to conduct research because the workplace is where the practitioner will need to exercise his or her best observation and listening skills.

Using creative analytic processes (CAP) ethnographies (Richardson & St. Pierre, 2005), the findings of the study take shape around the participants' walk along a metaphorical labyrinthine pathway. Vignette's of newcomer's experiences unfold to dialogic interplay with theory. The dissertation culminates with insights and multiple truths that surfaces along the way, additional questions that resulted, and recommendations for implementing ethnographic methods as a way into induction practices in Catholic secondary schools.

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