First Advisor

Kenneth Peterson

Term of Graduation

Summer 1992

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Administration


Educational Leadership and Policy




High school teaching, Middle schools, Secondary education, Junior high school teaching



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, viii, 137 pages)


The past thirty years has seen the middle school as an organization come of age and with it a renewed emphasis on meeting the needs of the early adolescent student. Although many current studies have addressed middle school issues, one of the most significant was the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development's Turning Points: Preparing Youth for the 21st Century (1989). It claimed that the middle school is the "last best chance" to turn young lives toward a meaningful future and, in order to do so, schools must be staffed with "expert" teachers.

Once one knows what an "expert" teacher is, the major question that is raised is what factors promote and maintain such "experts?" Paying attention to these factors should increase the numbers of effective middle school teachers and therefore help meet the challenge issued by Turning Points. The purpose of this study was to learn what these factors are by listening to the "experts." Knowing these factors, their hierarchy of importance, and their potential for replication have serious implications for pre-teacher and staff training programs, hiring practices, and district policy making.

The subjects were teachers from 17 middle schools in an urban school district which started its conversion to middle schools in the 1970s. The study was conducted in two phases using a questionnaire and an interview. The questionnaire was based on the literature and developed to determine the respondent's knowledge, practices, attitudes, and beliefs about middle school teaching. The 19 top scoring teachers who agreed to follow-up interviews formed the subsequent interview group. The semi-structured one-on-one interviews elicited opinions from these self-reported "experts" regarding what they perceived to be the most significant personal and organizational factors which enable them to be effective in their teaching.

The results of the 307 valid questionnaires were reported by scale score, mean, and range, and their validity and reliability tested by Spearman-Brown, Coefficient Alpha, correlation matrix, and factor analysis. The content of the interview data was analyzed by a frequency count of reported factors.

Major findings were that "expert" teachers identified the following factors as most critical to promoting and maintaining effective middle school teaching:

  1. Being able to balance academic and affective concerns;
  2. Having a genuine liking, commitment, and empathy for the early adolescent;
  3. Ability to use a broad repertoire of teaching and learning strategies;
  4. A concerned, listening principal who knows how to take action;
  5. Team compatibility and commitment and adequate team planning time;
  6. A strong belief in the advisory concept and the ability to build trust;
  7. Participatory choice and teacher involvement in staff development;
  8. A thorough knowledge of early adolescent needs and development.
  9. Multiple exposure to and extensive experience with early adolescents during pre-teacher training.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership: Administration and Supervision.

If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.

Persistent Identifier