Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

James L. Paul, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

Harold Keller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Patricia Alvarez McHatton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daphne Thomas, Ph.D.


Qualitative research method, Teacher preparation, Teacher mentorship, Teacher induction, Cultural diversity


Despite the enduring relative popularity of teaching as a career, the research literature on teacher preparation suggests that there is growing concern about the state of the field. With each passing year, the demographic realities within k-12 classrooms bring new challenges for the teacher preparation enterprise. Shortages in high need communities and increasing numbers of provisionally certified (or uncertified) teachers represent two areas of concern. Notwithstanding the extraordinarily increasing cultural and linguistic diversity now found among the student population, the teacher population has failed to diversify in kind. The number of new teachers who are ill-prepared to respond to this "demographic imperative" is a glaring cause for concern.

This study represents the author's attempt to contribute to this important discourse by studying a cohort of individuals who recently completed a teacher preparation program and started to apply what they learned in their first professional teaching position. The purpose of this research study is twofold. First, the researcher uses phenomenological research methods to investigate the first-year teaching experience. Through a series of interviews, he explores the participants' expectations, experiences, and reflections in order to distill the essence of the phenomenon. Second, the researcher examines the connections between the culturally responsive pedagogical competencies developed during teacher preparation and their attempts to implement the practices in their new classrooms.

Analysis of the data showed that the essence of the first-year teaching experience featured the influence of the following: relationships with students, lessons learned through experience, importance of support and mentorship, and the negotiation of challenges. Analysis of their attempts to apply culturally responsive pedagogy revealed their intentions to implement programs and principles; however these were often compromised while managing other realities of the first year experience. The study concludes with a discussion of implications for practice and possibilities for future research.