Dissertation

Differences in Teachers’ Valuation of Teaching Non-Cognitive Skills in Upper Elementary through Middle School Grades

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The body of research on the importance of non-cognitive skills in middle school shows that emphasizing these skills diminish after elementary grades. Further, there is a lack of standard policy and framework for directly integrating these skills in middle schools. The purpose of this quantitative exploratory study was to gain a better understanding of the teacher-perceived importance of direct instruction in non-cognitive skills in years transitioning from upper elementary to middle schools. A Likert-type survey was conducted, yielding results from 114 upper elementary and middle school teachers. The methodology was designed to identify instances of significant variance in the opinions of five groupings of teachers by the discrete characteristics of gender identification, years taught, highest degree earned, grade-level taught, and certification. Teachers were asked to rate and rank in importance five categories of non-cognitive skills. They were also asked to rate their readiness to teach these skills. After these three Likert-type question sets, the teachers were offered an opportunity to volunteer responses to an open-ended question about what barriers to teaching these skills might be an issue. The study yielded statistically significant findings in the question sets for rating the importance of and readiness for teaching each of the five non-cognitive skill categories. The study’s results show that the variance of beliefs within specific teacher groupings indicates a need for one coherent definition and set of standards for teaching non-cognitive skills. The results also yielded the unexpected outcome of no association between grade-level-taught and the level at which middle school teachers value teaching non-cognitive skills. The lack of such a pattern suggests that teacher beliefs are not the main factor in middle school students’ struggles with non-cognitive skills; but rather, it is the middle school environment and the middle school construct itself.  

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