Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Pamela Beck


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to understand how elementary teachers have transformed and developed new writing understandings and competencies following the implementation of the English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This was done by understanding teachers’ perceptions and experiences, as well as how they have developed their understandings, with classroom writing. Participants were four elementary teachers from two public school districts in North Dakota—one single-school district and one multi-school district. Data were collected with interviews, observations, and artifacts throughout the school year. The data analysis was completed using the qualitative research program ATLAS.ti and included within-case and cross-case analyses.

The theoretical framework underpinning this study was Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. This theory supported understanding how teachers have transformed following the ten phases from transformative learning theory. Four themes emerged from the analysis: Teachers Name Impacts with Implementing the Writing Standards, Systemic and Isolated Learning about Writing Practices, Personalized Learning to Pave the Way to Implement Classroom Writing, and Taking Risks and Transforming Perspectives. These themes led to three assertions.

The first assertion was “Left in isolation, teacher’s ability to transform is hindered.” Teachers from districts that did not offer systemic and collaborative writing professional development opportunities had to locate external sources for information.

The second assertion was “Teachers work through challenges when they value the change.” Although findings described impacts as obstacles for teachers to overcome, they were willing to work through these obstacles because they recognized that writing was important for their students.

The third assertion was “Experience as an integral factor with transformative learning.” In order to fully transform and develop new writing understandings and competencies, teachers needed to have experience teaching writing both prior to and following the implementation of the ELA CCSS.

Recommendations for teachers, teacher educators, and administrators included (a) using innovative solutions to overcome obstacles to developing writing understandings and competencies; (b) ensuring research on writing is based on best practices while developing teachers’ understandings and competencies; (c) training teachers on both procedural and declarative writing knowledge in teacher education programs or professional development opportunities; and (d) transforming teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding the importance of writing in today’s society.

Keywords: transformative learning, writing standards, ELA Common Core State Standards, classroom implementation, writing curriculum, writing instruction, writing assessment, North Dakota