Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Earl Cheek


The purpose of this study is to examine the instructional beliefs and practices of middle school language arts teachers as they relate to developmental appropriate/inappropriate instruction. Developmentally appropriate instruction is defined as matching the curricula to the level of children's emerging mental abilities. If the learner is seen as a growing individual with developing abilities, then the aim of education should be to facilitate this development. This in turn means that the curricula must be studied and analyzed to determine that level of mental ability that is required to comprehend curriculum materials (Elkind, 1970). There is some concern that what is considered to be appropriate instruction in the language arts curriculum and the middle school milieu may not be widely practiced (Wood & Muth, 1991; Irvin, 1990; Elkind, 1989). Research on beliefs and practices has shown that: (l) practice is greatly influenced by teaching (Clark & Yinger, 1979); (2) teaching is guided by thoughts, decisions and judgments (Clark & Yinger, 1979); (3) it is not clear how beliefs are formed, supported or weakened, or how individuals are influenced to embrace one's belief system over another (Nespor, 1987; Shapiro & Kilbey, 1990). This study investigated the relationship between middle school language arts teachers' professed beliefs and practices and their actual classroom practices. Through an in depth examination of the data, this research produced findings that are deemed crucial for curricular organizational and instructional practices that reflect young adults' development. Researchers have demonstrated that beliefs influence knowledge acquisition and interpretation, task definition and selection, interpretation of course content and comprehension monitoring (Pajares, 1992; Nisbett & Ross, 1980; Nespor, 1987; Clark & Peterson, 1986; Ennis, 1994). Such research may reveal how teachers interpret and define the goals and curricula for preserving teachers education programs. Research on the entering beliefs of novice teachers would help teacher educators with important information on how to determine the directions for curricula programs. Attention should be given to understanding how beliefs interact with other beliefs in order to present a coherent pattern of thought and action rather than looking at beliefs only as isolated cognitive phenomena. Thus, understanding the belief systems of teachers, including how beliefs interact with one another (whether favorably or unfavorably may enhance the working of technical innovations when they are implemented.