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Characteristics of Teachers Who Talk the DAP Talk and Walk the DAP Walk.
Article Type:
Statistical Data Included
Teachers (Practice)
Teaching (Case studies)
Early childhood education (Case studies)
McMullen, Mary Benson
Pub Date:
Name: Journal of Research in Childhood Education Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 1999 Association for Childhood Education International ISSN: 0256-8543
Date: Spring-Summer, 1999 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

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Abstract. Studies consistently find a discrepancy between teachers' self-reported beliefs about developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) and their actual, observable classroom practices. Teachers attribute the discrepancy to a variety of environmental / work-related stresses or institutional barriers. Some early childhood professionals, however, are either unaffected by, or able to cope with, these same obstacles and live out DAP beliefs in practice. What are the characteristics of teachers who both state a belief in DAP and engage in DAP practices in their early childhood classrooms? Although there were differences between preschool and primary teachers in this sample of 20 early childhood educators of children ages birth through 8, DAY beliefs overall were strongly correlated with practices at the p [less than] .001 level (r = .79). Also, high personal teaching efficacy and internal locus of control were significantly related to high DAP beliefs and predictive of DAP practices. In addition, teachers who either had an academic background in early childhood education or child development, or who had experience working in a preschool, were found to be significantly more DAP in their actual classroom practices than those who had an elementary education degree and no preschool experience. Implications for teacher education and professional development are discussed.

Researchers argue that teachers': 1) philosophies about education (i.e., beliefs about the impact of teaching in general, as well as their understanding of how children learn); 2) perceptions of themselves as teachers (i.e., how they feel about their own abilities to influence learning outcomes); and 3) beliefs about how events in the classroom are contingent upon their own actions (i.e., how much they attribute learning outcomes to their own actions) each play a critical role in actual teaching practices and classroom decisions (Brantlinger, 1996; Brookhart & Freeman, 1992; Bunting, 1984; DiBella-McCarthy, McDaniel, & Miller, 1995; Kagan, 1992; Pajares, 1992; Smith, 1993; Spodek, 1988; Wood, Cobb, & Yackel, 1990). Consistently, however, researchers report a discrepancy, or at best only a small correlation, between the self-reported beliefs and actual classroom practices of teachers (Bryant, Clifford, & Peisner, 1991; Charlesworth, Hart, Burts, & Hernandez, 1991; Hatch & Freeman, 1988; Hyson, 1991; Kagan & Sm ith, 1988; Kemple, 1996; Smith, 1993; Smith & Shepard, 1988; Spidell, 1988; Verma & Peters, 1975; Wing, 1989). In studies that report a discrepancy, the typical pattern is that educators report highly appropriate beliefs, but are found to engage in significantly less appropriate practices.

Stating One Belief; Practicing Another

There maybe several reasons why teachers might state a belief in DAP, yet not practice it in their own classrooms. DAP is the "politically correct" philosophy of the day (i.e., it is widely supported by professional organizations and leaders in the field), and it may be very hard for some teachers to admit that they don't accept the "conventional wisdom" when asked to state their beliefs (Hyson, 1991). Among those teachers who insist that they really do believe in DAP, the discrepancy between beliefs and practices is attributed to number of environmental or work-related stresses. Most common among these complaints are feelings of being unsupported by parents, colleagues, and administrators, and teachers' perception that they must emphasize skill development and prepare students for standardized tests.

In addition to environmental stresses, some teachers may be challenged, or even defeated, in their attempts to live out their beliefs by their own personal characteristics. Certain personality traits, tendencies, and/or levels of preparation or professional experience may act together with environmental/work factors to make it difficult or even impossible for these teachers to engage in the "best practices" in which they say they believe. These factors may ultimately contribute to feelings of helplessness and burnout (McMullen & Krantz, 1988). Brousseau, Book, and Byers (1988), Bunting(1984), Charlesworth et al. (1993), Dembo and Gibson (1985), and Kagan (1992) urge researchers to find and examine the personal characteristics that may mediate between appropriate beliefs and practices in early childhood education. Some of this information already has been uncovered and deserves closer inspection. Veenman (1984), for instance, identifies several variables that mediate between beliefs and practices in teachers i n general, including the quality of professional preparation, years of experience, work conditions (isolation, inadequate support, high stress), difficulty in working with parents, and difficult work loads. Bandura and Jourden (1991) identify self-efficacy beliefs as mediators of teacher behavior, saying that it affects both the choice of activities and how much effort one will ultimately put forth. Sadowski and Woodward (1983) and DiBella-McCarthy et al. (1995) assert locus of control as a significant contributor to actual classroom practice. Identification and close inspection of these characteristics may help teacher educators and school administrators who work with preservice and inservice teachers to nurture the appropriate dispositions. It also may promote the knowledge and skills necessary for teachers to cope with real or perceived environmental factors that may prevent implementation of best practices.

Although not without its critics, developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) was chosen as the belief system or philosophy to examine in this study, because it is currently held by many early childhood professionals to be emblematic of "best practices" in the field. Beliefs and characteristics that may influence whether or not teachers engage in best practices (including personality traits such as self-efficacy, locus of control, trait anxiety, and educational and professional experiences) will be the primary area of focus for this research.

Developmentally Appropriate Beliefs and Practices

The concept of developmentally appropriate practices, or DAP, was originally described in detail in a policy statement by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (Bredekamp, 1987), and was subsequently refined in a more recently published document (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). DAP curricula focus on relating appropriately to the overall development of the whole child across social, emotional, aesthetic, moral, language, cognitive, and physical (which includes health, gross motor, and fine motor) domains. DAP practices are individually, age group, and culturally appropriate. These "best practices" relate to the everyday reality of the individuals within a group, as well as to the learning community as a whole (Oakes & Caruso, 1990). DAP curricula are learner-generated and learner-centered, yet teacher-framed. In other words, the teacher is the one who judges what is needed to meet the developmental and learning needs of children, and it is he or she who prepares the environment and develops the curriculum accordingly. DAP curricula encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and intellectual risk-taking, and engender dispositions of life-long learning. Assessment of children in DAP environments is ongoing and continuous, and is done for the purpose of preparing a conducive environment for children's development and for building upon existing strengths (Bredekamp & Shepard, 1989; Elkind, 1986).

The critical impact of the developmental period of early childhood (birth to age 8) is widely accepted and well-documented in the education field as having lifetime effects on the success of later learning (Schweinhart, Weikart, & Lamer, 1986). Although both DAP and more traditional academic approaches have been shown to have successful learning outcomes (i.e., both promote cognitive development and increase children's scores in reading, language, and mathematics), studies reveal several additional far-reaching positive outcomes for DAP curricula when compared to didactic models. In particular, more prosocial behaviors are observed, fewer reports of behavioral problems occur either at home or school, and lower stress levels are recorded in children who are in DAP environments (Bredekamp & Shepard, 1989; Burts et al., 1993; Halpin, Halpin, & Harris, 1982; HirshPasek, 1991; Marcon, 1992). In addition, DAP practices are significantly related to improved problem-solving skills and greater autonomy in children (Sp idell-Rusher, McGrevin, & Lambiotte, 1992).

It is likely that few, if any, early childhood education professionals achieve completely consistent DAP type teaching behaviors, just as few teachers are completely traditional in their classroom practices. Teachers' practices are generally characterized as lying somewhere along a continuum from very high in DAP to very low in DAP (Bredekamp & Rosegrant, 1992; Halpin et al., 1982; Willower, Eidell, & Hoy, 1967).

Beliefs and Characteristics As Mediators of Practices

There are a number of beliefs and characteristics that may influence whether or not teachers engage in DAP practices. These include personality factors such as self-efficacy, locus of control, and trait anxiety, as well as educational and professional experiences.

Self-Efficacy. There is a comprehensive research literature on self-efficacy, a concept originally described by Armor et al. (1976), Bandura (1977), and Barfield and Burlingame (1974). Bandura (1977, 1982, 1995) describes two components of self-efficacy: 1) outcome expectancy, which is the belief that certain behaviors can lead to specific outcomes; and 2) efficacy expectation, which is a belief about one's own competence or ability to bring about certain outcomes. Rather than being a static personality trait, Bandura argues that self-efficacy involves competency feelings that are situation-specific; one may feel efficacious in one area of life, but not in others.

Anderson, Greene, and Loewen (1988), Ashton and Webb (1986), Berman and McLaughlin (1977), Combs (1979), and Weber and Omotani (1994) link teachers' self-efficacy to student achievement, a highly important consequence of efficacy beliefs. In fact, Berman and McLaughlin, Combs, and Weber and Omotani all promote self-efficacy as the most important influence on teacher effectiveness. In education terms, the two components of self-efficacy are referred to by the terms "teaching or educational efficacy," (Bandura's outcome expectancy) and "personal teaching efficacy" (Bandura's efficacy expectation) (Gibson & Dembo, 1984; McMullen, 1997). The first term, "educational efficacy," refers to teachers' beliefs about the ability of education in general to have a positive impact on student performance. This belief is implicit and based upon their basic assumptions about the relationship between teaching and learning (Ashton, Webb, & Doda, 1983; Ginns, Tulip, Watters, & Lucas, 1995; Greenwood, Olejnik, & Parkay, 1990).

A teacher with "low educational efficacy" believes that education cannot affect student performance, whereas a teacher with "high educational efficacy" believes that education does positively affect learning outcomes. High educational efficacy has been consistently correlated with child-centered (i.e., DAP) environments and positive student outcomes (Weber & Omotani, 1994; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1990). Teachers with high educational efficacy are found to be more willing to implement innovative programs (Rose, 1994), and to be more persistent in working with students to achieve learning goals, both of which are characteristics that are found to lead to higher achievement for students (Dembo & Gibson, 1985).

The second efficacy term, "personal teaching efficacy," refers to teachers' sense of their own effectiveness in having an impact on student achievement (Ashton et al., 1983; Ginns et al., 1995). Teachers with "low personal teaching efficacy" are more likely to believe that they personally cannot affect student learning and performance; whereas teachers with "high personal teaching efficacy" believe that they personally can affect student outcomes. Teachers with "high personal teaching efficacy" are more likely to expect that all students can learn, and that they, as teachers, are personally responsible for that outcome (Benz, Bradley, Alderman, & Flowers, 1992). A combination of high educational efficacy and high personal teaching efficacy is considered to be the least stress-producing disposition, since teachers believe that both teaching in general, as well as they themselves as teachers, can affect student outcomes (Greenwood et al., 1990).

Locus of Control. Locus of control, a concept originally described by Rotter (1966), is characterized as the extent to which individuals perceive events in their environment as being contingent upon their own behavior. People are characterized as having either an external or internal locus of control orientation. Individuals who are more externally oriented expect that outcomes, positive or negative, are a function of unpredictable, outside forces (such as chance, luck, or fate) that are beyond their control or determined by more powerful others. Those who are more internal expect that outcomes will be determined by their own behavior or personal characteristics (Lefcourt, 1981; Sadowski, 1987).

Smith (1993) urges researchers to uncover the role of locus of control in teachers' beliefs and practices. It is suspected that teachers who believe that their ability to affect change is limited by external factors (such as children's family circumstances, pressure from their administrators, a perceived decline in society's morals, etc.) may have less motivation to search for more effective teaching techniques (DiBellaMcCarthy et al., 1995). In support of this effect, Sadowski and Woodward (1983) conclude that teachers' locus of control orientation has a significant impact on their classroom environment (i.e., internal teachers are more likely to engage in activities that facilitate student motivation).

Stress and Trait Anxiety. Potential stressors are abundant in teaching. Being a teacher is considered one of the most stressful jobs in society; the physical and emotional problems associated with stress are considered a serious health threat to teachers (Fletcher, 1991; McGrath, 1995). Kyriacou (1987) characterizes teacher stress as the result of negative emotions about the job itself that are mediated by a teacher's feelings of well-being and personal coping mechanisms. Trendall (1989) proposes a broader view of "teacher" stress that considers factors both within and outside of the work environment, as well as an individual's personal characteristics.

Teacher stress can lead to "the lowering of feelings of personal self-worth, achievement, effectiveness, and of coping within one's professional role" (Kelly & Berthelsen, 1995, p. 346). Kelly and Berthelsen identify the conflict between expectations about quality in early childhood programs and administrators' expectations for teachers to maintain that quality in practice as a stressor for some teachers. Teachers complain about stress that they experienced due to what they report as the difficulty of balancing the planning of an appropriate environment and being able to respond spontaneously to the needs of individual children and "emerging events" in the classroom.

Not all teachers perceive difficult events or working conditions as stressful, however. Certain personality traits may be related to whether or not teachers react to potential stressors. For instance, teachers who feel they have no control over the stressors they face in the teaching environment and who also have natural tendencies toward anxiousness are more likely to experience stress (Hill, 1995). Litt and Turk (1985) report that personal teaching efficacy is significantly related to teachers' perceived stress levels, while Halpin, Harris, and Halpin (1985) and McIntyre (1984) conclude that external locus of control is positively related to teacher stress.

The relatively stable personal tendency to be anxious or to perceive stressful life events as threatening in some way is identified as "trait anxiety." Cattell (1966) and, later, Spielberger (1983) introduced both trait anxiety and the related concept "state anxiety," which refers to the specific reaction to an event that is happening at the time. Teachers who have high trait anxiety react more frequently and intensely to stressful events and have a high probability of doing so in the future (Spielberger, 1983). Trait anxiety is characterized as a personal characteristic, rather than as an emotional state, because it refers to the tendencies and dispositions to react or behave in a particular way, unlike the more transitory nature of an emotional state (i.e., "state anxiety").

Educational Background and Experience. Several studies, including those by Cassidy, Buell, Pugh-Hoese, and Russell (1995) and Whitebook, Howes, and Phillips (1989), report significantly higher overall quality of the early childhood learning environment, including higher scores on DAP beliefs and practices instruments, in classrooms in which teachers have more early childhood education training. Education does not tell the whole story, however. Brousseau et al. (1988) found that years of experience had a significant effect on DAP beliefs in early childhood education professionals--but not in the way one might expect. The more experience the teachers in this study had, the more likely that they were to believe that all students should be held to a common standard, and the more likely they were to favor a common curriculum--neither of which is considered a DAP belief. The supposition is that teachers who have been out of teacher education for a number of years and who have not been engaging in ongoing professio nal development lack familiarity with current knowledge about best practices with young children. In contrast, however, McMullen (1997) finds experiential effects working in the opposite direction. Her study revealed a significant difference in the strength of DAP beliefs between novice teachers (i.e., those teaching less than 2 years) and veteran teachers (i.e., those who had been in the early childhood education field 3 or more years, in this case an average of 18.2 years). The more experienced teachers scored significantly higher on measures of DAP beliefs.

An explanation for the lower scores among the novice teachers found in the McMullen (1997) study may be found in the Buchanan, Burts, Bidner, White, and Charlesworth (1997) study, from which the authors concluded that new teachers are in a "survival" stage. New teachers may lack the resources and coping skills necessary to implement what they have been taught and what they may truly believe are best practices with young children. The tendency to hold DAP beliefs may have less to do with the "quantity" of years of experience, and have more to do with the "quality" or type of preparation and experiences that teachers have had. In fact, McMullen concludes that the teachers with more years of experience in her study were probably more strongly DAP because of the influence of ongoing professional development in early childhood, not because of the number of years in the field.

Teachers in the early primary grades are found to engage in significantly fewer DAP practices than their preschool colleagues (Bryant et al., 1991; Hatch & Freeman, 1988; Verma & Peters, 1975). Spodek (1988)reports that elementary school teachers sampled in his study tended to focus on management, planning, instructional practices, and classroom organization, while preschool teachers spent more time concentrating on development and play (i.e., behaviors aligned more closely with DAP). There is some encouraging news, however, that DAP is beginning to "push up" into the elementary early primary years (Burt & Sugawara, 1993). This "pushing up" ofDAP into the primary grades is also supported by preliminary results from a recent Buchanan et al. (1997) study, in which many DAP behaviors were observed among early primary teachers. In this latter study, however, the number of DAP practices recorded declined with each subsequent year (i.e., 1st-grade teachers were more strongly DAP than 2nd-grade teachers, who in tur n scored higher on DAP measures than 3rd-grade teachers).

The Question

In order to find ways to help teachers implement DAP beliefs, it seems important to first discern their true beliefs. It is quite clear, however, that measures that rely on teachers' self-reported beliefs alone may not tell the whole story about teachers' beliefs, for a variety of reasons. Although observation of classroom practices maybe a more accurate indicator of beliefs, it is perhaps best to use a combination of survey and observation. Thus, the study detailed in this article relies on both teachers' self. report of beliefs and observation of classroom practices. The researcher addresses the question, "What are the beliefs and characteristics of teachers who engage in best practices in early childhood education?" in a sample of 20 early childhood educators of children, ages 3 through 3rd grade.


Some teachers seem more vulnerable to the everyday stresses that are inherent in the teaching profession. Other teachers are more resilient and are able to live out their practices despite the obstacles; what makes them able to do this when many of their colleagues cannot is important to find out. In this study, the researchers examined developmentally appropriate (DAP) beliefs and practices, as well as the factors that may mediate between beliefs and practices (i.e., self-efficacy, locus of control, trait anxiety, and educational and professional experiences).


Letters were sent and follow-up phone calls were made to the directors of 10 private preschools that were in close proximity to the primary researcher's university, as well as to the principals of six of the 12 elementary schools in the surrounding community. Directors from five of the preschools and four of the elementary schools agreed to participate, and so they distributed the researcher's questionnaire packet. Despite cash incentives ($10 to complete the questionnaire and $25 after the completion of up to three observations), only nine of 35 preschool teachers (2 3%) and 11 out of 40 of the primary teachers in a public school setting (30%) completed the questionnaire packet and were subsequently observed by the researchers (N = 20 participants).

After the fully completed questionnaire packet was returned by mall, each participant was visited by the principal researcher on two separate occasions for one to one-and-a-half hours each time (M = 145.25 minutes over two visits, N = 20). In order to establish reliability of the original observations, a research assistant was sent to the classrooms of 13 of the 20 teachers for a two-hour follow-up observation (M = 264.1 minutes over three observations, n = 13). Only 13 of the original 20 teachers from the sample were willing and/or able to continue to participate by the time the second observer did her observations.

Description of the Sample

All but one of the 20 participants were female. The average number of years of experience in the early childhood profession was 11.5 years (range = 3 to 30 years). Nine of the participants were in preschool settings teaching children ages 3 to 5, including one Montessori teacher, one Head Start teacher, and one multi-categorical special needs teacher. Eleven of the teachers were in public elementary school settings (kindergarten through 3rd grade), including three kindergarten teachers, two kindergarten/1st-grade multiage teachers, three 1st-grade teachers, one 2nd-grade teacher, one 3rd-grade teacher, and one 1st- through 3rd-grade multiage teacher. All of the subjects had bachelor's or master's degrees in either early childhood education, early childhood special education, child development, or elementary education.


The questionnaire packet was designed to measure the strength of DAP beliefs and the personal characteristics of self-efficacy, locus of control, and trait anxiety, and to collect information about the educational and professional experience of individual teachers in the sample. The latter information included the number of years of experience in the field, degree(s) earned, age level of students and type of early childhood environment (preschool versus primary school), and the number of children and adults in the classroom. All of the formal instruments, as well as those used by the researchers to observe DAP practices, are listed in Table 1, along with basic descriptive statistics for each test. After scoring the original instruments, each of the beliefs and practices scores were weighted and re-scaled to be equivalent to a 100-point scale for ease of comparison. Each instrument has acceptable reliability and validity as reported in the articles referenced in Table 1.

Inter-observer Reliability

Inter-observer reliability was calculated from the observations of 13 of the 20 teachers (six of the original nine preschool teachers and seven of the original 11 primary teachers). The two observers (the author and a doctoral research assistant) were never in the classroom at the same time, and thus had opportunities to observe a variety of activities and interactions. Comparing ratings from the Classroom Practices Inventory used for observing the preschool teachers, the two observers were in exact agreement (i.e., same points awarded by the two observers for the same item) for 58% of the items; and within one scale point on 91% of the items. For the

Scale of Primary Classroom Practices that was used to measure the practices of the primary teachers, there was exact agreement on 63% of the items and within one point on 94%. Because the inter-observer agreement was good, and because the two observers saw different activities and interactions over a long span of time (over two semesters), their scores were averaged for use in the final data analyses for those 13 individuals who were observed by both.


Comparison of the Beliefs and Practices The weighted and re-scaled scores for the two DAP beliefs instruments, as well as for the two practices instruments, were combined to create a "combined beliefs" score and a "combined practices" score for the regression analyses and t-tests. Combined scores for beliefs (i.e., preschool teachers (n = 9) plus primary teachers (n = 11)) were then compared to the combined scores for practices; they were significantly related (r = .794, p [less than] .001).

Both DAP beliefs instruments were completed by all teachers, and both practices instruments were used to observe all of the participating teachers (N = 20), regardless of whether they were preschool or primary teachers. All four DAP measures were significantly inter-related to one another at p [less than] .001 (i.e., preschool teachers' beliefs with practices: r = .76; primary teachers' beliefs with practices: r = .69, etc; please see Table 2 for complete correlation results. However, because t-tests revealed significant differences between preschool and primary teachers' beliefs about DAP (t (18) = -2.28, p [less than] .05) as well as between preschool and primary teachers actual classroom practices (t (18) = -3.44, p [less than] .01), beliefs and practices instruments that were most specific for preschool teachers and primary teachers were paired. Using regression and correlation analyses, it was determined that the Primary Teachers Questionnaire (PTQ), together with the Scale of Primary Classroom Practices (SPCP) instruments, was the most suitable pair (i.e., correlation: r - .69, p [less than] .001; regression: F (1, 8) 23.80, p [less than] .001) for measuring beliefs and practices with the early primary grades teachers. Similarly, the Teachers' Beliefs and Practices (TBP) instrument, together with the Classroom Practices Inventory (CPI), was determined to be the best combination for use with preschool teachers in this sample. Again, this was based upon a relatively strong correlation between the two (r = 0.76, p [less than] .001) and upon the result that the CPI was the best predictor of practices as measured by the SPCP (F (1, 10) = 13.31, p [less than] .001). These results are as would be expected, given the author's intentions for the instruments.

Other Predictors of Practice

Although there is some debate about being able to determine directionality of the effect between beliefs and practices (i.e., Do beliefs determine practice, or do practices define beliefs? see Hyson, 1991), one may argue that a major precursor to being a strong DAP practitioner is having strong DAP beliefs. This assumption seems borne out in this study by the regression data reported above that shows beliefs as the first predictor of practices for both primary and preschool teachers. Preschool beliefs and practices instruments and primary beliefs and practices instruments were run separately against all of the independent variables, to determine their relative contribution to the variation in practices. As reported above, for preschool practices measured by the CPI, the first variable that emerged as a "predictor" or "mediator" of practices was beliefs as measured by the SPCP, followed by a second predictor, high personal teaching efficacy (F (1, 8) = 25.37, p [less than] .001). When combined scores for pract ices (preschool teachers plus primary teachers) were run against all other independent variables, however, another predictor of practice emerged. The first predictor of practice was found to be overall beliefs (F (1, 19) = 30.80, p [less than] .001), as might be expected, whereas the second predictor that emerged was locus of control (F (2, 18) = 27.29, p [less than] .001).

Other Differences Among Teachers

The first and most obvious difference between teachers is seen by examining preschool versus primary teachers. As reported above, t-tests revealed significant differences between preschool and primary teachers' beliefs about DAP. Close inspection of the descriptive statistics for the sample, including teachers' background data (years of employment, education, etc.), revealed some other interesting differences among teachers. "High" DAP teachers (i.e., those with practices scores [greater than] 76.25, the overall mean) and "low" DAP teachers (i.e., those with scores [less than or equal to]76.25) were compared using chi-square analysis to examine whether or not early childhood or child development education in teachers' backgrounds made a difference (i.e., a 2X2 chi square was run of DAP practices by background in early childhood). A significant difference was found based upon education ([[chi].sup.2] (1, N = 20) = 7.74, p = .005), with significantly more of the "high" DAP teachers having had early childhood or child development education at some point in their teaching careers (see Tables 3 and 4).

Descriptive data (see Table 3) revealed a possible difference within the sub-sample of primary teachers. Scores for DAP practices in one group of primary teachers--those who had early childhood education degrees or elementary degrees in combination with preschool teaching experience (n - 5; M = 78.32, SD = 8.6)-stood out in contrast to those primary teachers with elementary degrees and no preschool teaching experience (n = 6; M = 55.23; SD = 12.1). The difference between DAP practices between these two groups of primary teachers was confirmed as significant, using a twotailed t-test (t (9) = 2.55, p .05).

Other Significant Relationships

Turning again to Table 2, one can see several other significant relationships among the various study variables. Of particular interest are the relationships among high educational efficacy and all four of the DAP variables; the moderately strong inverse relationship between low personal teaching efficacy and DAP beliefs; and the strong positive correlation between internal locus of control and both DAP beliefs and practices.


The major significant findings of this study can be summarized as follows:

1. The two beliefs instruments and the two practices instruments are highly related to one another.

2. There are significant differences between preschool and primary teachers' beliefs about DAP, as well as between their actual classroom practices, with preschool teachers scoring higher on both measures.

3. DAP beliefs are the first predictor of DAP practices overall for the complete sample of primary and preschool teachers together, followed by internal locus of control.

4. In the case of the sub-sample of preschool teachers' practices, the best predictor was beliefs, followed by a second predictor, high personal teaching efficacy.

5. More "high" DAP teachers have early childhood or child development education in their backgrounds.

6. Primary teachers who have early childhood education degrees or elementary degrees in combination with preschool teaching experience score higher in DAP practices than those with elementary degrees and no preschool teaching experience.

Although significant relationships were found to exist among high personal teaching efficacy, internal locus of control, and DAP practices, it cannot be inferred that the opposite characteristics (i.e., low personal teaching efficacy and external locus of control) are related to inappropriate, or "low," DAP teachers. However, the positive relationship between high DAP scores and internal locus of control orientation found in this study makes sense if one considers the inverse to be true; that is, that low DAP scores are related to external locus of control. It is probably very difficult for an externally oriented person to work within a child-centered environment with a child-generated curriculum. Such a classroom may be inherently more challenging for an externally oriented person, because it requires continuous adaptation to an emergent curriculum and emphasizes personal responsibility of the learners in the environment. Such a teacher may tend to exert more external control over the environment than is co nsidered developmentally appropriate.

In terms of efficacy beliefs, data support the view that professionals who are more strongly DAP in practice are more efficacious about themselves as teachers and about teaching effects in general. These individuals are better able to allow others to be responsible for their own learning and to trust that learning will occur in their students. The teachers' own feelings of mastery and competence (high personal teaching efficacy) may make them more likely to take risks and be innovative in their teaching, which, in turn, is related to positive student outcomes. Even failures are not seen as failures by these highly efficacious teachers, but as opportunities to learn, grow, and try even harder next time (Fritz, Miller-Heyl, Kreutzer, & MacPhee, 1995). A word of caution is needed here, however. High personal efficacy may also be a trait of highly successful traditional teachers. In fact, it is quite likely that this is a trait possessed by all "successful" teachers.

Because locus of control may be contextually specific, the connection between DAP and locus of control may be partly explained by the particular school settings themselves. As in other studies (i.e., Bryant et al., 1991; Hatch & Freeman, 1988; Verma & Peters, 1975), preschool teachers were found to be more strongly DAP than most of their early primary colleagues. The preschool settings in the study were ones in which the teachers seemed to have greater personal freedom in designing and implementing their curricula than was evident in the public school sites. Anecdotally, several primary teachers voiced complaints to the researcher about their particular teaching situations, including, most prominently: perceived pressures concerning accountability to the school corporation and to the state for their students to demonstrate mastery of particular skills; the disruption to their instructional time caused by children going to "special" teachers for art, music, and physical education; and objections about individu al children and small groups of children being taken from the classroom at various times of the day for remedial reading instruction.

It is necessary to broaden the scope of future studies to look for more factors that may mediate between developmentally appropriate beliefs and practices. For instance, other factors such as parental/community involvement, administrative support, pupil control orientation, and overall job satisfaction should be examined. There is a need for a much larger, randomized sample of professionals in future testing, as well. It is possible that this sample was skewed toward the higher end of the DAP continuum, because these professionals may have been willing to have their practices observed by a university researcher who is well known in the surrounding community as a DAP advocate. It would be very important to look at similar personality traits in highly traditional teachers as well.

An important caveat should be noted in terms of the external validity of this study. The majority of preschool teachers in the United States do not have four-year college degrees, as did those who participated in this study. The results found herein may not extend to the typical caregiver in a child care setting, many of whom may only have a high school diploma and little or no additional training.

Another question that emerged from this study is, "What are the qualitative differences among teachers who are judged to engage in DAP practices?" In comparing notes with the second observer in this study, she and the primary researcher began noticing more subtle differences among the teachers whose practices scored as "high DAP," in terms of how they engaged with children, managed their classrooms, and facilitated literacy events. There is not, as one teacher put it, "a cookie cutter mold" that fits all DAP teachers.

Implications for Teacher Education

Evidence in the research literature suggests that DAP beliefs can be influenced by teacher education and professional development (Cassidy et al., 1995; McMullen, 1997, 1998; Wood et al., 1990). The direct relationships found in this study among DAP beliefs, DAP practices, efficacy beliefs., locus of control, and exposure to either early childhood education or work experiences with preschoolers is likewise encouraging, because these are all factors that are within our ability to influence. For example, researchers report positive results in helping teachers raise their personal teaching efficacy and in making their locus of control orientation more internal (Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Fritz et al., 1995; Guskey, 1984; lsenberg, 1990; Stanton, 1982). Fritz et al developed and tested an inservice professional development program that increases personal teaching efficacy and internal locus of control, the results of which can be sustained over time. In the case of self-efficacy, success seems to breed success (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Fritz et al., 1995 Sparks, 1988). Teachers with strong personal teaching efficacy take more risks, and try more innovative approaches, which tend to increase student achievement; this, in turn, makes teachers feel masterful and competent, which makes them take more risks, be more innovative, and so on.

Weber and Omotani (1994) suggest that inservice teachers' personal teaching efficacy can be raised by providing them with stronger administrative support and by encouraging collaboration and shared problem-solving experiences with successful colleagues. DiBella-McCarthy et al (995) also argue for stronger, more supportive relationships between administrators and teachers and they encourage the development of a positive mindset, in terms of realistic expectations of one's own abilities and those of one's students. Encouraging continuous reflection of oneself in practice and ongoing assessment of one's students is key to increasing the internality and raising efficacy among in service and preservice professionals (Goodman, 1988; Isenberg, 1990; Weber & Omotani, 1994). When early childhood education professionals reflect upon their practice, they can analyze the effects of their decisions and actions on students, and realize their impact on student success and failure. It is also important to help professionals discover strategies to deal constructively with student failure, something highly efficacious teachers have less trouble doing (Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Fritz et al., 1995; Weber & Omotani, 1994).

The findings that the higher DAP primary teachers were those who either had early childhood education or preschool work experience have direct implications for teacher education and professional development. It raises the question of whether or not traditional elementary education preparation is the best way to prepare teachers to work with young children in the early primary (kindergarten through 3rd grade) years. As professional standards continue to move toward thinking of education in terms of developmental levels (i.e., early childhood, middle childhood, early adolescence, etc.) rather than as specific grade levels, teacher educators and administrators need to reconceptualize personnel preparation programs to fit this new paradigm.

There is no question that teacher educators need to better prepare preservice teachers to enter the potentially stress-filled field of early childhood education, and to provide inservice professionals with more appropriate ongoing professional development, support, and resources to face those stressors. Several researchers have concluded that preservice and inservice development, programs that only emphasize new knowledge and/or skills, and that do not address teachers' self perceptions of competence, are doomed to be ineffective (Fritz et al., 1995; Greenwood et al., 1990; Ohlhausen, Meyerson, & Sexton, 1992; Sparks, 1988;

Stein & Wang, 1988). This current study provides some useful information in that regard by identifying some of teachers' characteristics that help them feel confident enough to engage in those DAP practices that are not always supported by parents, colleagues, and administrators. Further understanding of the influences on the development of appropriate beliefs held by the professionals who work with our young children, and of the factors that determine how they will practice, is critical for teacher educators and administrators of early childhood education programs and schools.

I would like to acknowledge Donald F. (Rick) McMullen for his continued support, technical assistance, and good humor throughout this and so many other projects.


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Table 1
Descriptive Statistics
by Instrument and
Variable Measured
Variable Measured               Instrument              Author
DAP Beliefs                  Teachers' Beliefs       Charlesworth
(self report--preschool)        & Practices         et al. (1991)
DAP Beliefs                  Primary Teachers'       Smith (1993)
(self report--primary)         Questionnaire
Combined Beliefs
DAP Practices               Classroom Practices         Hyson
(observed--preschool)            Inventory          et al. (1990)
DAP Practices                Scale of Primary      Burt & Sugawara
(observed--primary)         Classroom Practices         (1993)
Combined Practices
Efficacy                    Self-Efficacy Quiz     DiBella-McCarthy
                                                    et al. (1995)
1. high educational
2. low personal teaching
3. low educational
4. high personal teachin
Locus of Control          Locus of Control Scale       Sadowski
                               for Teachers         et al. (1982)
Trait Anxiety              Trait Scale of State-     Spielberger
                          Trait Anxiety Inventory       (1983)
Variable Measured           M       SD     Range     N or n
DAP Beliefs               84.67   7.02   72.9-93.6     9
(self report--preschool)
DAP Beliefs               71.67  12.45   55.6-89.7     11
(self report--primary)
Combined Beliefs          79.9   12.18   55.56-9.6     20
DAP Practices             85.23   9.06   63.5-98.9     9
DAP Practices             65.74  15.45  39.81-83.33    11
Combined Practices        76.25  18.95   35.2-98.9     20
1. high educational       32.17   3.24     25-38       20
2. low personal teaching  16.87   4.85     8-26
3. low educational        18.13   4.40     8-27
4. high personal teachin  33.00   3.21     26-39
Locus of Control          84.09   5.89     71-93       20
Trait Anxiety             66.82  10.16     42.79       20
Table 2
Pearson Correlation Results for
Non-Categorical Variables
                                     Variables Measured
Variables Measured                      2                     3
1.  High Educational Efficacy        0.47                a -.63
2.  Low Educational Efficacy           --                  -.35
3.  High Personal Teaching Efficacy                          --
4.  Low Personal Teaching Efficacy
5.  Locus of Control
6.  Trait Anxiety
7.  Primary Teachers Questionnaire
    (primary beliefs)
8.  Teachers' Beliefs & Practices
    (preschool beliefs)
9.  Scale of Primary Classroom
    Practices (primary beliefs)
10. Classroom Practices Inventory
    preschool practices)
Variables Measured                        4       5       6      7
1.  High Educational Efficacy        b -.50     .52     .26  a .44
2.  Low Educational Efficacy          b .53    -.44    -.07   -.36
3.  High Personal Teaching Efficacy   a .80     .40  a -.80    .05
4.  Low Personal Teaching Efficacy       --  a -.59  a -.70   -.19
5.  Locus of Control                             --     .31   -.20
6.  Trait Anxiety                                        --   -.22
7.  Primary Teachers Questionnaire                              --
    (primary beliefs)
8.  Teachers' Beliefs & Practices
    (preschool beliefs)
9.  Scale of Primary Classroom
    Practices (primary beliefs)
10. Classroom Practices Inventory
    preschool practices)
Variables Measured                        8      9      10
1.  High Educational Efficacy         a .59  b .48   b .49
2.  Low Educational Efficacy         b -.53   -.34    -.38
3.  High Personal Teaching Efficacy     .38    .13     .08
4.  Low Personal Teaching Efficacy   b -.58    .26    -.30
5.  Locus of Control                  a .70   a .6   b .55
6.  Trait Anxiety                       .32   -.07     .09
7.  Primary Teachers Questionnaire    a .57  a .69   a .69
    (primary beliefs)
8.  Teachers' Beliefs & Practices        --  a .73   a .76
    (preschool beliefs)
9.  Scale of Primary Classroom                  --  a -.85
    Practices (primary beliefs)
10. Classroom Practices Inventory                       --
    preschool practices)
Note. (a)Significant at p [less
than] .001;
(b)Significant at p [less than].05.
Table 3
Average Scores for Beliefs and Practices With Educational and
Employment Background
Subject  Current Teaching             a Total Years
         Experience &                   in field
         Professional Background
002      Primary--Always                   23
003      Primary--Always                    6
004      Primary--Formerly Preschool       16
007      Primary--Formerly Preschool        9
008      Primary--Always                    5
025      Primary--Always                   10
035      Preschool--Always                  4
036      Preschool--Always                 16
038      Preschool--Always                 15
039      Preschool--Always                  4
040      Preschool--Always                 10
043      Preschool--Always                 13
049      Preschool--Always                  4
051      Primary--Always                    4
053      Primary--Always                   12
060      Preschool--Always                 14
062      Preschool--Formerly Primary        6
063      Primary--Always                    6
065      Primary--Always                   30
067      Primary--Always                   25
Subject  b Early Childhood or    DAP       DAP
         Child Development     Beliefs  Practices
002      None                   55.6      39.8
003      None                   82.5      63.9
004      Yes c (grad credits)   89.7      94.4
007      None                   82.5      83.3
008      None                   56.4      35.2
025      Yes (B.A. + M.S.)      88.9      59.3
035      Yes d (B.A. +)         92.9      98.9
036      Yes c (grad credits)   93.6      98.7
038      Yes c (grad credits)   83.9      95.2
039      Yes (M.A.)             72.9      83.7
040      Yes (B.S.)             81.4      94.2
043      Yes e (CDA)            88.2      90.4
049      Yes d (B.S. +)         92.1      87.5
051      Yes (B.S. + M.S.)      82.5      75.0
053      None                   76.2      68.5
060      Yes e (CDA)            92.1      87.9
062      Yes (M.S.)             78.5      63.6
063      None                   59.5      65.7
065      None                   61.6      58.3
067      Yes (M.S.)             82.5      79.6
Note. All scores reported above are out of 100 total points,
(a)Total years in career,
(b)Bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child
(c)Indicates [greater than] 12 graduate credits in early childhood
education or child development,
(d)Bachelor's degree in early childhood education or child
development, plus some additional related college level work,
(e)Bachelor's degree outside of education, plus a child
development associates credential (CDA)
Table 4
Results of Chi-Square Comparison of Overall DAP Practices
and Educational/Employment Background
                                      DAP Practices Scores
                                      a Low                 b High
Early Childhood/Child Development     n = 3                 n = 11
Education and/or Preschool Teaching
No Early Childwood/Child Development  n = 6                 n = 0
Education and No Preschool Teaching
Note. [[chi].sup.2] (1, N = 20) = 7.74, p = .005, (a) "Low" DAP
practices is defined as [less than or equal to] 76.25 (the average DAP
practices score), (b)"High" DAP practices were those scores
[greater than] 76.25
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