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Influence Of Education Journals On The Classroom Practice Of California Public High School Department Heads

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Problem. Whether high school department heads were stimulated by professional journals to effect classroom change was an unanswered question. Needed was description of the effects of journal literature on the practice of leader-teachers in high school classrooms. Purpose. The study had companion purposes. The first was to discern the impact of journal reading on classroom practice as perceived by the high school department head practitioners themselves. The second was to describe the characteristics of the high school department heads whose practice had been influenced by the journals. Procedures. One thousand two hundred sixty-four California high school English, mathematics, physical education, science, and social science department heads were identified for a stratified random sample surveyed by mail by means of a forty-item, pilot-tested questionnaire originated by the investigator. Two subsamples were randomly selected for comparison, a subsample consisting of heads of other departments and a subsample composed of non-respondents to the original mailing. Data were coded, electronically processed, and tabulated. Data analysis employed descriptive procedures for the most part. Inferential treatment was the one-way analysis of variance and the Modified Least Significant Differences Test at the .05 level of significance. Findings. The 549 completed questionnaires (43.4 percent of the sample) enabled the study's questions to be answered and hypotheses to be tested, comparisons of findings with research literature to be made, and conclusions to be drawn. The influence of education journals on the classroom practice of high school department heads was found to be modest, with slightly more than a fifth of the department heads reporting journal influence on their practice. Science department heads exhibited somewhat more journal-influenced classroom change effect than did other department heads. Social science heads reported least. Journal-influenced changes cited were chiefly in the areas of curriculum design and techniques of teaching, as contrasted with other areas reported, such as discipline, motivation, instructional grouping, materials of teaching, public information, etc. Nearly all reported changes could be classified as practical rather than theoretical. Department heads cited the journals of their own disciplines as having most direct, practical value in their classroom practice. The journals of science showed the highest mean of attributed influence for any subject matter journals. Other journals influencing practice both directly and indirectly included the publications of the educator advocacy organizations. Department head membership in journal-publishing professional organizations appeared to be associated with reported changes in practice. Department heads most favored discussion as their mode of curriculum information sharing with colleagues; they least favored for this purpose the circulation of copies of journal articles. Most cited colleagues as their main source of information about curriculum. Characteristics of the journal-influenced department head included journal influence as the dominant change stimulus, relative recency in leadership, a high degree of innovativeness, good to excellent self-assessed reading ability, and membership in subject matter professional associations and educator advocacy organizations. Subsamples provided no contrasting data. Recommendations. (1) The processes should be studied by which journal-influenced classroom change is implemented; (2) editors of journals should conduct periodic needs assessments of professionals in the fields served by the journals; and (3) colleagues and their information sources on whom department heads and other teachers apparently rely for much of their curriculum information should be identified and their communication patterns within schools analyzed and characterized.

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