Victor A. Montemurro   
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Comprehensive Doctoral
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The School of Education and Human Services

St. John's University


Research Interest Areas

The discussion below represents my original study plan of action for a possible dissertation presented as part of my portfolio comprehensive examination on December 3, 2004. These ideas have developed over time beginning as a written focus in the qualitative course with Professor Dunlop but originating informally in my role as a classroom teacher and staff developer who demonstrates support and care with colleagues, particularly new colleagues, guiding and directing their efforts at improving instruction and student learning.

Over the past three years my oldest daughter has pursued a career in teaching and I have served as a mentor to her discussing her role as a classroom teacher several times a week. During this year, 2004-2005, I serve formally as a mentor to a new, young teacher of English in the high school of my school district. Considering the dispositions of beginning teachers seemed only natural to me as a result of my personal and professional experiences and subsequent reading.

My interest in teachers' experiences is fueled by a passion and love of teaching and young people. I imagine and I wish that circumstances in schools were such that students and new teachers could readily experience the care, support, and encouragement they deserve. I hope for schools that are constructivist and collaborative so that teachers and students may learn and grow through authentic, personally meaningful shared experiences based on trust, respect, and care.

I am convinced that the learning represented below may easily be folded into a new conceptual framework as recommended by Professor Hughes and Professor McGuire that provides a lens for looking at the passion and care of the late-career teacher in the professional learning community.

My original  research interest and possible dissertation:

How does a beginning teacher understand and experience teacher leadership?
Of what value is teacher leadership to a beginning teacher?

Beginning teachers have limited ways to develop a disposition about school leadership in the professional community and may be excluded from the professional community as a result. Novice teachers enter the profession with little or no notion of themselves as potential teacher leaders. So burdened and isolated are new teachers that see little opportunity to view leadership as a value (Johnson, 2004).

For beginning teachers, school micropolitics is a challenging complexity that often acts as an impediment toward developing a disposition about teacher leadership in the professional community. School micropolitics may also ease the path to membership in the professional community. The goal of teacher leadership in the professional community is to improve teaching and increase student achievement. Beginning teachers may be included or excluded from membership in the school’s professional community depending on the micropolitics that influences how they develop a disposition towards teacher leadership.

The intention of a possible study may be to understand beginning teachers’ dispositions (Johnson, 2004) toward the goal of teacher leadership (Lambert, et al, 2002). The nature and process of the political discourse in discussing interests and decisions (Stone, 1997) and power (Blase & Anderson, 1995, Blase, Ed., 1991) are problems to which solutions may be discovered to be relational trust (Bryk & Schneider, 2002) in the functional learning community (Senge, 2000, 1990, Newmann & Wehlage, 1995)

I see understanding the work of Sarason and Popkewitz is also important to this potential study. Sarason (1990) writes about the intractable nature of schools to the reform process and the power relationships among administrators within the schools. Popkewitz (1982) has studied the effect of school reform on the culture of a school. Beginning teachers develop dispositions toward school leadership within the school culture which is based, in part, on the political processes that occur in the school.

Any understanding of the problem of beginning teachers' dispositions towards teacher leadership might consider the nature of power in the political environment of the school and the nature of trust in the professional learning community, as represented in the graphic below, in forming beginning teachers' dispositions toward teacher leadership.

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The problem of the study to be considered is that beginning teachers have no way or limited ways to develop a disposition about teacher leadership in the professional community and, at the onset of their careers, may be excluded from the professional community as a result.

Possible Research Questions:

1.     What do beginning teachers say about teacher leadership?

2.     What are the goals of teacher leadership for beginning teachers?

3.     How do beginning teachers view their role in the professional community?

4.     What are the advantages and opportunities of teacher leadership for beginning teachers as they view teacher leadership? 

5.     What are the problems, disadvantages, or obstacles of teacher leadership from the viewpoint of beginning teachers?

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How could the problem of beginning teacher's dispositions toward teacher leadership be studied?

My dream methodology would be one of mixed methods. I hope to survey a large number of beginning teachers across Long Island or Suffolk County, and then interview several beginning teachers and/or create a focus group of beginning teachers who could meet in each other's presence to tell stories about school leadership and teacher leadership. I imagine that I could use the survey data descriptively and comparatively with certain appropriate statistical measures.

The survey data might include beginning teachers general dispositions toward their experiences and toward school leadership and the professional community. Dr. Gerald M. Mager has developed, for the New York State Education Department of Education, a survey entitled "Beginning Teachers' Views-of-Self." Katzenmeyer and Moller (2001) have a readiness for teacher leadership survey in their text that might be used.

The narratives that might develop from interview, follow-up interview, and/or focus group would reveal a different kind of data that would require qualitative analysis. The qualitative results would be used to assist in explaining and interpreting the quantitative results. This mixed method approach to research design is known as a sequential explanatory strategy (Creswell, 2003).

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Theorists and Related Concepts:

Power-over, Power-through, & Power With:
Blase & Anderson, (1995).

School Micropolitics:
Blase, Ed., (1991).

Relational Trust:
Bryk, A. S. & Schneider, B. (2002).

Research Design & Mixed Methods:
Creswell, J.W. (2003).

Building a New Structure for School Leadership:
Elmore, R. (2002).

Helping New Teachers:
Johnson, S. M.(2004).

Teacher Leadership:
Katzenmeyer & Moller (2001).

Constructivist Leadership:
Lambert, et al, (2002).

School Response to a Program of Change:
Popkewitz, T.S., Tabachnick, B.R., & Wehlage, G. (1982).

The Problem of Change in Schools; the Intractability of School Culture; Altering Power Relationships
Sarason, S. B. (1996, 1990, 1982, 1971)

Learning Organizations:
Senge, P. (1990).

Schools That Learn:
Senge, P. (2000). 

Political Strategic Representation:
Stone, D. (1997).

Successful School Restructuring:
Newmann, F. & Wehlage, G. G. (1995).

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Additional Areas of Ongoing Interest

bulletFamily Systems Theory as an Organizational Culture Metaphor

I am a product, so to speak, of both study and experience with regard to family systems theory. A course at the graduate level and reading supplemented years of family therapy at critical points in my life. Understanding one's self in relationship to one's family of origin can only lead to personal mastery. In family theory, individuation is the process of differentiating from one's family of origin and understanding the patterns of behavior learned in the formative years in the family. A differentiated individual functions as a separate self whose behavior and decisions are not affected by the anxiety that is often associated with family of origin relationships. Recently, I have received  books from the Georgetown Family Center that apply Bowen family system theory to organizations. The family systems frame could be added to the collection of frameworks studied particularly for the leader's self-study of his relationship to the organization.

Sagar, R.R. & Wiseman, K.K. (1982). Understanding organizations: Applications of Bowen family system theory. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Family Center.

Comella, P.A., Bader, J., Ball, J.S., Wiseman, K.K., & Sagar, R.R., Eds. (1996). The emotional side of organizations: Applications of Bowen theory. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Family Center.

bulletTechnology and Technology Integration in Education

Before entering the St. John's program, and while I was working for my school district as a technology staff developer, I completed four graduate level courses in the SUNY Stony Brook Department of Technology and Society that focused on educational computing. Initially, I thought that my research would be in this area. I maintain an active interest in computers and education and hope to return to this research area some day.

Kafai, Y. & Resnick, M. (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Research Interest Areas
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"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty."
   --Albert Einstein


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