Examining Teachers' Attitudes and Beliefs towards Messages for Teaching Geography in K-12 Education from Leaders in Geographic Education
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Geographic education leadership includes members of academia, non-profit professional organizations, for-profit geographic and environmental companies, and the government. This leadership disseminates numerous messages to a variety of publics, one key public being K-12 geography teachers. These gatekeepers of geographic education messages disseminate said messages through formal and informal means. There is a lack of uniformity in the dissemination of these messages and often teachers are left unaware of new messages.
This dissertation examines the content of messages disseminated by professional organizations in geography during the modern era of geographic education (1984 to present). Additionally, it evaluates teacher responses to an online survey distributed to geography teachers in Texas and a voluntary subset of that group who participated in phone interviews elaborating upon answers provided in the online survey. A “Theorized Process of Communication between Information Disseminated by Geographic Education Leaders and Acceptance/Action by K-12 Classroom Teachers of Geography” was developed to serve as the theoretical framework for this study. From these analyses and the theoretical framework, six research objectives were addressed including (1) the extent to which teachers “hear” messages, (2) the degree to which teachers “understand” messages, (3) the degree to which teachers “believe” messages, (4) the degree to which teachers “perceive” messages to be relevant to their teaching, (5) the degree to which teachers “confirm” messages with colleagues, and (6) the degree of “acceptance” of messages.
This study finds that some messages are heard more so than others. Some teachers passively seek messages while more teachers actively seek messages related to geographic education. Teachers report most messages are understandable and trustworthy. Findings also reveal some teachers are industrious in their efforts to improve their teaching, indicating they perceive change to be a good thing, while others are less than industrious in their efforts, content to maintain the status quo. Confirmation of messages is apparent as teachers share new messages with their colleagues. Teachers actions related to messages are mixed as they incorporate messages when possible, but also reveal long-term philosophical shift recommendations are beyond their control or are irrelevant to their day-to-day teaching. Lastly, this study provides introductory models aimed to predict more successful message dissemination and acceptance.