Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Past research has shown that learner-centered environments can improve students' self-esteem and increase their academic skills. The purpose of this study was to determine whether teaching the core curriculum within a caring classroom environment increases students ability to communicate effectively and perform at higher achievement levels in writing. The study addressed the experiences of teachers in implementing a new writing program with a strong emphasis on social skill development as a precursor to good writing. Guided by the social learning theories of Dewey, Rogers, and Vygotsky, who contended that social interaction is vital to the development of cognition, a qualitative case study was undertaken consisting of individual interviews with 15 teachers at 6 elementary schools in southwestern Connecticut. Data were collected to address the extent to which a caring community of students can foster positive academic outcomes. Data were analyzed and coded to discover common themes. Results showed that teachers perceived that the social skills taught through the program did increase students writing skills. In addition, students had better listening skills and were more comfortable taking academic risks. This finding supports past social learning theories. Based on these findings, 3 days of professional learning workshops were created with the goals of building student-teacher relationships, creating learner-centered environments, and curtailing bullying. Equipping teachers with this resource will help to create social change by helping students become better communicators in a diverse society, increasing their graduation rates, and preparing them to enter the global workforce of the 21st century.