School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Linda Gable


standardized tests, instructional practices, teacher evaluation, pacing guides, curriculum framework, state mandates, cognitive flexibility theory




The purpose of this qualitative transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of middle school teachers in a standardized testing environment. Using Spiro, Feltovich, and Coulson’s theory of cognitive flexibility as a theoretical framework, this study sought to answer the central question: What are the experiences of middle grade teachers in a standardized testing environment? Sub-questions sought to understand how and why middle school teachers adjust instructional practices in a standardized testing environment. A purposeful criterion sampling followed by snowball sampling was used to select participants with the shared lived experience of teaching in a standardized testing environment from four middle schools within a single rural southwest Virginia school district. Data was collected through a writing prompt, interviews, and focus group interviews. Data analysis occurred through epoché phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and describing the essence of the lived experience. The study revealed that teachers perceived this environment limits their ability to adjust instructional practices to meet the needs of the students, fosters feelings of resentment regarding the teacher evaluation process, and introduces concerns on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the standardized testing environment as the continued focus of instruction in this environment is the end-of-course standardized assessment.

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