Date of Award



© 2021 Heather Rockwell

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Cynthia Kennedy

Second Advisor

Aniello Trotta

Third Advisor

Anita Stewart McCafferty


Rural elementary math teachers often lack a background in mathematics and even those with a strong mathematics background can sometimes struggle to model elementary math concepts (Holm & Kajander, 2019). Professional development (PD) provides teachers with an opportunity to increase their knowledge and skills while in the field. Although there are clear guidelines of what constitutes high-quality PD, not all PD achieves the same outcomes for teachers and students. The purpose of this qualitative descriptive case study was to understand PD experiences from the viewpoint of the rural elementary teachers, specifically the ways the PD experiences impact teacher efficacy and beliefs around mathematics instruction and learning. Eight elementary teachers from a rural district participated in the study. Three research questions guided the descriptive case study: (1) How do PD experiences impact rural elementary teachers’ beliefs about their abilities to teach mathematics? (2) How do PD experiences impact rural elementary teachers’ efficacy in regards to mathematics instruction? and (3) How do rural elementary teachers describe how PD impacts their perception of mathematics instruction? To answer these questions, data were collected with two rounds of semi-structured interviews, a classroom observation of each participant, and shared artifacts such as notes or classroom products.

Themes that emerged from the data, leading to recommendations. Teachers revealed that collegial interactions in the form of observations and conversations helped them gain confidence in their abilities to teach math. They noted that PD experiences could have a positive or negative impact on their beliefs in their abilities to teach math. Participants disclosed that, when tools and strategies were easily implemented, they gained confidence and enthusiasm about their abilities to impact student achievement. PD sessions were most effective when facilitated by someone who took time to build trust and rapport with teachers. This study found that PD does impact rural teachers’ beliefs and teacher efficacy, teachers want to share their experiences, and a culture of trust is essential for continuous improvement. It is recommended for those who are responsible for providing PD to listen to the needs of their teachers when designing it and incorporate all key components of effective PD experiences.


Ed.D. Dissertation