Influences on teacher decision-making in correctional education classrooms
Messemer, Jonathan E.
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The focus of most empirical studies on correctional education pertains to the inmates. The purpose of this study was to understand better the dimensions of influence that affect the instructional decision-making of correctional education teachers. This study measured two broad dimensions of influence: interpersonal dimensions of influence (prison administrators, correctional officers, other correctional educators, and inmates) and contextual dimensions of influence (classroom characteristics and security/safety). In addition, this study measured the level of power correctional education teachers believed that they had to make instructional decisions in the classroom. This study used a self-completed questionnaire that was mailed to correctional education teachers throughout the United States who held membership in the Correctional Education Association. This study received a random sample of 427 completed questionnaires from correctional education teachers from 38-states, with a 69.3% rate of response. The findings suggest that five dimensions of influence had a positive affect on the teachers’ instructional decisions in a prison facility. The rank order of the five positive dimensions of influence include (1) security/safety, (2) classroom characteristics, (3) other correctional educators, (4) inmates, and (5) prison administrators. The sixth dimension of influence, correctional officers, was found not to have a positive influence on the correctional teachers’ instructional decisions. A simple regression analysis suggests that the other correctional educator dimension of influence was a statistically significant predictor of the correctional teachers’ power to make instructional decisions in the classroom. In addition, the correctional officer dimension of influence was statistically significant in not having an affect upon the correctional teachers’ power to make instructional decisions in the classroom. A disjoint cluster analysis was used to group the correctional teachers into five distinct cluster types in relation to the six dimensions of influence. Among the five cluster types, the teachers are characterized by (1) high administrative influence, (2) high classroom influence and low administrative and correctional officer influence, (3) high overall influence, (4) low correctional officer, inmate, and classroom influences, and (5) very low overall influence. Finally, this study identified fifteen statistically significant independent variable predictors among the six dimensions of influence. The gender of the correctional education teachers was a statistically significant independent variable predictor of four dimensions of influence. The findings suggests that the four dimensions of influence, security/safety, classroom characteristics, other correctional educators, and inmates, affect the instructional decision-making for the female teachers and not for the male teachers.