All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Lynn Kirkland

Advisory Committee Members

Ann Dominick

Linda Kay Emfinger

Jenna Lachenaye

Fran Perkins

Deborah Strevy

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) School of Education


The purpose of this grounded theory study was to explore the most significant experiences in preparation for becoming early childhood/elementary educators, as perceived by teacher candidates and recent graduates of one southeastern university, school of education. This research study, conducted from a constructivist theoretical lens, and using a grounded theory methodology, sought to answer three research questions. First, what are the significant experiences, as perceived by recent graduates, from one southeastern school of education, in preparation for the multifaceted role of today's early childhood/elementary generalist? Secondly, what are the most significant experiences, as perceived by current teacher candidates involved in one urban summer enrichment program, in preparation for the multifaceted role of today's early childhood/elementary generalist? Finally, what effect will a constructivist field experience, incorporated in one urban summer enrichment program, have on closing the university/school divide for recent graduates of one southeastern university early childhood/elementary teacher certification program? The researcher conducted interviews, document analyses, and classroom observations using a purposeful sampling strategy. Emergent theory, grounded in participant responses, formed an inductive coding process. Five key categories identifying the contributing factors for authentic learning experiences to support early childhood/elementary education teacher candidates established a substantive level theory. These categories included opportunities for observing, learning, collaborating, practicing, and reflecting. The identified key categories are present individually in courses throughout the required early childhood/elementary certification program, but these isolated learning experiences do not support a holistic learning experience. Study participants involved in a constructivist field experience, a summer enrichment program in one urban elementary school, identified significant experiences from all five categories within the context of the summer program. This constructivist field experience facilitated a more holistic learning experience through the interconnected nature of the key categories to support Learning for Practice and Practice for Learning. The critical context afforded through the summer enrichment program provided a rich opportunity for teacher candidates to construct their own beliefs about teaching and learning while engaging in the complex role of the early childhood/elementary generalist. This theory of teacher preparation has implications relevant to theory development, research, and teacher education reform practices.

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