Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-8-2017


This ethngoraphic study investigates how multigrade elementary school teachers in the central-northern mountains of Nicaragua developed and used shared societal, institutional and individual belief systems and knowledge to both understand and decide if, how, when and with whom to act upon the government’s values education curriculum and mandates. To understand teacher use of overlapping beliefs systems, the research provided parallel ethnographic accounts of teachers’, parents’ and government officials’ interpretations and actions regarding values education. The findings suggest that teachers used a wide panorama of overlapping and often contradictory beliefs systems in addition to beliefs about teaching and learning in general and values in particular, values content, students and families. Broader beliefs systems, often deemed unrelated to schooling, included political party identity, beliefs about Nicaraguan government leaders, religious faith, and patriotic sentiments, all of which the government embedded in the values curriculum. Teachers who used a small set of beliefs systems inflexibly tended to prioritize institutional beliefs and knowledge to guide their practice, particularly compliance. Understanding interactions among overlapping macro and micro beliefs and knowledge systems leads to a holistic understanding of the multiple beliefs and knowledge systems teachers drew upon in their practice. It provides a greater understanding of how teachers negotiated societal and institutional beliefs systems and knowledge with their own. Further research is necessary regarding the panorama of beliefs systems teachers regularly negotiate in different content areas and settings, and how externally imposed beliefs systems and knowledge (e.g., through curriculum, policy and mandates) work in conjunction with individual teacher cognitions to guide teacher practice.


teacher beliefs, teacher knowledge, teacher practice, values education, multigrade schooling, Central America

Document Type




Degree Name

Educational Psychology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Committee Member (Chair)

Jay Parkes, Educational Psychology

Second Committee Member

Jan Armstrong, Educational Psychology

Third Committee Member

Tryphenia Peele-Eady, Language, Literacy and Socio-Cultural Studies

Fourth Committee Member

Ruth Trinidad Galván, Language, Literacy and Socio-Cultural Studies