Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy ETDs


Gael Keyes

Publication Date



One of the most challenging aspects of teaching and studying teaching is that the domain of teaching is so complex. This complexity has made it difficult for teachers to design curriculum and critique that evolving curriculum through ongoing reconsideration and revision in order to improve the effectiveness of instruction. An alternative curricular/instructional construct, called Modes of Engagement, was created and has been sustained for 24 years, by the principal and faculty at Desert Willow Family School, a K-8 Albuquerque Public Schools' alternative school. The Modes of Engagement, as they are employed in the teaching of mathematics at Family School, are explored in this study, from their origins to their current iterations. By designing the mathematics curriculum in segments that reflect varying purposes, and simultaneously matching the modes' instructional practices to these purposes, students at the school have flourished in mathematics while experiencing themselves as mathematicians. This self-study's autobiography and document analysis will reveal how these modes have stood up to the testing pressures and restrictive views of content driven by accountability based on the mandated testing under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). There were consequences for our students under this testing pressure. Within the two to three-year gap of having discontinued two of the school's math modes, students lost the ability to deal with ambiguity, challenges, tolerance for multiple methods, and enthusiasm for learning. This study reveals the evolution of the Modes of Engagement, including the ways in which their development and implementation has been influenced by both internal and external forces of the school. The Modes of Engagement offer a unique framework for considering school-based curriculum design; the history of the evolution of the Modes offers insight into the forces that foster or impede teacher initiative in curriculum design.


curriculum and Instruction, math education, NCLB, Modes of Engagement, community of learners, teacher as designer, school of Choice

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy

First Advisor

Torres-Velásquez, Diane

First Committee Member (Chair)

Tyson, Kersti

Second Committee Member

Preskill, Stephen

Third Committee Member

Svihla, Vanessa