Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)
Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)
This dissertation examines the term legal literacy as it applies to the education field and looks at the legal literacy of educators across the country. The dissertation is organized into three separate papers. Paper 1 is a review of the research literature on the legal literacy of educators in the United States and how educators develop legal literacy, as well as the legal issues and mandates required for educators related to English Learners. Paper 1 ends with a definition of legal literacy as it pertains to the fields of education and law. Paper 2 is an in-depth data analysis of the types of law courses that are offered in teacher preparation and administrator preparation programs across the United States, the District of Columbia and the United States territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Paper 3 provides a comprehensive professional development plan that can be delivered to districts to support and increase the legal literacy of educators. The paper will include a complete learning module on developing the legal literacy of educators as it pertains to English Learners. The literature review provides several definitions of legal literacy as it relates to the fields of education and law. It also identifies a need for more law courses to be embedded into teacher preparation programs across the United States. Several studies found that a majority of teachers who go through formal teacher preparation programs do not have the legal knowledge necessary to be successful in their careers. As a result, many of the legal issues that educators and districts face come from a lack of knowledge or from incorrect knowledge of the law as it pertains to student and teacher rights. Finally, the literature review and analysis assisted in the development of a common definition of legal literacy in education. For Paper 2 was developed with the collaboration of a team of five other researchers to look at colleges and universities in the United States, the District of Columbia and the United States territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam in order to determine the number of educator preparation programs that require law courses. The country was divided into federal Circuits and each state in the circuit was analyzed. Every college or university that offered a teacher and/or an administrator preparation program was looked at. Each program's curriculum and course descriptions were analyzed in order to ascertain if a law course was a required component of the program. All data was collected on a shared spreadsheet, and then it was coded for each school, each state and then each Circuit. Findings of the study indicated that there is a lack of required law courses at the undergraduate level for teacher preparation across all Circuits in the United States. Further, almost all graduate level administrator preparation programs required at least one law course as part of the curriculum. This validated previous research that there is a need for more law courses at the undergraduate teacher preparation level in order to increase the legal literacy of teachers in the field. Paper 3 utilizes the information gathered from Papers 1 and 2 to develop a comprehensive professional development plan on legal issues and laws that can be delivered in districts in Illinois. The professional development plan includes an entire module on English Learners and is designed to provide teachers and administrators with the necessary legal knowledge that is critical to the education of English Learners in their schools and classrooms. Along with the professional development module, Paper 3 includes a logic model that demonstrates the outcomes of the professional development series. The overall intention of the professional development is to ensure that all educators have a strong foundational knowledge of the laws that impact their rights, student rights, and the instruction and educational programming for all students in the district. The long-term impacts will be such that there will be an increase in the legal literacy of educators and less litigation in the future since teachers will have a better understanding of the laws surrounding their professional practice.
Leonard, Ariana L., "An investigation into The Legal Literacy of Educators: A Professional Development Approach" (2021). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 7292.
Northern Illinois University
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