Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


First Advisor

Dr. Wendy M. Smith

Second Advisor

Dr. Lorraine M. Males

Date of this Version

Fall 10-2020


Katt, S. (2020). Gaining insight into the development of mathematics teacher leaders in primary grades: A multi-case study. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning), Under the Supervision of Professors Wendy M. Smith and Lorraine M. Males. Lincoln, Nebraska: October 2020.

Copyright © 2020 Susan K. Katt


Teacher leaders have the potential to influence improved instructional practice for mathematics within elementary schools and thereby student performance. Lamentably, an insufficient number of elementary classroom teachers, specifically those who teach kindergarten, first, and second grades, participate actively in a teacher leader role, which positively impacts teaching and learning mathematics. Therefore, an examination of how professional development plays a role in cultivating new teacher leaders proves to be critical.

In this qualitative multi-case study, I examined a structured professional development opportunity for K–2 teachers designed to promote their leadership. All participants were full-time classroom teachers within an urban, Midwestern public school district. The focal questions of this study were: What opportunities and contextual factors do K2 teacher leaders identify as contributing to their growth as mathematics teacher leaders in mathematics? and In what ways does a structured professional learning opportunity promote mathematics teacher leadership in K2 teachers? The data analyzed included pre- and post-surveys, written constructed responses, transcripts from semi-structured interviews, field notes from one-on-one meetings, reflective journals, and artifacts obtained during the study.

The analysis in this study suggests K–2 teachers identify opportunities and contextual factors that contribute to their growth as teacher leaders of mathematics. Findings suggest primary teacher leaders in mathematics generally have had a personal experience navigating productive struggle as learners of mathematics and have supportive building administrators. In addition, primary teacher leaders view leadership positively and characterize themselves as a leader. I also found a structured professional learning opportunity promotes leadership in K–2 teachers in these ways: (1) the learning experience contributes to growth, (2) professional resources contribute to a deepened understanding of mathematics pedagogy, (3) self-directed professional learning increases learning, and (4) opportunities for strengthening professional networks.

Advisors: Wendy M. Smith & Lorraine M. Males