Teaching and learning v. "doing school": the Impact of rigorous curriculum on student development

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Teaching and learning v. "doing school": the Impact of rigorous curriculum on student development

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


italic>I think what I learned in the IB [International Baccalaureate] program...well, in a way I felt like - have you read Great Expectations? When Pip gets the stipend from the mysterious person and he's walking out and the clouds are lifting up and he can see all the possibilities - that's how I felt with the IB program.</italic> -Student reflection on experience as an IB student Schools are faced with many challenges, with the most emphasis on increasing student performance. This challenge cannot be met without thoughtful consideration around the actual meaning of increasing student performance. Traditionally, increasing student performance translates to increasing student test scores across sub-groups school-wide as related to state mandated standards-based assessments. This study posits, however, that by increasing the curricular rigor offered to students in urban high schools, student performance improves in the short-term through student achievement while also improving student satisfaction in the long term by more aptly preparing students to perform in the post-secondary environment. This very notion of student growth, achievement, and success is nestled within the threads of thoughtful and sustainable program design and arguably - most critically - the power and impact of quality teaching. The argument that students will flourish and thrive when placed in an instructional environment that is simultaneously supportive and challenging is not a groundbreaking discovery. The balance that is required within program design and the support required for teachers to be able to create that environment for students is more difficult to define and even harder still to measure. Therefore, the focus for this research study is the beginning of a larger-scale grounded theory study that will examine several school models grounded in impacting student achievement through rigorous curriculum and the program supports needed in order to create that space for student success. The research in this first installment looks at the role of the rigorous curricular model, International Baccalaureate; the impact of distributed leadership; and the sustainability of program design for organizational change in reference to student success and growth. Through the process of interviewing, forty-three subjects (4 principals, 4 program coordinators, 15 teachers, and 20 students) were asked to identify the most impactful experiences that they have had throughout the development of the International Baccalaureate program at Meadow Brook High School, an urban school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This research illustrates the perspective of program development and organizational change from the practitioners' point of view. Included in this investigation is how teachers view distributed leadership in their settings as well as the behaviors and supports they associate with it. Also included in this investigation is overall the impact that program design and implementation ultimately has on the overall success and development of students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed for themes. A grounded theory approach was utilized in the analysis to bring forth the prominent themes. Upon the themes, further analysis was drawn and implications will be shared. There were three major findings from the study, which help to inform the field of education on distributed leadership, access to rigor for students of minority or limited socio-economic opportunity, as well as the impacts that rigor can have for these students. First, defining distributed leadership as it is related to program sustainability is a complex process. There is some evidence, however, to suggest that distributed leadership influences the satisfaction and perceived value of stakeholders, which by association informs and furthers sustainability. Second, according to the students and staff members interviewed, the major skills impacting student development for the learners engaged in the rigors of the International Baccalaureate Program at Meadow Brook were self-advocacy, organizational management, and skills for critical analysis. Third, the identification of the elements most critical to student learning and engagement of students in the IB at Meadow Brook cannot be answered in a quantitative measure. The answer rather is presented through the qualitative experience and growth that occurs for students through the supports created for them and the rigor of the curriculum.


University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. July 2013. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Dr. Karen Seashore. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 120 pages, appendices 1-3.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Jarva, Carly Kristin. (2013). Teaching and learning v. "doing school": the Impact of rigorous curriculum on student development. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/158481.

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.