Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Educational Practice

Date of Defense

8-15-2016

Graduate Advisor

Brenda Light Bredemeier, PhD.

Committee

Althof, Wolfgang

Shields, David

Althof, Wolfgang

Berkowitz, Marvin

Abstract

Structures in schools often fail to support and encourage students to be active agents in their own learning. Self-determination theory (SDT) provides a theoretical framework for educational reform intending to encourage empowering supports for teachers and students. The purpose of this Dissertation in Practice (DIP) project was to design and implement an autonomy-supportive professional development (PD) model and to test the efficacy of this PD model to enhance teachers’ intentions and motivations to support their students’ autonomy. This dissertation presents a quasi-experimental study utilizing two intact groups of teachers at two different elementary schools. The PD model was intended to be need supportive of the teachers (process) in terms of delivery and aimed to increase teachers’ knowledge and understanding (content) of providing students with autonomy supports. Teachers in the comparison group participated in standard PD. This autonomy-supportive PD model aimed to increase teachers’ intentions and motivations to provide students with autonomy supports in the classroom. Self-reports from teachers were gathered in the form of interviews and surveys to learn about the teachers’ understanding of autonomy-supportive schooling and their experiences during the PD. While the survey results were not conclusive, an analysis of the interview data revealed four categories impacting the teachers’ intentions and motivations to provide autonomy-supports for students: (1) intrinsic motivation, (2) trusting adult culture, (3) district and building alignment, and (4) dealing with diverse needs. Furthermore, a content analysis was conducted of participants’ statements about and appraisals of the professional development (PD). The qualitative data analyses shed light on how the PD impacted the teachers and provided anecdotal evidence of their intentions and motivations to become more aligned with autonomy-supportive practice. Importantly, these teachers were motivated to learn and practice pedagogy aligned with autonomy-supportive processes along with an openness and willingness to become more autonomy-supportive in their classrooms.

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