Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Administration

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brenda Light Bredemeier


David Light Shields

Marvin Berkowitz

Wolfgang Althof


Adult practices and school systems disempower students when they stifle student voice and choice and focus on punishment rather than restorative practices. When teachers use autonomy supports in their classrooms, they promote student empowerment. The purpose of this Dissertation in Practice (DIP) was to create, implement and assess professional development (PD) designed to positively influence teachers’ orientations toward supporting student autonomy. This dissertation presents a quasi-experimental study utilizing an experimental and comparison group of teachers from two different elementary schools. Both groups participated in PD. PD was designed for the experimental group to study student empowerment through autonomy supports and restorative practices. Teachers in the comparison group participated in sessions centered on positive behavior supports. The Problems in Schools (PIS) questionnaire was administered as a pre-and post- PD survey, and was also used as a follow-up survey six months later for the experimental group. Qualitative data were collected from the experimental group through open-ended questions embedded in the post- and follow-up surveys. Quantitative analysis indicated that after teachers participated in the empowerment PD, their support of controlling behaviors decreased but their endorsements of autonomy supports did not increase. This could be due to the prior work the experimental school had done with character education, autonomy, belonging, and competence. Qualitative analysis indicated that teachers described themselves as responding to the experimental PD by implementing more opportunities for student voice and choice and offering more restorative responses to student misbehaviors.

Keywords: empowerment, autonomy supports, restorative practices

OCLC Number