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Doctoral Dissertations

The research base for teacher-powered schools keeps growing. Here you can find published doctoral dissertations pertaining to teacher-powered schools.

Developing a Culturally Responsive Action Team in Teacher-Led Schools

Spring 2021. By Michael Stewart.

“Where I Bloomed”: Exploring Teacher Professional Vitality in the Teacher-Powered School

Fall 2020. By Sara Kemper. Ample research has identified and sought to understand the problem of high teacher turnover and low morale in U.S. schools. One consistent finding is that teachers’ working conditions have a pronounced impact on their wellbeing, sense of efficacy, and career decisions. This dissertation presents findings from a mixed-methods study exploring teachers’ work lives in “teacher-powered schools,” where teachers have collective decision-making authority (CDMA) to shape their schools as workplaces. Evidence from observations and interviews with 31 staff members at 3 teacher-powered schools coupled with survey responses from 342 teachers in 39 schools is used to characterize teacher-powered schools as a group and support five counter-narratives of teacher work life within them. Implications for teacher professional vitality—a holistic concept bridging teacher motivation, commitment, and retention—are discussed.

Distributed leadership, professional collaboration, and teachers’ job satisfaction in U.S. schools

Spring 2019. By Darlene García Torres. This study uses hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to investigate relationships among distributed leadership, professional collaboration, and teachers' job satisfaction in U.S. schools. Data are from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). Results revealed teachers’ perceptions of distributed leadership were significantly, positively associated with their job satisfaction after accounting for other individual and school culture variables, with reciprocal mediation between distributed leadership and professional collaboration. This study has policy implications for leadership in disadvantaged schools in addition to research implications, particularly regarding how leadership is reflected in the responses of different school stakeholders.

Building from the Ground Up: The Relationship between Structure, Culture and Teachers' Role in Site Decision-Making at an Educator-Run School

2020. By Kyle Weinberg. Power structures in U.S. public schools have grown increasingly more hierarchical in response to a perceived decline in K-12 instructional quality. The rising prominence of high-stakes accountability mechanisms has resulted in top-down limiting of teachers' role in site decision-making. Promoting a more prominent teacher role in school governance is a promising countermeasure to the teacher turnover and lower quality of instruction disproportionately found in schools serving vulnerable populations. When educators have a greater voice in site decision-making, they are more committed to the organizational vision and more likely to stay at a school. Student academic and civic outcomes also improve when school governance is democratically collaborative. Recognizing the need for additional research on the relationship between decision-making authority and the role of teachers in site governance at an educator-run school, one site was examined through a qualitative, case study approach using an integrated theoretical framework that incorporated structure, culture and agency and the areas of collective autonomy exploring (1) the role of teachers in site governance at an educator-run school and (2) the structural and cultural systems that support or hinder teachers' role in site decision-making.

Qualitative data compiled through interviews, observations of decision-making meetings and gathering of site documents clarified how structural and cultural systems shape and are shaped by teachers’ participation in site decision-making. Analysis of the themes and categories that surfaced from the data shed light on the relationship between formal, prescribed decision-making authority and the dynamics of educator-run school governance in practice.

Findings from the study indicated that systems that hinder teachers’ participation in school governance are legal, district and budget constraints, lack of preparation and mistrust. Governing documents that support significant teachers’ role in school-level decisions are the pilot school agreement and Elect-to-Work Agreement with its annual teacher-driven revisiting and refinement. Representative leadership, rotating leadership and protocols help to democratize decision-making at the research site by providing transparent structures to guide selection of leaders and horizontal collaboration. Cultural systems that support significant teachers’ role in school-level decisions are a common vision, collaboration, sense of ownership, peer accountability, mentoring and organizing skills.