Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program


Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell PhD

First Reader

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD

Second Reader

Robin Gayle, PhD, MDIV, MFT


A quality system for educating a nation’s youth depends upon a teaching force that continually learns, and applies its learning outcomes to active problem solving and development. Many current school and district models minimize teacher ability to engage in meaningful change, ultimately undermining the teachers’ sense of personal and professional agency. Literature suggests that internal forms of motivation are likely to result in the development of agency via self-determination of actions and behaviors. This mixed methods study examined five public schools in a small K-12 district through the lens of self-determination theory. An initial set of quantitative data were collected from 28 teachers to determine levels of satisfaction and frustration for autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs. Qualitative data were collected through eight interviews to provide descriptive detail on teacher experience. All data were analyzed using a self-determination theory framework. Development of teacher agency was assessed at three levels: Agency at the individual classroom level, agency in collaborative settings, and agency with regard to site leadership. Findings point to twelve operative factors that developed or encumbered teacher agency within the district.