Education Dissertations

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The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program at Southern New Hampshire University is designed for pre-K-12 leaders, higher education administrators, curriculum specialists and executive directors seeking to lead in a variety of system-level organizations such as school districts, state departments of education, policy organizations, nonprofits, foundations or institutions of higher education. All candidates will be prepared to shape education policy, build public-private partnerships and understand the steps necessary to lead 21st century schools, colleges, universities or community organizations. The program seeks to produce a new generation of transformational leaders, focused on student learning and able to engage with and lead others in large-scale systemic change. The dissertation will support this focus and contribute important research to the scholarship on organizational behavior, leadership and school reform.

To support candidates in their development as educational leaders, the Doctorate in Educational Leadership program is built upon the national standards found in the Educational Leadership Policy Standards: Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards (ISLLC).

Experienced candidates from various fields in education are encouraged to apply. SNHU is committed to enrolling talented individuals who reflect the full spectrum of society, with respect to race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, political beliefs and other personal characteristics. Most importantly, all candidates must show evidence of having the moral, emotional and ethical dispositions necessary to become effective leaders.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 43
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    Teachers' Perceptions of Relational Trust, Leadership, and Culture In a New England Middle School
    (Southern New Hampshire University, 2023-04-25) McDonald, Stephen; Littlefield, Charles; Richardson, Irving; Truebridge, Sara
    Trust in schools has emerged as a foundational component and an extensively studied phenomenon, particularly as it relates to school improvement efforts. Research findings have suggested that collaboration and the establishment of relational trust among and between teachers and school leaders can contribute to improved school culture, teacher efficacy, and student achievement (Nias et al., 1989; Rosenholtz, 1989; Schliefer et al., 2017; Talbert & McLaughlin, 1994; Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015). In this qualitative, phenomenological research study, seven content area teachers in a New England middle school participated in semi- structured interviews focusing on perceptions of leadership dynamics, attitudes, voice, efficacy, and trust in their school. In the 25 years since this school opened, there have been 10 building leaders. Participants’ work experience in the organization ranged from 10 to 25 years. Findings suggested that leadership changes and practices have contributed to a disjointed culture characterized by isolation, lack of voice, and distrust. Initiative fatigue, a confining school schedule, and perceived lack of support from leaders were identified as key components negatively affecting culture. Positive themes included teachers’ resilience, hope, and dedication to their students. The research focused on one school. Findings may inform expanded inquiry in this school and related studies in other organizations. Additionally, findings of this study, in combination with findings from concurrent studies and activities in the organization, may contribute to efforts by leaders to improve relational trust, culture, community, and teacher voice.
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    The Lived Experience of the Influence of Positive Student-Teacher Connections from Students’ Perspective as Reported by High School Graduates
    (Southern New Hampshire University, 2023-01-20) Vincent, Sue; Littlefield, Phil; Truebridge, Sara; Ford, Magaret
    This study aims to identify the importance of Student-Teacher Connections (STC), as defined by the student, through direct interviews to gain better insight and understanding of the benefits obtained from these positive student teacher connections (STCs). Current literature mostly explores these connections from the perspective of the adults: teachers, administrators, and researchers, rather than through direct engagement with students and seeking their perspectives on their relationships with their teachers (Ibrahim and Zaatari, 2020). Insights from the students, gathered in this research, can be used to inform how these relationships can be fostered and how to best grow and care for them. Much of what teachers offer academically has been analyzed in educational research (Wentzel, 2012). Many high school teachers believe they do much more than teach subject matter to their students; most believe they are instrumental in their students’ adolescent development, and this has an impact on students’ senses of school belonging (Allen et. al, 2018). This Dissertation in Practice (DiP) explores the lived experience of high school students, their positive connections with their teachers, and their perception of the impact these experiences had on their educations.
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    Exploring Self-Awareness of Self-Advocacy Skills Among Senior High School Students with Mild to Moderate Learning Disabilities
    (Southern New Hampshire University, 2023-01-23) Rodriguez, Lynn Rose; Tapley, Colleen; Littlefield, Charles; Cole, Amy
    Students with disabilities do not take advantage of the resources available to them while in post-secondary institutions or places of employment because of a lack of self-advocacy skills (Mason et al., 2004). This inability to speak up for oneself results in a student’s inability to access the accommodations that they need in their postsecondary places of education or the workplace. Where does that start? Or where can that inability end? Students with mild to moderate disabilities have an IEP in school that allows their team to work on areas of strength and growth. As such, goals can be created in the area of transition that can explicitly teach students about the importance of self-awareness in self-advocacy as a psychoeducational goal, so students can ultimately embrace their neurodiversity. This qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of high school seniors with mild to moderate learning disabilities and the experiences that may have encouraged awareness and development of self-advocacy skills. This study is framed around the following research question: What are the lived experiences of high school senior students with mild to moderate learning disabilities as it relates to the development of self-awareness of their disabilities and the development of self-advocacy skills? The study was designed to investigate the complexity of this phenomenon through “exploring and understanding” (Creswell, 2009, p. 4) the meaning that students assign to their lived experiences in high school by exploring their interpretations of self-advocacy in high school and their perceptions of having the skills to advocate for themselves in a post-secondary or employment setting.
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    Adapted Physical Education: Perspectives of Physical Education Teachers in New Hampshire
    (Southern New Hampshire University, 2023-02-06) Thompson, Aaron; Littlefield, Charles P.; Moriarty, Michael; Reidel, Jon
    The purpose of this study was to learn about the obstacles and barriers of teaching Adapted Physical Education (APE) from the viewpoints of Physical Education (PE) teachers in rural New Hampshire public schools grades K-12. Two research issues drove this project: What challenges and barriers do Adapted Physical Education (APE) teachers experience when including students with disabilities in general physical education? and What are the experiences of rural New Hampshire Public Schools’ Adapted Physical Education (APE) teachers to implement and adapt their classes for students with special needs? The study included interviews, observations, and the collection of artifacts and documents of Physical Education (PE) teachers in New Hampshire to investigate these concerns. Adapted Physical Education (APE) teachers encounter barriers and issues with inadequate equipment, class size, administrative support, physical space, funding, and a lack of professional development, according to the literature on Physical Education (PE). However, in New Hampshire, a limited amount of study has been done on Adapted Physical Education (APE), especially in rural public-school districts. Data was collected through triangulation using observations, document collection, and semi-structured interviews with Physical Education (PE) teachers in New Hampshire. Nearly all the Physical Education (PE) teachers in this study stated that they have adequate and sufficient administrative support; however, many of the PE teachers faced their biggest barriers and challenges when trying to work with students that have Social Emotional Learning (SEL) disabilities and behavioral issues. The research found that paraprofessional support is lacking, and, in some cases, it is completely non-existent in the PE classroom. Furthermore, several of the participants in this study cited “time” as a barrier, since they reportedly have limited opportunities to meet with students that have disabilities daily. Typically, only one class meeting per week. One participant in this study stated that the entire sixth grade class/students do not receive Physical Education (PE) for the entire school year. Moreover, the study also showed that elementary and middle school students have limited opportunities and fewer options to take Physical Education (PE) classes compared to high school students. In addition, none of the participants in this study have earned their CAPE license and certification. Therefore, recommendations emerged that Physical Education (PE) teachers receive additional training and think about becoming a Certified Adapted Physical Educator (CAPE). The findings are examined, as well as the future of Adapted Physical Education in New Hampshire.
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    Case Study: An Approach to Assess the Impact of the Student Success Program that Target Students in Poverty at a New England School
    (Southern New Hampshire University, 2023-02-22) LaRoche, Kendra; Littlefield, Phil; Costa, Lois; Moriarty, Michael
    Defining success is difficult due to the abstract nature of the term and the multiple, competing ideas of what success looks like. Therefore, assessing the impact of a program designed to increase student success in an independent, rural high school is murky. The purpose of this dissertation in practice is to understand what students determine as their own factors in their success. This positive deviance approach gives voices to students in the definition of success and allows the resulting suggestions to be implemented at the local level. This scholar-practitioner dissertation in practice uses a positive deviant lens to examine why some students from poverty perform well at a New England high school, with the goal of generalizing the successful findings to better serve future students living in poverty. Participant selection also used a positive deviant approach. Data analysis and interpretation was conducted from interviews, document review, and a teacher survey. The findings of this study indicate five traits of success in the participant: organization, perseverance, resiliency, empathy, and connections. Additionally, the findings indicate further research could be done in the areas of the role of special educators in the lives of students, the concept of Goals, Habits, Growth as a framework of success, and the relationship between helping others and personal success.
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