Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Karen Buchanan, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Jay Mathisen, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Gary Sehorn, Ed.D.


This phenomenological study used the chordal triad of agency within the framework of agentic ecological theory to explore how four rural elementary teachers perceived their achievement of individual professional agency as they participated in a school district mandated pedagogical reform. Given the paucity of research on rural education, the study aimed to clarify how rural teachers understood district-imposed top-down mandates and how that understanding affected their sense of professional agency. Within the chordal triad eight major stages of agency emerged: (a) agentic acceptance; (b) agentic anticipation; (c) agentic alienation; (d) agentic amnesia; (e) agentic guilt; (f) agentic suppression; (g) agentic rejection; and (h) agentic accommodation. Important ecological factors included the need for differentiated professional development, the quality of the relationships between staff and the administrative team, and the conditions of the relationship networks between colleagues. This study sought to emphasize the strength of rural school communities and to highlight opportunities for rural school districts to draw on those strengths to empower rural teaching staff. Implications for this study suggested a need to examine the concept of distributed leadership within rural districts, to attend to the educational discourses within schools, to draw on and improve upon the strengths already inherent in rural communities, and, above all, to deliberately cultivate a true sense professional dignity so that rural teachers’ agentic practices may not just growth, but thrive.

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