Date of Award


Degree Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)




A dissertation in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education and Human Development presented to the faculty of Sacred Heart University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education.

Committee Chair

T. Lee Morgan, Ph.D.

2nd Reader

David G. Title, Ed.D.

3rd Reader

Alison Villanueva, Ph.D.


Research shows that quality student-teacher relationships contribute to students’ academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes. During phase 1 of this Improvement Science study, Buck Mountain Elementary School adults expressed concern with student-adult relationships. Specifically, adults indicated that connectedness with students has deteriorated since the onset of learning in a COVID 19 impacted context. Next, phase 2 investigated the impact of professional development on positive teacher language as an effective strategy to increase quality student-teacher relationships. Using a participatory-classroom action research method, participants engaged in a five-session intervention cycle of professional development focused on positive teacher language to support teachers in rebuilding quality student-teacher relationships. The scholarly practitioner performed pre-and post-intervention observations with participants to evaluate if professional development is a viable intervention to increase positive teacher language. Additionally, each participant engaged in a process understanding survey to identify how to improve the professional development process if results indicated a viable intervention. The scholarly practitioner found that professional development is a viable intervention to increase positive teacher language. The quantitative data collected during the pre and post-intervention observations supported the results, demonstrating an average change of +21. Furthermore, results of a paired sample t-test indicated a statistically significant increase in participants’ use of positive teacher language from pre-intervention (m = 1.99, sd = .89) to post-intervention (m = 4.09, sd = 1.35). The mean increase of positive teacher language was 2.1 t (8) = -8.91, p < .001. The process understanding survey concluded that professional development could be improved by providing additional instruction on adult and student social-emotional competencies, additional collaboration among staff members, and additional professional development that is applicable, can be embedded over time, explicit delivery methods, and supports the collaboration of staff. Results analyzed during phases 1 and 2 of this Improvement Science study imply that professional development is a viable intervention to increase positive teacher language. Recommendations for future research and practice include studies investigating the impact of positive teacher language on supporting quality student-teacher relationships, utilizing professional development as an intervention for a different problem of practice, and implementing the theory of improvement in a different educational setting. Finally, professional development should be developed for an explicit purpose with a specific framework to increase professional learning.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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