School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Kenneth Tierce


High-stakes Assessment, Teacher Autonomy, Teacher Competence, Teacher Perseverance


Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand, as a lived experience, the impact of high-stakes assessments on self-competence, autonomy, and perseverance for teachers in rural middle Tennessee. High-stakes assessments were generally defined as a summative assessment that provides data which could be used for employment, promotion, or pay-related decisions. The theory guiding this study was Deci and Ryan’s (2008) self-determination theory (SDT), which framed understanding a teacher’s determination to perform or avoid certain acts in relation to their innate psychological needs. The central research question for this study was designed to understand the lived experiences of teachers in rural middle Tennessee whose self-competence, autonomy, and perseverance are impacted by high-stakes assessments. The research subquestions were designed for deeper understanding of the impact of high-stakes assessments on rural educators. A transcendental phenomenological approach was used for this study and data collection included a word-association writing prompt, semistructured individual interviews, and a single focus group interview. Data analysis utilized NVivo software and included bracketing, open coding, and thematic analysis. Analysis yielded five major themes. In addition, the findings indicated high-stakes factors impacted participants’ self-competence. Findings also revealed high-stakes assessments had limited participants’ autonomy in their classrooms in numerous capacities. Finally, most participants expressed a desire to remain in the profession but mentioned factors outside of high-stakes assessments as the reason for professional perseverance.