School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Sharon Michael-Chadwell


African-American, Competence, Autonomy, Relatedness, Engagement, High School Graduation


Education | Educational Methods | Secondary Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of high school teachers who have created supportive classroom environments that encourage African-American students to graduate. The theory guiding this study was the self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2008) as it explains the psychological needs of students to encourage persistence toward high school graduation. The central question guided the research in describing the experiences of high school teachers who have created a supportive classroom environment at high schools with high graduation rates for African-American students in Southeastern Michigan. The study sought to determine the experiences of teachers who have built a supportive classroom environment that supported competence, autonomy, relatedness among the students to encourage engagement. The purposeful and criterion sampling by use of a survey endured the participants have experienced the phenomenon. Interviews, a journal prompt, and focus groups provided triangulation of data to describe the essence of the experience. Data analysis was completed by hand coding the data into themes. The study found that the participants use relationships, collaboration, and positive reinforcement to motivate and engage African-American students. All three of the themes provided a rich thick description of the experiences in the classroom that motivate African-American students to persevere.