School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Tim Nelson


Discipline, Implementation, Restorative Justice, Social Learning Theory, Suspension


Education | Educational Methods


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the implementation experiences and practices of restorative justice in education whose goal is to improve social-emotional skills, as well as reduce suspension rates among students, for K-5 elementary teachers, counselors and administrators at one elementary school in Virginia. This study examined the phenomena of restorative justice practices in schools and experiences of those involved. The theory guiding this study was Bandura’s social learning theory. The central research question to be addressed was: What are the experiences of teachers, counselors and administrators with restorative justice practices in elementary school as it relates to improving social-emotional learning in order to reduce misbehavior and suspension rates in Virginia? The school site was an elementary school in an equally split between urban and rural area in Virginia. The school involved in the study serves students in grades PK-5. The participants included 11 teachers, a counselor and an administrator that have used restorative practices in their school and classroom, as well as those who have actively participated in the implementation of restorative practices in their educational settings. These participants were selected through snowball samplings. After collecting data that included a demographic survey, interviews, document analysis as well as focus groups and analyzing the data using the seven steps from Moustakas (1994), each individual interview and the in-person focus group were transcribed using the Temi transcription application and entered in to MaxQDA. Statements, ideas, words, and phrases that appeared regularly were highlighted and categorized into individual groups and themes. The four themes that emerged from data were relationships, school culture, buy in, and student support.