School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Gail Collins


chronic absenteeism, social determination theory, public school, elementary school, student support


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of public schoolteachers who provided support for chronically absent students at the elementary school level. The theory guiding this study is Ryan and Deci's (1980) self-determination theory (SDT). The SDT explains extrinsic and intrinsic motivation sources and their roles in social development through three general constructs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. A screening survey was used to identify 12 elementary teachers from different schools in the southeastern United States who have taught children who were chronically absent. Data was collected through individual interviews, four focus groups, and an e-mailed open-ended writing prompt. After completing all data collection methods and analyzing each set, the data were synthesized using the core processes described by Moustakas (1994). Four major themes were uncovered: communication, connections, compassion, and commitment. These four "C"s, in alignment with the identified research questions, explained how elementary schoolteachers addressed and supported students who were chronically absent. Ultimately, the most significant interpretation from this study was a perceived correlation between students who were chronically absent, their home environment, and the need for teachers not only to recognize any hardship the student is facing but must become the focal point of mitigation on behalf of the child. That is, the greater the adversity a student is experiencing outside of school causing their absence seemed to correlate with the greater need for teacher and school intervention in support. Other interpretations of this study involved how technology enhances teacher support and how financial resources are essential for improving support initiatives.