School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Breck Perry


hermeneutic phenomenology, negative perceptions, positive psychology, student perceptions, teacher-student relationships, student voice, school improvement, PERMA model, focus groups


Curriculum and Instruction | Education


There is no shortage of evidence that portrays high-school students' overwhelmingly negative perceptions about schools and teachers today. Negative student perceptions profoundly impact students, educational systems, communities, and society. To address and reverse the detrimental cycle, research must explore the positive elements of student experience so that practices can capitalize on the positive and change the trajectory of education in America. My study explored high-school students’ perceptions of qualities that make good teachers. This hermeneutic phenomenological study utilized positive psychology as its conceptual framework, allowing the five elements of the PERMA model to guide student perception data analysis. Participants included 12 high-school seniors from Lincoln Jr/Sr High School. Data were collected through individual interviews, focus group interviews, and student questionnaires. Then, the qualitative data were analyzed and synthesized using structural coding, pattern coding, and thematic analysis. The findings of this study emphasized relationships as foundational to learning environments, demonstrated the power of student feedback opportunities, and gave meaning to the universal phenomenon of a “good teacher.” Furthermore, the implications of this study include an educational use for the PERMA model and a new approach to focus groups called the ASE Focus Group Method. Utilizing these findings will be instrumental in redesigning school improvement efforts and research techniques in a way that directly aligns with students’ positive lived experiences.