Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Kurt Stemhagen

Second Advisor

Dr. Jesse Senechal

Third Advisor

Dr. William Muth

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kathy Hytten


Despite long-standing debates about the nature of professions and professionalism related to teaching, little consensus has been reached due in large part to an ever-changing political climate and a number of competing ideologies and interests (Bair, 2014; Hargreaves & Goodson, 1996). This lack of consensus fosters variable expectations of teachers, creating opportunities for the generation and implementation of initiatives that ultimately control and undermine teachers’ work (Ingersoll, 2003). While the quality of our nation’s education system depends on teachers' capacity to have professional input regarding their work, concepts of teacher agency and professionalism remain ill-defined, and few studies explore teachers’ experiences in spaces where they are asked for such input.

This constructivist study examined teacher agency and professionalism, given the ideal of democracy and the reality of neoliberalism. Utilizing agency theory and participatory democratic theory, this study sought to explore teachers’ perceptions of their professionalism and agency by co-constructing knowledge with 18 members of the Richmond Mayoral Teacher Advisory Council (MTAC). This study took place over seven months and included seven focus group interview sessions, two MTAC meeting debrief sessions, and multiple writing prompts focused on teachers’ narratives of their professional experiences. The study revealed several themes related to teachers’ professionalism, particularly teachers’ focus on student-centered, morally-grounded views of their work. This study’s iterative inquiry process culminated in the development of a Moral Professional Agency framework that may serve useful in future constructivist work with teachers regarding their professional work.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission