Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Hillary Parkhouse, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ross Collin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

William Muth, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Kurt Stemhagen, Ph.D.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused schools around the world to enter uncharted territory. Due to the unprecedented nature of the educational crisis, it was important to examine how teacher agency may have been affected. Teacher agency can have important implications for school climate, policy, and the experience of stakeholders. The main focus of this study was to cultivate an understanding of secondary English teachers’ perceptions of agency as they navigated teaching throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. An ecological framework was used to examine teachers’ experiences of agency in the context of COVID-19. The study utilized a basic qualitative design with in-depth interviews serving as the data source. Transcripts were analyzed using inductive hand-coding and comparative analysis, and then synthesized for thematic connections. As a result of the qualitative interviews, six key themes emerged. The themes included: (1) From Face-to-Face to Faceless: How Student Engagement Impacted Teachers, (2): “I had no Paper.”: How COVID Changed Teachers’ Workload and Roles, (3) The Necessity of Flexibility and Innovation in Times of Crisis, (4) “We Put Everybody’s Brain in a Blender”: Mental Health and Socio-Emotional Well-Being, (5) “Wiggle Room,” and How Agency Plays out Within a Bureaucratic Public School System, and (6) Looking Forward. The synthesized findings contributed to the literature by providing valuable insight into teachers’ lived experiences and perceptions of agency during COVID-19. Additionally, the need for intentional and sustained attention to teachers’ mental health and for improvement in supporting new and inexperienced teachers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as key points of significance. The study also suggests the need for future research, namely in examining the changes COVID-19 has had on teachers’ agency and the possible long-term effects on education.


© Kristina L. H. Lee

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VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission