Date of Award





Doctor of Education

Degree Type

Degree of Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Leadership


Teacher Education

First Advisor

Dr. Jan G. Burcham

Second Advisor

Dr. Tugce Gul

Third Advisor

Dr. Charlotte A. Mundy-Henderson


Research suggests student achievement improves when teachers connect with their students and create lessons and instruction based on their needs (Hattie, 2003; Stronge, 2018). Unfortunately, educators throughout the United States report losing control over the educational decisions they make in their classrooms at startling rates (Ingersoll, 2011; Wright, 2020). A recent study by Ingersoll, Merrill, Stuckey, and Collins (2018) found that approximately 50% of educators leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. An analysis of the attrition data showed that teachers often leave the profession due to perceptions of low classroom autonomy (Ingersoll et al., 2018). The purpose of this exploratory case study was to explore agency development of preservice teachers as they progress through an undergraduate education program at a university in southwestern Georgia. Data were collected from three sources: the Perceived Agency Survey (Hull & Uematsu, 2020), three focus group interviews, and three individual interviews. An analysis of data revealed that preservice educators perceive connections with others as positively influencing their agency. Therefore, university education programs should continue to provide support and advice to preservice teachers on advocating for their agency through lessons and field experiences. Additionally, providing opportunities for preservice educators to meet with other cohorts may foster a continued sense of community and agency building. However, this sense of community and connection should not stop after graduation. It would benefit schools to create a mentor program with a continued support system that may provide the connections one needs to build autonomous motivation to continue in the profession.