Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Reconceptualizing the Classroom: An Exploration of the Student and Educator Experience of Flexible Seating in the Elementary School Classroom through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory
by Zalud, Tracy L., Ed.D., Aurora University, 2020, 234; 27744339
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the experiences of students and educators in an elementary classroom with flexible seating. This qualitative case study was designed to better understand the phenomenon of how students and educators experience flexible seating in the elementary classroom and how this type of classroom learning environment influences student autonomy as it relates to engagement and motivation. Five elementary classrooms that included a total of 92 students were studied. Educators and students shared their perceptions of how flexible seating contributes to the fulfillment of basic psychological needs. The aim of the study was to answer two research questions: How do students experience flexible seating in the elementary school classroom? How do teachers experience flexible seating in the elementary school classroom? Two sub-questions were also explored: What is the role of a classroom learning environment with flexible seating in the experience of student autonomy in the elementary school classroom? What is the role of a classroom learning environment with flexible seating as it relates to motivation and engagement in the elementary school classroom? The research questions were formed with the tenets of self-determination theory in mind. Data collection with the educator participants consisted of an initial interview survey, two one-on-one interviews, and a written reflection piece. Additionally, two classroom observations, a group discussion, and a student questionnaire were administered. Findings revealed educator and student perceptions of their experiences in an elementary school classroom with flexible seating. Students expressed the need for the feeling of freedom to make their own choices in the classroom, opportunities to collaborate and socialize with their peers, learn in a comfortable environment both physically and psychologically, and the desire to feel happiness at school and in the classroom. The student data described that if these needs are met, students are more focused, engaged, and motivated to learn. Findings also showed that educators who were autonomy-supportive in the classroom and made the shift to flexible seating held the philosophical belief that students were more self-directed and felt a greater sense of autonomy when their basic psychological needs are fulfilled in the classroom, ultimately leading to increased engagement and motivation. Recommendations are offered to educators and administrators to consider how the classroom learning environment contributes to meeting students’ basic psychological needs. The findings encourage educators to reflect on their own personal philosophy of education and rethink how the classroom ought to be today.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Thomas, Jerald
Commitee: Wilson, Faith, Heybach, Jessica, Harmon, Tammie
School: Aurora University
Department: Leadership in Curriculum and Instruction, K-12 Learning
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Elementary education
Keywords: Autonomy, Autonomy-support, Autonomy-supportive teaching practices, Flexible seating, Self-determination theory, Student autonomy
Publication Number: 27744339
ISBN: 9798662448780
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