Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Douglas Lare, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Robert Millward, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Margot Vagliardo, Ed.D.


The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the factors and school-related practices/structures that students perceive as being most critical to their motivation and persistence in attaining academic proficiency. Ten grade twelve students from an urban high school in Northeastern Pennsylvania participated in this study. Five of their parents participated as well. This research study consisted of two distinct phases, the pilot portion and the field portion. It is important to note however, that both the pilot study and field study took place at the same school and utilized the same criteria when selecting students to participate. Student and parent interview questions were developed using information gathered through a review of the literature. Resulting information was coded from all data sources in terms of which research question it addressed. The student participants involved in this research study consisted of ten grade twelve students. These ten students were randomly chosen from an overall population of 54 students that fit specified criteria including the following: the maintenance of a Grade Point Average (GPA) that was between a 2.8-3.9 for two consecutive years, a score of Advanced or Proficient on the Grade 11 PSSA, and are of low socio-economic status. These students were the target population for this study due to their continued academic success despite living in adverse economic conditions. During the interviews, both students and parents were asked to reflect on those things that they believed were most critical in promoting (the students') high academic achievement and overall success. The results of this study indicated that there are critical factors that impact students' levels of motivation and persistence. Every single interview participant (both parents and students), at some point throughout the interviews, mentioned the importance of a strong connection to or relationship with a teacher or another adult in their life. The participants also repeatedly mentioned that the support, encouragement, establishment of challenging goals, and meaningful feedback that are given to students is vital to their level of success. Further findings indicated that both students and parents believe that the ability of a teacher to get children excited about learning while teaching in a way that addresses students' unique learning styles is a primary predictor of a student's academic success.