Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. Nicholas J. Pace

Date of this Version

Fall 10-17-2022


Hellbusch, J. K. (2022). Engagement is everything: Principals' perceptions of their role in teacher engagement. Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Nicholas J. Pace. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2022

Copyright © 2022 Jennifer K. Hellbusch


The effects of student engagement on academic achievement are studied by and large, leaving a lack of emphasis on teacher engagement. In seeking out research and literature on “engagement” and “education,” scholars focus on the importance of student engagement. Numerous studies examine the relationship between student engagement and learning (Carini, et al., 2006). Conversely, exploring teacher engagement and how principals view themselves as responsible for promoting that engagement is a topic that is understudied and will provide recommendations for principals as well as district level leaders.

Defined, teacher engagement not only includes the behavior of teachers, but also encompasses “a psychological state” of the teacher (Rutter & Jacobson, 1986, p. 5). Available research concentrating on teacher engagement reveals the impacts it can have on students (Williams, 1996). According to Williams, “teacher engagement is a prerequisite for student engagement” and “teacher’s work and student’s work are linked...” (p. 125). Tim Hodges, senior consultant for the Gallup Organization, contends that teacher engagement is “a key driver of student engagement” (2018, para 4). Teachers influence students. Principals influence teachers. Yet, current literature centered on teacher engagement and the principal’s perception of their responsibility in promoting teacher engagement remains narrow.

The purpose of this qualitative study is to explore the extent to which principals view themselves as responsible for promoting teacher engagement and the actions they take to support it. This study further explores the extent to which principals feel they impact teacher engagement as well as how engagement is maintained. The beliefs and perceptions revealed by building principals will lead to exploration of the behaviors and practices principals put into place to promote and support positive teacher engagement. The proposed study will invite six elementary principals and three secondary principals serving a growing Midwest district to interview and share their perceptions on what they believe their level of responsibility is in promoting teacher engagement as well as actions they take related to it.

Advisor: Dr. Nicholas Pace