Date of Award



© 2017 Joseph D. McDonough

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Joanne Cooper

Second Advisor

Heather Wilmot

Third Advisor

Joseph Johnson


The science of gratitude is a fairly recent phenomenon, emerging out of positive psychology. The basic premise of the field is that cultivating a positive perspective and focusing on what one can be grateful for has positive outcomes in life. The benefits discovered include increases in subjective well-being and life satisfaction, better interpersonal relationships, and increases in pro-social behavior. In the school setting, research has found that developing gratitude can increase adolescents’ level of satisfaction with school experience and academic attainment. The purpose of this phenomenological study is develop a deeper understanding of how elementary teachers experience gratitude. By learning more about how elementary teachers experience gratitude and construct meaning around those experiences, school leaders may be able to positively influence the culture of the school and build collaborative approaches to change through strengthening relationships. A constructivist-developmental framework served as the primary lens through which to study teachers’ experiences of gratitude. Seven elementary teachers participated in a gratitude journaling exercise followed by individual interviews and a focus group. Three major themes emerged from the data: gratitude in contrast to negativity, perspective and choice, and making a difference/feeling valued. The results indicate that elementary teachers experience gratitude in their school settings through a sense of positivity, through being involved in student success, and in experiences of feeling valued for their work. The data also indicated that teachers’ perspectives on events or the amount of attention paid to daily occurrences with students and colleagues plays a role in the way that teachers experience gratitude. The participating teachers described a contrast between experiences of gratitude and attitudes of negativity. It is recommended that school leaders actively engage in promoting the value and meaning of teachers’ work on a routine basis and seek methods to heighten teachers’ awareness of gratitude in their school experiences. Data from the study and reviewed literature also support the use of gratitude interventions as a means to increase both awareness of gratitude and the effects of gratitude on individual’s lives.


Ed.D. Dissertation