Date of Award



© 2018 Stephen Taylor Burnham, Jr.

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Kim Roberts-Morandi

Third Advisor

Cathy Lawson


The study of leadership is often relegated to the political or business world. As it pertains to the field of education, often it is thought of as something that happens outside the classroom walls. This study has broken that barrier by focusing on the classroom and the ways leadership skills manifest themselves in that environment. Transformational leadership as defined by Burns (1978) and Bass (1999) was chosen as the leadership style for this study because it is widely accepted in the literature as a leadership style which is adept at increasing connections between leaders and followers. Increasing levels of school connectedness for adolescents is critical because research included in the study strongly suggests that school connectedness is one of the strongest predictors of school violence, substance abuse, and adolescent depression rates. In an age where the nation is beset by unprecedented levels of school violence, an opioid crisis, and increased levels of adolescent mental health problems, school connectedness becomes immensely important for researchers to investigate.

This qualitative phenomenological study investigates the classroom leadership behaviors of three special education teachers at a special education collaborative in the state of Massachusetts. The purpose of this study was to identify leadership skills used by these teachers in the classroom and unveil their beliefs about those skills. The data for this study was obtained through classroom observations, 1:1 interviews, and a journal kept by the researcher. Through the process of coding the data themes emerged which were consistent with transformational leadership theory. Importantly, it should be noted that the participants in the study did not identify themselves as leaders and often did not define their behaviors as leadership skills. They attributed the acquisition of these skills to three main sources: 1) trial and error, 2) informal mentors, and 3) innate ability. This study identifies the skills exhibited by these teachers, and explains how they relate to teaching and learning at the classroom level. These findings inform a classroom leadership model that can be adopted by formal teacher preparatory and professional development programs in order to increase the overall skill level of teachers.


Ed.D. Dissertation