Date of Award



© 2015 Danielle Donnini

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Pamela Flood

Third Advisor

Sanford Prince IV


Progressive reforms, pervasive throughout American education, are once again beginning to reshape the established traditional system to provide our students with an educational experience and learning opportunities that will better prepare them with twenty-first century skills. These reforms, rooted in constructivism and social learning, are characterized by an updated progressive vision of competency education that places students in the center of their education. Giving students authentic voice and choice has potential to engage these most important stakeholders in educational reform. This qualitative case study set in eleven upper elementary classrooms in one school, explores the opportunities for voice and choice as learners engage with educators to co-create a more personalized educational pathway through standards of competency. Insights gained from interviews with teachers, student focus groups, observations and artifacts describe how students experience voice and choice, and provide an understanding of how voice and choice contribute to reshaping the learning environment and the experience of the learner. The results of this study help educators understand how voice and choice support a collaborative classroom culture, increase engagement with learning standards, and further considers the perspective of young learners who gained insights about themselves as learners and who connected voice and choice with core values of respect, pride and freedom. Examining competency reform at one school provides practical insights into the structural supports, roles of the teacher and students, use of tools, and specific factors that sustain and challenge the transformation. Empowering students through voice and choice is a powerful way to engage with learners as stakeholders who may play an important role in developing and sustaining learner-centered competency reforms.


Ed.D. Dissertation