Summer 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Barbara Swanson, EdD

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Letitia Basford, PhD

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Rachel Endo, PhD


A qualitative research design was used to inform the question: How do graduates and educators in a former alternative education program describe their sense of community and how did it inform their experiences? Four graduates and four educators, as members of an alternative education program, participated in semi-structured interviews. All participants were White. This study used the central concepts of two motivational theories: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory and self-determination theory as analytical frameworks. Six themes emerged from these eight interviews. These themes identify the importance of meeting students’ basic needs, especially their need for community and belonging. Results of this study identify the significant role being part of a community can play in informing the educational experiences for students and the professional experiences of educators. Specifically, the development of sense of belonging and the development of meaningful relationships appears to positively inform the learning process.

Research Methodology

Qualitative Interview Study


At-risk Students, Community Building, Motivation, Teachers/ Teaching

Included in

Education Commons