Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Teacher Education and Teacher Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Michele Knobel

Committee Member

Jeremy Price


This dissertation explored the experiences of 12 classroom teachers making meaning of their ethical practice in K–12 schools. The study uncovered how these teachers identify and problematize ethical issues as they relate to their practice. Through semi-structured interviewing, participants’ experiences around ethical practice were recorded and analyzed using Gilligan’s (1982) Listening Guide. The data collected provides insight into how these teachers make meaning of their practices, a process characterized by a complex interplay amongst personal and professional beliefs around caring and protecting students and their needs, a sense of responsibility as employees to adhere to district and school policies, an obligation to uphold the standards of the teaching profession, and the contextualized pressures and expectations of their specific teaching communities. Overall, the study describes the ways in which participants make meaning of their ethical practice amidst the increasing demands of the standards movement and accountability-based reforms that have contextualized teachers lived daily experiences. In particular, in sharing their stories, this study brings to light many instances of K–12 teachers resisting these demands imposed in order to best support the learning and long-term development of their students. I aim to provide a nuanced view into how these teachers remain committed to carrying out what is in students’ best interests. Their efforts creatively and quietly resisting and negotiating the structural and human pressures imposed on them are heartwarming at times. Similarly, their struggles, anxieties, disappointments, distress, and fatigue are heartbreaking but offer a glimpse into how these educators are enacting ethical practice despite the challenging contexts of schools today.

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