Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Tyson Lewis

Committee Member

Jeremy Price

Committee Member

Maughn Gregory


Authority has been theorized as an essential element of education, but one that we know very little about, although it has become increasingly problematic. One approach to educational authority, the approach that this dissertation studied, is based on the idea that authority should be shared between a teacher and her students. In this qualitative study, I was able to immerse myself in a kindergarten classroom in which the teacher was not only committed to democratic education, but who also integrated the practice of Philosophy for Children, one of the most radical forms of sharing authority with students, into her classroom. The goal of this dissertation has been to document the life of classroom culture structured on the idea of shared authority and to see how the practice of philosophy affected the overall functioning of authority in it.

In the first chapter of the data analysis (Chapter 4), I give a general overview of the classroom culture in its relationship to authority: I first present how the practice of shared authority shaped the classroom culture in different ways. In the following chapter (Chapter 5), I examine a particular group of boys that was highly disruptive in the classroom. As I make sense of this group of boys by showing its relationship to authority, I also look to the problematic it posed for the practice of shared authority in the classroom studied. Finally, the two initial chapters provide the background necessary to analyze in Chapter 6 the special role of the practice of philosophy and its relationship to authority in the classroom.

I conclude the dissertation with its contributions to the theories of shared authority, educational authority and democratic education. If the classroom studied presented an extraordinary example of what learning can be in a public school, it also came with certain difficulties that are usually not acknowledged in the literature on shared authority. Based on several elements of my data analysis, I propose a redefinition of the nature of shared authority to better accommodate the inherent tensions and contradictions that are created in a democratic classroom. Finally, I stress the importance for theorists and educational researchers to focus on the difficulties that teachers, such as Annie, encounter as they try to implement democratic education in their classroom.

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