College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Susan D. McMahon, PhD

Second Advisor

Christopher Keys, PhD


Teacher turnover is a significant issue in education, creating great economic cost and affecting students in the form of academic performance and instructional continuity. While many factors impact turnover, the effects of teacher-directed violence have rarely been explored. Violence directed against teachers has been linked to negative outcomes, such as emotional distress and professional disengagement. The construct of empowerment, or disempowerment, can help researchers to better understand the relationship between teacher-directed violence and teacher turnover, allowing for an ecological approach that explores the context around teachers’ experiences of violence. The current study uses mixed methods to analyze this relationship, based on teachers’ responses to an anonymous, online survey assessing teachers’ experiences with violence. The first set of analyses is based on the quantitative, closed-ended survey questions and includes 2,347 teachers who reported experiencing at least one incident of teacher-directed violence and described their worst incident in a series of open-ended questions. Logistic regression models were used to determine the impact of the type of perpetrator (i.e. student, parent, colleague, administrator) and level of administrative support during their worst incident on whether the teacher left the position or requested a transfer following the incident. Administrative support during the incident was also examined as a moderator of the relation between the number of different types of perpetrators involved and requesting a transfer and/or leaving the position. The second set of analyses is based on open-ended survey questions and includes 403 teachers who mentioned leaving the profession, transferring from their positions, or retiring in their responses. Content analysis was utilized to determine the extent to which Short and Rinehart’s (1992) dimensions of teacher empowerment (status, autonomy, decision-making, impact, self-efficacy, and professional development) apply to teachers experiencing incidents of violence. The factors contributing to a sense of disempowerment around teachers’ experiences of violence were also examined, along with how incidents of violence influence teachers’ professional decisions. Quantitative results demonstrated that, compared to other perpetrators, having an administrator perpetrator during teachers’ worst incidents of violence was associated with teachers being more likely to request a transfer and leave their positions. High levels of administrative support during the incident decreased the likelihood that teachers would request transfers and leave their positions. Administrative support was not a significant moderator for the relationship between the total number of perpetrator types and requesting a transfer/leaving the position. Content analysis demonstrated that teachers were low on multiple teacher empowerment dimensions that include status, autonomy and decision-making, and impact. Safety, policy, administrative responses to violent incidents and community circumstances beyond the school influenced teachers’ disempowerment and contributed to teachers wanting to make professional changes. Incidents in which lack of administrative support was described as its own form of victimization and the compilation of incidents over time illustrated how violence can lead to disempowerment and turnover. Results suggest that incidents of violence create unsafe environments that often leave teachers feeling disempowered. Further, teacher-directed violence and disempowerment contribute to teachers’ professional decisions related to turnover. Administrators play a large role in teacher disempowerment and turnover, especially through the level of support they provide to teachers in addressing incidents of violence. Increasing autonomy and decision-making power for teachers, as well as increasing status and respect for the profession, may increase teachers’ desire to remain in the profession and their schools. The implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed.

SLP Collection