Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Summers, Kelly H.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA)


Background/Purpose: Historical and contemporary research has clearly demonstrated that racial and cultural minority students experience discrepant school discipline when compared to their White peers, which leads to profound negative outcomes (Wu et al., 1980; Skiba et al., 2011; Fireman & Wang, 2010, Peguero & Shekarkhar,2011; Skiba et al., 2011; Rocque & Paternoster, 2011; Bates & Glick, 2013; Bal, Betters-Bubon, & Fish, 2019). While a number of steps have been taken to address this discrepancy, Self-Determination Theory (SDT), and specifically the Basic Psychological Needs Mini-Theory (BPNT), can potentially inform teaching styles that could be used to increase motivation and engagement for racial and cultural minority students by addressing the basic needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The purpose of this study was to conduct exploratory research using the Situations In Schools (SIS) questionnaire to assess the degree to which teaching styles by teachers are autonomy-supportive and competence-building and to correlate teaching styles of teachers to the frequency of discipline given to racial and cultural minority students by teachers.

Methods: The instruments used for this study include the Situations in School (SIS) questionnaire developed by Aelterman and Colleagues (2018) and teacher self-reported disciplinary occurrences by race and English Language Learner (ELL) demographic given together as a combined survey sent to teachers of middle school students from 12 participating schools in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. The sample size ranged from 118 to 120 depending on the measure used. Data was analyzed through descriptive statistics, frequency tables, and correlation matrices.

Results: From the four teaching styles of Autonomy, Structure, Control, and Chaos on the SIS, Teachers were mostly likely to use Structure and Autonomy in the classroom and far less likely than the other two. There were no significant correlations found between Autonomy and Structure and the reduction in disciplinary occurrences for racial and cultural minority students, but there were some significant correlations between a teacher’s use of Control or Chaos in the classroom and the increase in student disciplinary occurrences for some subgroups.

Conclusions: The findings of this study demonstrate that the SIS is most effective when it is given to both teachers and students, reinforcing the postulation of Aelterman and colleagues (2018) that both perspectives are needed to give a more balanced score for teaching styles. Although there were no correlations found between teaching styles that promote autonomy and competence in students and the reduction in student discipline, the correlation between controlling and chaotic teaching styles and the increase in disciplinary occurrences should lead districts, professional development practitioners, and policymakers to promote teaching styles that promote autonomy in order to reduce disciplinary occurrences for racial and cultural minority students.

Keywords: Self-Determination Theory, SDT, Basic Psychological Needs Theory, BPNT, Situations in School, SIS, autonomy, competence, relatedness, structure, control, chaos, teaching styles, classroom management, discipline, suspension, minority group students, racial bias, disproportionate representation


149 pages




Northern Illinois University

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