Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Summers, Kelly H.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)


The concept of an educator being legally literate began to be explored more in depth in 1963 when the first discussions began to occur around the need for greater legal literacy in the field of education. Though research has magnified the concern related to teachers and education administrators not being legally literate, not much has changed to address educator legal literacy. This dissertation examines the inadequacies in the legal literacy of educators. The dissertation is organized in three bodies of work.

Paper 1 provides an in-depth review of literature on the legal literacy of teachers and education administrators/principals. The research examines the historical perspective of how legal literacy has been defined and assessed in research. In addition, the field of social work is explored to determine if lessons can be learned from another field with the purpose to increase legal literacy in educators, including teachers, related service providers, and administrators. The research also illuminates gaps that educators have related to legal literacy and how to bridge those gaps by learning from the social work field. Finally, a definition of legal literacy for educators is proposed. Paper 2 explores bachelor’s-level teacher preparation programs and master’s- level education administration/principal programs in the United States. All colleges and universities that offered either degree were examined to determine if the program-required courses included education law content. Each state was then attached to its corresponding U.S. circuit court and then an in-depth analysis of preparation program data was explored in more detail for two of the U.S. circuit courts. Implications and findings from Paper 2 demonstrate the inadequacies of providing resources to educators to achieve a high level of legal literacy due to the lack of required law courses mandated during teacher and administrator/principal preparation programs.

Paper 3 utilizes the information presented in Papers 1 and 2 to develop a high-quality in-service professional development plan to foster legally literate educators. Furthermore, it provides clarity on how Bandura’s self-efficacy theory can be used to create mastery learning experiences to increase legal literacy for educators. The end goal of the in-service professional development plan will help increase legal literacy of teachers, related service staff, and administrators. Ultimately, the professional development plan will prepare educators to be proactive, informed educators that will have the knowledge base to protect their own rights and their students’ rights.


117 pages




Northern Illinois University

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