Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-5-2023


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Professional Doctorate in Educational Leadership (ProDEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Rick McCown

Committee Member

Reva Mathieu-Sher

Committee Member

James E. Wortman


Rural Education, Teacher Beliefs, Rural Peripheralization, Teacher Efficacy


The current literature documents the historical peripheralization of rural communities and the deficit narratives often imposed upon their schools, students and families. Research further suggests this history of peripheralization is often internalized by those identifying with these communities and that this internalization of deficit orientations may be impacting perceptions of possibility in educational practice. This mixed-methods study investigates more thoroughly if and how these core-periphery dynamics manifest in a small Appalachian school by examining possible connections between educators’ beliefs regarding rurality and their sense of teacher and collective efficacy. The research was guided by the following question:

How do rural teachers’ beliefs about their communities and their schools relate to perceptions of efficacy regarding instructional impact and student outcomes?

Utilizing efficacy data and interview and focus group data, examined through the lens of Peircean belief theory (Anderson, 2005; Cunningham, et al., 2005; Kaag, 2012; Schreiber & Moss, 2002) and Sen’s theory of adaptive preferences (Sen, 1999; Teschl & Comim, 2005; Watts, et al., 2008), the study considered both the formation of beliefs—specifically those situated within rural culture—and their impact on perceived agency. Findings suggest limiting beliefs about rural possibility, as well as rural students and families, negatively affect teachers’ perceptions of impact and their beliefs regarding long-term student outcomes. Data also suggest a disconnect between school and students’ lived experiences, raising important questions regarding language, schoolcentric systems, and the ways in which limiting beliefs are formed and perpetuated within rural schools. However, perceived strengths related to community suggest a potential lever for improvement through which educators might revise beliefs, foster connections between school and the rural experience, and increase perceptions of possibility.