Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Pauline Stonehouse


Teachers must have the ability to make meaningful instructional decisions within the classroom. This ability to make decisions can be identified as a potential capacity within an organization within the broad theory of professional capital (Fullan & Hargreaves, 2013). Professional capital involves three mini-frameworks: social, human, and decisional capital. Literature supports the concepts of social and human capital investment within organizations (Gilead, 2009).

The conceptual framework for this study was based on the emergent theory of decisional capital. Hargreaves (2015) stated that it is within decisional capital that the capacities of experience, challenging and stretching, reflective practice, and teacher judgment are applied as potential influences on organizational success and well-being. The researcher cites research pertaining to the concepts of teacher judgment.

The purpose of this grounded theory study was to investigate how rural northern Minnesota teachers’ perceive their decisional experiences within the classroom. Results from this study were used to better understand decisional capital and its place within schools. Teachers within rural northern Minnesota school districts were interviewed to discover their lived experiences pertaining to the day-to-day judgments they make within the classroom. A student-centric decisional mindset established the foundation or motivation of the decisional or judgment experiences of participants, the researcher identified several other factors influencing these experiences. Individually, these factors where not uniformly consistent among participant responses. However, when combining and applying them to create the “picture” of the decisional or judgment experiences of rural northern Minnesota teachers, a highly complex system emerged.

The results of this study discovered that, teacher decisional or judgment experiences, while motivated by what participants perceived to be in the best interest of students, were influenced by: their ability to reflect on their practice, the freedom or lack-thereof to execute decisions within their environment, peer support and example, other people who inspired and motivated them to make decisions, their relationship with administration, the past experiences they have had, the passion they had for their subject area, and the power given to them by administration to make decisions. These elements added to Hargreaves’s (2015) emergent theory of decisional capital. The results of this study have implications for administrators in terms of building the decisional capacity of teachers.

Keywords: educational leadership, grounded theory study, qualitative, interviews, empathy, student-centered, student-centric, professional capital, human capital, social capital, decisional capital