Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education, Health & Behavior Studies

First Advisor

Bonni Gourneau

Second Advisor

Julie Robinson


With a plethora of digital tools at their disposal and knowledge at their fingertips, Generation Z students must be engaged in ways that differ from previous generations of students. Using Ryan and Deci’s (2000, 2020) self-determination theory and the Student Engagement Core model proposed by Bundick et al. (2014), this qualitative research study used semi-structured interviews and focus groups to research the best ways to engage Gen Z students in a classroom setting. Data was coded using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), with the self-determination theory’s three tenets, relatedness, autonomy, and competence, serving as the initial coding framework. Results showed that there are four essential aspects to creating an engaging classroom climate: building relationships, promoting student autonomy, creating a sense of mastery, and engaging students in work that has a practical purpose. Further discussion includes the role of technology in the classroom and the continued need for an awareness of generational differences in students throughout teachers’ careers.