Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

William Morris

Second Advisor

Hengtao Tang


This convergent mixed-methods action study explored the virtual high school student perception of how their engagement on writing assignments is affected by the presence of their English teacher in an online class. Research questions specifically focused on how teacher presence in the virtual classroom affects student engagement in online writing assignments. Another question asked how students perceive teacher presence in the virtual classroom and the third question examined how students perceived their engagement in online writing assignments is affected by teacher presence.

In this study two English teachers at a virtual high school were mentored by the researcher to increase their teacher presence over a six-week period by sending weekly email with short videos. Prior to the teacher intervention, high school students (n = 103) completed a pre-survey that gauged their engagement and how much they noticed and valued five specific teacher actions. At the conclusion of the 6-week intervention period the participating students (n = 58) completed a post-survey and open-ended short-answer questions. Five students participated in semi-structured synchronous interviews. Together, these qualitative and quantitative data points were analyzed to determine the effect of teacher actions on student engagement with school.

Overall, student engagement did not change, but students did indicate that they noticed, valued, and appreciated the teacher actions this research project focused on: weekly announcements, short videos, grading feedback, grading rubrics, and live lesson sessions. Teachers should make every effort to have quality teacher presence in an online classroom, but teacher presence alone does not increase student engagement. The conclusion of this project is that teacher presence, while necessary and important, is not the only factor influencing student engagement.