Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Dr. James Carroll

LC Subjects

Education, Elementary--Canada; Students--Mental health services; Muslim students; Educators--Training of


The prevalence of issues adversely affecting people’s mental health has become a matter of growing concern in Canada. Unfortunately, only one in four young people affected with mental health problems receive professional help (Sawyer, et al., 2000). However, Gallagher and Lopez, (2009) found that being hopeful is favourably associated with the growth of positive mental well- being. In support, a more recent study found that hope has a unique value in schools that strive to promote their students’ overall well-being (Idan & Margalit, 2013). Thus, the purpose of this qualitative study was to describe educators’ experience on applying Snyder’s tenets of hope theory: goals, pathways, and agency, within the context of their educational practice, at the elementary level of an Islamic school in Alberta.

A qualitative descriptive research methodology was most appropriate for the nature of this study through utilization of three research questions describing (1) the extent, and in what ways were educators able to apply hope theory in their education practice (2) what did educators observed as impactful on the students’ learning and their teaching practice and, (3) what suggestions do educators have for other educators or for themselves for applying the hope theory approach in their educational practices. Eighteen educators voluntarily participated in this study during the 12-week application period. For orientation on the construct of hope theory and how it relates to their educational, the educators were invited to participate in professional learning at the initial stage, followed by ongoing support throughout the 12-week period.

Data collection for this qualitative descriptive study was directed toward understanding educators’ experience in applying hope theory in their educational practice based on how the theory was applied, what impact educators observed and what suggestions they proposed. A bi- weekly memo was used to annotate unstructured, reciprocal dialogue in addition to responses from the three structured open-ended questions after the 12 weeks of application by way of a Google form. All data were aggregated to reflect a holistic description of the phenomenon.

The first question that explored the extent, and in what ways were educators able to apply hope theory in their educational practice found that (a) there was variation in the extent to which hope theory was applied, (b) hope theory was applied for positive reframing, (c) as a construct to appreciate barriers and (c) as a framework for proactive thinking. The second question sought to describe what educators observed as impactful on students’ learning and their own professional learning. Educators described that hope theory (a) influenced students’ self-confidence, (b) engaged parents’ support in their children education and (c) inspired their students and themselves to be reflective in thinking. The third question described the suggestions proposed upon the completion of their 12-week implementation of hope theory. The first general suggestion is professional learning on hope theory should be an ongoing process. In their suggestion of ongoing professional learning, educators emphasize the need to have more resources to support their understanding of hope within an Islamic context, to observe how their colleagues in other grade level apply hope theory and to have extended time to consult with others who have experience in applying hope theory in their classrooms. In their second suggestion, educators observed that hope theory hope theory can cultivate positive changes in education if educators are ready to rethink instructional practices. By this suggestion, educators explained the need for themselves and other educators to model hopeful thinking for students. Additionally, educators explained the hope theory should be taught in stages introducing goal setting, followed by pathways thinking and finally, teach students how to develop agencies to overcome barriers. An important point that derived from the second suggestion is for educators to complement hope theory with another mindfulness theory such as growth mindset or literature form the faith (Islam) to help students to make the connections.

This study was just one step toward exploring the impact of hope theory in the context of Islamic schools through the lens of elementary educators. The implications of this study for educational practice include (a) educating students on the inevitability of challenges to life, (b) coaching students to build resilience in the face of challenges (c) teaching students positivity (d) investing time to apply educational theories in pedagogical practices and (e) strengthening theories (for example hope theory) with other philosophies and literature for more effective results.

It is important to point out that applying hope theory within educational practice will not resolve mental illness. However, cultivating habits of hope through the application of hope theory may support the three out of four affected students navigate through obstacles and secure the desired goods through alternative means (Shade, 2006), benefiting themselves and their communities.


Copyright for this work is retained by the author.