Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development

Degree Program

Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, PhD

Committee Chair

Gross, Jacob P.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hirschy, Amy S.

Committee Member

Hirschy, Amy S.

Committee Member

Pifer, Meghan J.

Committee Member

Sun, Jeffrey C.

Author's Keywords

student engagement; higher education; academic quality; practical reform; post-Soviet; Kyrgyz Republic


This dissertation investigates the experiences of administrators, instructional faculty, and students within a post-Soviet higher education institution in the Kyrgyz Republic using qualitative field research and case study methods. This study identifies the perceived potential of Western benchmarks of effective educational practice to evince positive change in the institution as well as their propriety and relevance in this context. In addition, the propositions underlying the student engagement construct and overarching the benchmarks are evaluated based upon participant responses and classroom observation data. Twenty higher education practitioners and twenty students participated in semi-structured interviews preceding and following seven classroom observations. The recorded interview data was transcribed then analyzed using first cycle and second cycle coding procedures to elicit predominant ethnographic themes within the case, specifically the teaching and learning environment within the university program under analysis. Data condensation via coding, display through narrative, matrix analysis and participant vignettes, and interpretation prior to conclusion drawing and verification leant analytical rigor to findings. The resulting themes centered around three central tenets within the ethnographic case: fear, freedom, and independence. Their interpretation and verification provided additional strength to conclusions indicating a lack of evidence supporting implementation of the benchmarks, logistical challenges to such alterations, and deeper philosophical disconnects which could potentially impact the success or failure of such initiatives. The data was then used to justify implications for policy, practice, and research all emphasizing critical analysis and reflection upon the evidence base that the student engagement construct is dependent upon.