Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Kay A. Keiser


One of the goals of education is for students to develop critical thinking skills. In order to build those skills, students must become critical and engaged users of information. Students become engaged and critical users of information when they have opportunities to explore and immerse themselves in information from different viewpoints and perspectives. Much of the information accessed by students today is located online. In many school districts, an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) details what type of access students have to information found online. Using Rotter’s Locus of Control Theory, this study seeks to answer the question of how language choice in AUPs influences students’ Locus of Control. Previous studies on Locus of Control have demonstrated that students who identify with an external Locus of Control believe that powerful others control their lives. To answer the question, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) was utilized to analyze AUPs from eighteen public school districts in the Midwest. CDA is a methodology used to study social inequality through the assertion of power in written communication. The AUPs were analyzed for word choice, frequency, presupposition, and nominalization. Results of the analysis demonstrated that language choices have the potential to influence students’ Locus of iii Control through the assertion of power. Thus, language in AUPs, which asserts power over students, has the potential to create a restrictive information environment for students. A more restrictive information environment will limit opportunities for students to access diverse information whereas a more open information environment will allow students to question and develop their critical thinking skills.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate College of the University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education. Copyright 2017 Stacy L. Lickteig.

Included in

Education Commons