Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Instructional Design and Engagement in K-12 Public Schools: The Impact of Neoliberalism on Instruction

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Sandra Faulkner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

John Dowd (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

James Foust (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Clayton Rosati (Committee Member)


When it comes to engaging our youth, education is an imperative topic of discussion. With the distraction of technology and mobile devices, engagement becomes a more challenging task for educators. Instructionally, traditional ways of delivering curriculum are struggling to compete with the engagement of video games and phone apps. Another element that creates complications for engagement during classroom instruction is neoliberalism. Educational institutions need to move away from the urgency and stress related to neoliberal policies implemented by the state. Navigating K-12 districts through the lens of a neoliberal society causes inequality and rushed curriculum delivery in public educational structures. Because of the high stakes and stress connected to state testing and school grade reports, our educational systems struggle to adopt solutions that significantly improve students’ critical thinking skills, creativity and engagement. Various instructional design models, such as a gamification and play, are a successful way to utilize the research that is present in learning/cognitive theories and philosophical examination. Innovative instructional design models, such as gamification, would allow for our present educational systems to benefit from the past inquiry of scholars and philosophers grounded in educational advancement. Bringing together the successful ideas of the philosophers from our past and intertwining it with our current research, will create a platform and educational curriculum that will improve many facets of our educational system. More engaging lessons created from research in instructional design will better prepare students for college and career. Creating a varied learning environment for students to explore topics offered in their classes through a creative way, using gaming vocabulary, and the main framework of games, such as goals/objectives, feedback, unnecessary obstacles and connectedness, will offer the researcher an opportunity to understand the progress of such a program through qualitative methods. The results will be evident through a combination of previous research and interviews with adults who have different experiences with education. The significance of this research lies in the future of this nation. Creative and independent learners need to be fostered through our educational system.