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Teacher and student relationships and student outcomes

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Title:
Teacher and student relationships and student outcomes
Creator:
Northup, Judith Diane
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English
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xiii, 167 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Teacher-student relationships ( lcsh )
High school students ( lcsh )
Competency-based education ( lcsh )
Competency-based education ( fast )
High school students ( fast )
Teacher-student relationships ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 157-167).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Judith Diane Northup.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
747428007 ( OCLC )
ocn747428007
Classification:
LD1193.E3 2011d N67 ( lcc )

Full Text
J-
TEACHER AND STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS AND STUDENT OUTCOMES
by
Judith Diane Northup
B.A., Metropolitan State College, 1981
M.A., New Mexico State University, 1986
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2011


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Judith Diane Northup
has been approved
by
i- zt-
Date
n
Shell# H. JBillig


Northup, Judith D (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Teacher and Student Relationships and Student Outcomes
Thesis directed by Associate Professor W. Alan Davis
ABSTRACT
This study explored the nature of relationships between teachers and their primarily
non-dominant students in three nontraditional high schools and the connections
between their relationships to academic engagement and achievement. Interviews of 5
classroom teachers, observations of 6 classrooms, interviews of 18 students, and
results from 103 student self-report classroom climate surveys that measured
relationship satisfaction with teachers, instrumental help received from teachers, lack
of conflict with teachers, and academic engagement informed the study. Teachers also
completed an adapted version of the Teacher-Student Relationship Inventory (TSRI)
about 62 of their students that paralleled the student classroom climate survey.
Interviews and observations revealed the complexity of student-teacher relationships,
the importance of teachers learning about student culture and student lives, the role of
expectations of students in relationships, and the link between the quality of these
relationships and student engagement. The connections between student-teacher
relationships, engagement and academic achievement as measured MAP reading and
mathematics assessment scores were evaluated using path analytic techniques. Results


of statistical analyses demonstrated that student perceptions about relationship
Satisfaction, Instrumental Help, and Lack of Conflict predicted Academic
Engagement. However, Academic Engagement did not predict adjusted reading and
mathematics scores as was expected. Implications for these findings include the
importance of developing quality relationships with students in nontraditional school
settings to improve student engagement, the need for further study of what emerged as
students own distinction between relationships and academic achievement, and how
the model might be expanded in future research.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.


DEDICATION
First, I would like to dedicate this dissertation to my husband, Dan Jesse, who
provided endless support and understanding while I completed this document.
Second, I would like to dedicate this document to my son and daughter, Greg and
Robin, who provided me with encouragement over the years.
I would also like to dedicate this dissertation to the school administrators who
allowed me to conduct my research in their schools, the teachers who took the time to
share so much insight about their relationships with students, and finally the students
who shared with me their stories about school. It was an experience that I will never
forget.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
There are many friends, colleagues, and mentors who supported me, provided
guidance, and influenced my completion of this dissertation. I would like to
acknowledge the support and guidance from Alan Davis, my advisor, who did not give
up on me. Mark Clarke, Honorine Nocon, and classmates in Lola also provided
encouragement and support throughout the dissertation process. I would like to
acknowledge Shelley Billig, my supervisor and a committee member, along with
colleagues at RMC Research Corporation, Denver, for their encouragement and
support. I want to acknowledge the guidance that I received from Franci Crepeau-
Hobson, a committee member, and the assistance that 1 received from Rebecca Schell
in answering my endless questions.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the inspiration that I received many years ago
from a caring student teacher in my 7th grade biology class at Thomas Jefferson High
School. She taught me that a teacher can make a difference in a students life. In her
short time as my teacher, she made me feel special and provided me with motivation
to do well in class.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures...................................................................xii
Tables ..................................................................xiii
CHAPTER 1. THE PROBLEM...............................................1
Complexity of Student-Teacher Relationships...................2
Relationships and Academic Engagement.........................5
Relationships and Behavioral Outcomes.........................7
Relationships and Academic Outcomes...........................8
A Model of Relationships, Engagement and Achievement.........10
Purpose......................................................11
Research Questions...........................................13
CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW........................................15
Descriptions of Quality Relationships and Caring.............15
Associations Between Relationships and Student Engagement
and Achievement..............................................18
Student Engagement....................................19
Studies Revealing Associations Between
Relationships and Student Outcomes....................19
Research on Teacher Attitudes, Expectations and Achievement....24
Relationships, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom.26
vii


Teachers vs. Students Perceptions of Relationships..........30
Relationships and Grade Levels................................33
Other Studies Associated with Teacher and Student
Relationships.................................................35
Theoretical Frameworks that Address
Teacher and Student Interaction...............................36
Ecological Model.......................................37
Developmental Model....................................40
Dimensions of Teacher and Student Relationships...............45
The importance of Academic Engagement.........................48
What We Know and What We Need to Know.........................48
CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY...............................................51
Overview......................................................51
Participants..................................................52
Description of the Schools.............................52
Selection of Teachers..................................54
Student Participants...................................55
Indicators of Student-Teacher Relationships...................56
Teacher Surveys........................................56
Teacher Interviews.....................................60
Student Surveys........................................60
Student Interviews.....................................61
vm


Classroom Observations..................................62
Measure of Academic Engagement.................................62
Measure of Achievement.........................................63
Data Collection................................................63
Teacher Surveys.........................................63
Teacher Interviews......................................65
Student Surveys.........................................65
Student Interviews......................................66
Classroom Observations..................................67
Student Achievement Data................................68
Data Analysis..................................................69
Qualitative Analysis....................................70
Teacher Interview and
Student Interview Data Analysis..................70
Classroom Observation Data Analysis..............70
Quantitative Analysis...................................70
Data Transformations.............................71
Multiple Imputation of Missing Values............71
Multiple Regression..............................74
Path Analysis....................................75
Correlation Analysis.............................76
IX


CHAPTER 4. RESULTS
77
Interviews with Teachers and Students........................77
Quality Relationships and Caring Teachers.............77
Building Relationships with Students..................80
Teacher Behavior and Student Engagement in Learning...87
Student Classroom Climate Data and Achievement
Score Analysis...............................................89
Student Classroom Climate and Achievement Score
Correlations.................................................92
Path Analysis................................................95
Teacher Surveys about StudentsAdapted TSRI.................106
Correlations between Teacher and Student Surveys............109
Teacher Multicultural Survey................................112
Results Summary.............................................115
CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION..............................................118
Major Trends and Generalizations............................118
Likely Causes or Mechanisms.................................122
Relationship of Present Findings
To Previous Research and Theory.............................123
Implications for Practice...................................127
Limitations.................................................129
Future Research.............................................129
x


APPENDIX
A. HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL.....................132
B. GLOSSARY....................................155
BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................157
xi


LIST OF FIGURES
1.1. Student-Teacher Relationships, Engagement, and Achievement....11
4.1. Path Analysis for Winter RIT Reading Achievement.............101
4.2. Path Analysis for Winter RIT Math Achievement................105
xii


LIST OF TABLES
3.1. School demographics in 2009-2010........................................53
3.2. Student proficiency on state assessment test, 2009......................53
3.3. Student classroom climate survey respondents............................56
3.4. Internal reliabilities for teacher subscales............................58
3.5. Internal reliabilities for student subscales............................61
3.6. Research methodologies by research questions..........................69
3.7. Descriptive statistics for variables used in maximum likelihood
multiple imputation.....................................................73
4.1. Students descriptions of a caring teacher..............................78
4.2. Classroom climate questionnaire results.................................90
4.3. Student subscale mean ratings for the classroom climate
survey subscales and RIT achievement results before and
after imputations.......................................................92
4.4. Correlations between classroom climate subscales and
student outcomes........................................................94
4.5. Hierarchical multiple regression for student subscales and
reading scores..........................................................98
4.6. Multiple regression for student subscales and engagement for reading.... 98
4.7. Multiple regression statistical significance levels for student
subscales and reading scores based upon 40 imputations..................99
4.8. Hierarchical multiple regression for student subscales and
math scores............................................................102
4.9. Multiple regression for student subscales and engagement for math.....103
4.10. Multiple regression statistical significance levels for student
subscales and math scores based upon 40 imputations....................103
4.11. Teacher reported Satisfaction, Instrumental Help and Conflict
subscales..............................................................106
4.12. Teacher and student interaction survey results by item.................107
4.13. Correlations between teacher survey results and student subscales......109
4.14. Correlations between student subscales and teacher survey items........Ill
4.15. Characteristics of the teacher multicultural attitude survey (TMAS)....112
4.16. Teacher multicultural attitude survey results..........................114
4.17. Correlations between Teacher Multicultural Attitude Survey (TMAS)
results and student subscales..........................................115
xiii


CHAPTER 1
THE PROBLEM
Informally, when groups of adults were asked to recall a time during their
education when they especially liked school and did well academically, often the
memories were associated with a certain teacher (McCune & Caruthers, 1991). This
certain teacher may have motivated them to work hard in their studies, made them feel
like they were doing a good job, motivated them to not give up, was there to help and
prod them along, and/or made them feel special in a positive way. In contrast, Paul
and Smith (2000) found that when groups of adults were asked to recall a time when
they had a dislike for school or when they learned very little, the memories were often
associated with teachers with whom they had poor relationships. The teacher may
have been too critical, ridiculed them, or caused them embarrassment. This
component of student learning is not based on curriculum or instruction but is
associated with the affective component of learning.
A child's feelings about his/her learning environment are an important aspect
of learning. What happens in a classroom can mean the difference between success
and failure both for a students current school year and for the future. Student-teacher
relationships, and their relationship to engagement and learning are the focus of this
study
1


Complexity of Student-Teacher Relationships
The characteristics of student-teacher relationships or relationships between
teachers and their students are important. Davis (2006) reported on middle school
students descriptions of good relationships with teachers, and additionally, how they
perceived classroom work depending on the quality of those relationships. When
students had good relationships with their teachers, academic tasks were described as
fun, meaningful, personal, and promoted understanding. In contrast, when
relationships with teachers were not as good, academic work was described as
coercive, repetitive, isolated, and irrelevant. In classrooms where students had good
relationships with their teachers, students reported a supportive classroom climate for
learning and safe climate for taking intellectual risks.
Relationships between teachers and students are multidimensional. Positive
relations between teachers and their students have been described using various terms
such as appropriate, high quality, or effective. Brophy and Good (1974) reported that
teacher behaviors that are appropriate in all situations include respect for students as
individuals, listening attentively, and avoidance of hostile personal criticism. Going
beyond appropriate, Pianta (1999) described effective relationships as engaged, warm,
and responsive. They are characterized by high demands and high expectations by the
teacher while providing the students with structure and limits. Doll, Zucker, and
Brehm (2004) additionally wrote about the caring aspect of effective relationships.
2


They found that caring relationships are associated with increased student academic
engagement and satisfaction, while the lack of these relationships was associated with
school failure. Rey, Smith Yoon, Somers, and Barnett (2007) referred to studies that
define quality relationships as involving teacher support so that a student feels cared
for, esteemed, and valued. In addition, Richards (2006) found that when high school
students were asked about teacher and student relationships and learning, teacher
caring was the most frequently identified aspect of relationships. Stipek (2006)
reported on studies where adolescents associated teacher caring with their level of
engagement in their academic work. Students with supportive relationships with their
teachers were more likely to take risks that enhanced their learning and were more
likely to ask questions when experiencing difficulty with a task.
The nature of relationships varies across grade levels. In a survey of 1,800
middle school students, about 84% of students indicated that it is important that their
teacher likes them, helps them, is friendly and caring, listens to them, and provides
them with extra help (Kinney, 2007). Other middle school students characterized a
caring teacher as one who is able to develop strong relationships with students,
promote a strong culture for learning, and who is interested in the success of all
students (Hayes, Ryan, & Zeller, 1994). Also coming from middle school students,
Bosworth (1995) found that caring was described as helping others, having empathy,
and being kind and respectful. Middle school level girls revealed that teachers should
3


be supportive, non-judgmental, and provide equitable treatment across students
(Seaton, 2007).
At the high school level, Nelson and Bauch (1997) reported that caring
teachers were those who held high student expectations, provided students with
encouragement, built relationships with students, provided assistance, and provided
high demand learning tasks. High school students in Garzas (2009) study identified
caring teachers as providing scaffolding during classroom lessons, having kind
dispositions, being available to students when needed, interested in students well-
being both inside and outside of the classroom, and providing affective support in the
classroom.
The development of caring relationships between teachers and students is
complex in other ways. For example, some research findings were examined by
ethnicity, and revealed that ethnicity plays a part in perceptions of caring. For
example, Garza (2009) found that White students and Latino students prioritized their
descriptions of caring teachers differently. Latino students most frequently mentioned
scaffolding during lessons followed by providing affective support in the classroom.
White students most frequently mentioned teachers having a kind disposition, and then
followed by scaffolding in the classroom from teachers. White students least
frequently mentioned the provision of affective support by teachers to their students.
4


Overall, quality and caring relationships has been described using various
descriptors including personality characteristics and instructional style. Descriptors
ranged from respectful, warm, and responsive to highly demanding with high
expectations. To this point, several studies alluded to a link between quality and
caring relationships and student academic engagement or other academic outcomes.
The link between these factors will be explored briefly in this chapter and in greater
depth in chapter 2.
Relationships and Academic Engagement
Student motivation levels are impacted by the nature of relationships. In a
qualitative study of middle school level students (Schmakel, 2008), students related
teacher encouragement, understanding, and patience as motivators to their learning
processes. Positive recognition was also identified as a connection to engagement in
academics both by high and low achievers. Students emphasized that as they
transition between elementary school and middle school, positive recognition and
rewards by teachers were important to keep them motivated and engaged in the
learning process. Students reported that having teachers who make the effort to get to
know students and form relationships with them was important. These teachers helped
them understand the importance of academic engagement and achievement and the
importance of academic engagement and achievement for their futures.
5


Academic engagement refers to the extent that students are connected to
academic classroom activities (Steinberg, Brown, & Dombusch, 1996). It includes
cognitive, behavioral, and emotional components (Fredricks, Blumenfel, & Paris,
2004). For example, the cognitive component is related to the amount of interest that
a student has in their academic learning whereas the behavioral component concerns
the students participation in academic tasks such as paying attention in class and
doing homework. The emotional side of academic engagement reflects a students
feelings about what they are learning. Generally, as students progress through school,
their level of academic engagement tends to decrease (Marks, 2000). Student and
teacher relationships have shown promise as a means to counteract the disengagement
process. Research studies have suggested a positive relationship between caring and
supportive relations and academic attitudes and academic engagement (Skinner and
Belmont, 1993; Battistich, Solmon, Kim, Watson, & Schaps, 1995; Marks, 2000;
Ryan and Patrick 2001). In an initial look at the connection between students
relationship with their teachers and academic engagement, Ryan and Patrick (2001)
studied middle school students and their perceptions of the social environment in the
classroom. One dimension studied was student perceptions of teacher support and
caring. Positive perceptions about teacher support were related to more self-regulated
learning. In addition, when students believed that their teacher tried to understand
6


them and tried to help them, they were less engaged in off-task behavior and
disruptive behavior.
Teacher support is important for maintaining high levels of student
engagement. Students who perceived their teachers as being caring and having high
expectations that are fair and clear were more likely to report higher levels of school
engagement (Klem & Connell, 2004). This link was true for both elementary and
especially for middle school students. Middle school students were three times more
likely to report engagement if they experienced supportive teachers. Elementary
students who reported higher levels of teacher support where 44% more likely to have
high levels of academic performance and engagement. Liabilities were also reported.
Low levels of teacher support were associated with disengagement.
Relationships and Behavioral Outcomes
In addition to their overall connection to achievement and learning, positive
relationships are especially important for students who are at risk of school failure
(Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009). The presence of one supportive and caring
adult can make a great difference to these at-risk students. It has also been found that
student engagement is a major predictor of high school completion even when
academic achievement and student background are controlled statistically (Alliance
for Excellent Education, 2009).
7


High quality relationships between teachers and students encourage persistence
in school. A 2001 study by Croninger and Lee discovered that supportive
relationships can greatly reduce the dropout rate and the impact is greater for socially
disadvantaged students or those who are struggling with academics. In other dropout
prevention literature, Hupfeld (2007) and Rodriguez (2008) found that higher quality
student and adult relationships are associated with more positive academic outcomes.
When youth were asked why they dropped out of school, the young people
most frequently responded that nobody cared. Those youth who stayed in school
reported that meaningful relationships with adults were responsible for this decision
(National Research Council, 2004). Administrators from a school district in New
York were curious as to why some at-risk students with the same demographic
backgrounds completed high school while others did not. When a group of students
were asked what kept them in school, the majority of students reported that they had a
significant relationship with an adult in the school (Hill, 2009). If teacher and student
relationships are related to keeping students in school and engaged academically, then
the relationship factor deserves further examination.
Relationships and Academic Outcomes
Relationships are important for helping to ensure that all students reach
challenging academic objectives. It is particularly challenging to keep students from
nondominant groups engaged in school, and there is a need to know more about
8


strategies for keeping students from non-dominant groups engaged in the schooling
process. Noddings (1992) suggests that the academic objectives of schools cannot be
met without caring and supportive teachers and a supportive classroom environment.
Teachers have a powerful influence on students through their attitudes and actions in
creating environments that are conducive to learning. They have the opportunity to
create positive or negative relationships with students. During a time when student
achievement and accountability are extremely important to schools across the country,
affective components of the learning process, such as positive or quality relationships,
are important factors to examine. This study examines how relationships impact
engagement and achievement.
Research on teacher and student relationships has suggested that teacher-
student relationships are one of the most consistent predictors of student achievement
(McCombs, 2003), and relationships have emerged as one of the factors with the
greatest influence on student learning (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1993). Other
studies have indicated that relationships between teachers and students are related to
the acquisition of academic skills (Burchinal, Peisner-Feinber, Pianta, & Howes,
2002) and specifically student writing skills (Griffin, 2001).
Student-teacher relationships influence academic engagement as well as
academic achievement. There is also some evidence that academic engagement acts
as a mediator of student achievement (Hughes, Luo, Kwok, & Loyd, 2008). The
9


degree to which a student puts effort into studies is a predictor of how well he or she
will perform on tests, the grades they get credits earned, or graduation from high
school.
Student achievement is defined in several ways. For example, student
achievement can be defined by acquisition of key skills and concepts, clearly defined
learning goals, or student growth (ASCD EDge). The definition varies among
educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders (School-Counselor.org). Some have
based their discussions of student achievement on graduation rates or classroom
grades, while others define achievement by a measurement tool such as an end-of-
course assessment or high stakes tests. It appears that academic achievement is
defined by the context of the research.
A Model of Relationships, Engagement and Achievement
The research just reviewed suggests that a model of teacher and student
relationships can be articulated. Figure 1 provides a model of how theoretically based
constructs of teacher and student relationships influence engagement and how they
potentially influence student academic achievement. Satisfaction refers to the degree
to which a teacher-student relationship is characterized by rapport, liking, and mutual
respect. Instrumental Help is the degree to which a teacher is viewed as a resource for
the student. Lack of Conflict is the degree to which the teacher-student relationship is
absent of negativity, unpleasantness or conflict (Ang, 2005). Engagement is student
10


effort, attention and interest (Marks, 2000). Achievement in the present study is
performance on formative assessments administered by the three schools in literacy or
mathematics.
Satisfaction
Instrumental
Help
Lack of
Conflict
Achievement
Figure 1. Student-Teacher Relationships, Engagement, and Achievement
Purpose
The purpose of the present study is to extend what is known about the nature of
student and teacher relationships, academic engagement, and ultimately student
achievement. More specifically, the study addresses the nature of perceived
11


relationships between high school teachers and students, and then how these perceived
relationships influence student academic engagement and achievement.
Two conceptual frameworks useful for integrating interpersonal relationships,
academic engagement, and student achievement are used to further structure the study.
These include Bronfenbrenners (1979) ecological model and Pianta and Steinbergs
(1992) developmental model. The ecological model proposes that people are
constantly interacting with their environment. Important ideas from Bronfenbrenners
work include the power of student perceptions about their environment, interactions
that occur between levels of subsystems in their environment, and how positive versus
negative environmental factors can influence learning.
The developmental model (Pianta & Steinberg, 1992) is an extension of
Bronfenbrenners (1979) work and examines how supportive relationships act as a
protective factor for at-risk students. According to the model, as students interact one-
on-one with teachers in their school settings, relationships develop. These
relationships form over time through repeated interactions. Students react and adapt to
the interactions according to the type of interactions that occur. The student will
react to a supportive relationship differently than a cold or uncaring relationship. It is
possible that supportive relationships act as a buffer to school failure.
12


Research Questions
This study examines teacher and student relationships at the high school level,
and especially when the student population is nontraditional and minority. In addition,
this study examines the effects of high- and low-quality student and teacher
relationships on student engagement and ultimately on student achievement.
This study addresses two questions:
1. What is the nature of the perceived relationships between teachers and
their students in nontraditional high schools designed to serve non-
dominant groups of students? How are those relationships developed?
2. How are perceptions about teacher and student relationships related to
student academic engagement and ultimately achievement?
The present study focuses on three nontraditional schools that serve high
numbers of minority students and English language learners and a sample of teachers
within three schools. The research design employs mixed methodologies to study
teacher and student relationship problems in depth. Student surveys were used to
measure the nature of student and teacher relationships from the students perspective.
Student survey responses were used to identify a pool of teachers categorized as
having a range of quality relationships with their students. Six teachers who agreed to
participate from the pool provided the teacher perspectives on teacher and student
relationships. Interim assessment results were linked to student survey data on
13


relationship quality. Teachers and their students were studied using qualitative
methodologies, such as classroom observations and individual interviews with
teachers and students. The findings from both the qualitative and quantitative
measures were triangulated to provide a more in depth understanding of the data.
In chapter 2, the research on teacher and student relationships will be further
examined along with the ecological and the developmental theoretical frameworks that
form the foundation for my research and my research questions. Chapter 3 explains in
further detail about the methodology used to conduct the research and the methods
used to analyze the data. Chapter 4 describes the data and findings, and chapter 5
summarizes the findings and examines the application of the research, the study
limitations, and implications for future research.
14


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter delves into the construct of relationship by exploring dimensions
of relationships emphasized in the literature, particularly caring. This is followed by
an examination of the empirical evidence of the associations between the quality of
teacher and student relationships, academic engagement, and academic achievement.
The chapter also considers how the nature of teacher and student relationships is
moderated by teacher attitudes, teacher expectations, students grade level, and
students ethnicity. Finally, the chapter ends with the explanation of a conceptual
framework drawn primarily from Bronfenbrenner (1979) and Pianta (1999).
Descriptions of Quality Relationships and Caring
In the literature, caring is sometimes used interchangeably with quality in
respect to relationships and much of the literature on caring and quality relationships
in education can be traced to writings of Nel Noddings. According to Noddings
(1984), caring is a moral aspect of relationships, and she suggests that education
should promote an ethic of caring in addition to building intellectual capacities. This
ethic of caring is based on compassion, trust, and respect. In addition, a person who
cares may even be able to displace his or her own reality onto someone else. The
caring person is able to perceive the reality of another person almost as clearly as their
own perception of reality. Teachers may quite accurately be able to perceive the
15


reality that the student experiences. In turn, the student responds to the caring teacher
and can feel the difference between being cared for and being ignored.
Noddings (2005) makes the point that all teachers care because they go into
teaching might only be true to a certain extent. There is a difference between those
teachers who care by pursuing goals for students (as a virtue) and those who care in a
relational sense. Caring teachers go beyond pursuing goals for students, that is, they
develop caring and trusting relationships with their students. Caring provides the
foundation for successful teaching and learning. Caring involves listening to students
which builds trust between teachers and students, and then trust in turn builds
cooperative work. Caring teachers talk with students and learn from them. What is
learned from students can be built into lessons at the group and individual levels.
In addition to Noddings, Gloria Ladson-Billings has also written about the
conceptual aspects of teacher and student relationships. Ladson-Billings (1994) found
that teachers who were identified as caring by African American students were
teachers who demanded excellence of their students, were able to lead students to
choose academic excellence, and who paid attention to student needs. Teachers let
students know that they valued their abilities and skills and tried to get students to use
those skills academically. Overall, teacher and student relationships were
characterized as fluid, equitable, and extending beyond the classroom into the
community. Sometimes teachers were seen as the learners in the classroom while
16


students took on the role of teachers. Teachers relationships with their students were
found to extend beyond the classroom by teachers attending student events,
community events, or by them using community services such as attending the local
church or shopping in local stores. Teachers tried to create a bond with all students so
as not to create competition between students. Caring teachers were described as
those who encouraged students to become a community of learners where students
took on the responsibility for others (Ladson-Billings, 1995).
A range of characteristics of caring was identified by Alder (2002) in her
review of the literature. Generally, caring was described as an attitude, a commitment,
a practice or process, a combination of honesty and patience, trust, respect,
encouragement, and devotion. Students most commonly described a caring teacher as
one who was helpful and had an attitude of respect and kindness. Teachers noted that
a caring teacher was attentive to individual students, involved, polite, and concerned
with student success. Students reported that they would work harder for a caring
teacher and prompted them to care about school work.
In a study of middle school teachers and their predominantly African American
students, students reported that caring teachers were ones that got students to complete
their work, answered students questions, and helped students academically (Alder
2002). An emphasized aspect of caring was when teachers talked with students
17


individually and privately. Teacher talk was further characterized as including teacher
encouragement and communicating high expectations.
In other studies, students reported that caring teachers interacted with students
informally, expressed a personal interest in them; had respect for students needs,
interests, and concerns, displayed courtesy toward students, and demonstrated
commitment to student learning (Jepsen, 2005; Monzo & Rueda, 2001; Murdock &
Miller, 2003).
Associations Between Relationships and Student Engagement and Achievement
Student engagement has taken on added importance since it has become a goal
of school improvement. It has shown to be positively correlated to achievement and
negatively correlated to dropping out of school (Fredricks et al., 2004). Within the
literature on teacher and student relationships, studies have revealed connections
between relationships and student outcomes such as student engagement and academic
achievement. When addressing academic achievement, the term is generally
understood to be associated with student performance on classroom assignment,
student grades, or test scores. It is multidimensional and is a predictor of academic
achievement. The construct of student engagement is defined and described in more
detail here and its connection to student achievement is unpacked.
18


Student Engagement
In early studies, student engagement was described as time on task (Brophy,
1986). The concept has evolved since the early studies and has been defined as
feelings of belonging, attachment, investment in learning, and perseverance (REL
Southeast, 2011). Other literature has described student engagement as a students
willingness to participate in school activities, submitting classroom work, and
attending class (Chapman, 2003). Student engagement has also been described using
a three dimensional approach that includes behavioral engagement, emotional
engagement, and cognitive engagement (Fredricks et al., 2004). Behavioral
engagement includes the students involvement in academic, extracurricular, and
social activities. Behavioral engagement is believed to be very important for
achieving academic outcomes. Emotional engagement involvements a students
affective reaction to the school, teachers, classmates, and academics overall.
Cognitive engagement refers to the extent to which students are interested in what they
are learning.
Studies Revealing Associations Between Relationships and Student Outcomes
The support that teachers provide to students can affect a students academic
trajectory anywhere along the way from kindergarten through high school. For
example, some studies have found that children who have a positive connection with
their teachers in their early years of schooling are more likely to have both positive
19


social and academic outcomes (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008). Students who were
identified at-risk with emotional and behavioral problems in kindergarten and then
placed in first grade with a teacher who provided these students with high levels of
emotional support performed as well academically as the other students (low-risk
students) in the classroom (Hamre & Pianta, 2005).
There is evidence of connections between quality teacher relationships and
student outcomes such as interest in school, engagement in school, and academic
performance. These connections are illustrated in Figure 1 which was displayed
earlier. Relationships, Instrumental Help, and Lack of Conflict influence student
achievement directly and indirectly. These three characteristics of teacher and student
relationships also directly influence student engagement which is a mediator of student
achievement. Wentzel (1997) examined the aspects of caring and their connection to
one student outcome motivation to learn. In this longitudinal study of 248 students
who were followed from Grades 6 through 8, study findings revealed caring
relationships between teachers and students were significantly and positively related to
academic effort and grade point averages. Students were more motivated to engage in
classroom activities if they believed that their teachers cared about them. In another
study of middle school students, teacher high expectations, teacher fairness, and
teacher motivation were associated with positive relationships between students and
20


teachers and were further associated with student interest in class and their pursuing of
academic goals (Wentzel, 2002).
In a sample of 880 third grade students who were part of a larger longitudinal
study that followed a group of mothers and children from birth through adolescence,
associations were examined between the quality of their teacher and student
relationships from preschool through third grade and third grade scores of academic
achievement (OConnor & McCartney, 2007). The Student Teacher Relationship
Scale (STRS) (Pianta,1992) was used to document the teachers feelings and beliefs
about their relationship with individual students during four periods across time. The
survey was first completed by a students preschool teacher, followed by a survey
completed by a students kindergarten, first, and third grade teachers. Findings
suggested that both the quality of teacher and student relationships at the third grade
and the change in quality of teacher and student relationships were significant
predictors of achievement when child factors and family factors were controlled for in
the analyses. There was also some evidence that student engagement partially
mediated the association between teacher and student relationships and academic
achievement.
In another longitudinal study, 671 students were followed from first grade
through third grade in an effort to study teacher and student support, engagement and
achievement (Hughes et al., 2008). The students who participated in the study were
21


identified as academically at-risk. Measures collected included a teacher survey of
teacher and student relationships that was collected once a year for three years, student
achievement in reading and math, and a teacher report of students of academic
engagement. Study findings indicated that the effects of teacher and student
relationships on math and reading were significantly mediated by academic
engagement.
In a study of immigrant students that focused on the contributions of
relationships to engagement and performance, finding suggested that school based
adult supportive relationships were connected to both academic engagement and
school performance (Suarez-Orozco, Pimentel, & Martin, 2009). Study participants
included a 407 immigrant students between the ages of nine and fourteen who were
recruited from 51 schools with high densities of immigrant students. A relationship
survey instrument assessed the extent of meaningful and supportive relationships
between students and adults within the school. Engagement items assessed both
cognitive engagement (degree of student interest and intellectual engagement) and
behavioral engagement (degree of task completion, homework completion, attendance,
and participation in class). Academic achievement was measures through grade point
average (GPA). School-based supportive relationships were a key influence on
academic engagement. GPA was found to be highly related attending school and
completing homework.
22


Additional studies have also found connections between teacher and student
relationships and student outcomes (Rey et al., 2007; Griffin, 2001; Clarke, Davis,
Rhodes, & Baker, 1996). Rey et al. (2007) study of 89 students in Grades 3-6
suggested student perceptions of positive teacher and student relationships were
significantly related to school interest and school attachment. Griffins (2001) study
of 97 fourth-grade students found close teacher and student relationships were
significantly related to student writing performance. In a study that addressed high-
performing classrooms of disadvantaged students, teaching methods and materials
alone could not explain high student achievement. Among the factors that did relate to
high student achievement were the strong interactive relationships between teachers
and students (Clarke, Davis, Rhodes, & Baker, 1996).
More recent research with large samples of students established statistically
significant relationships between seven measures of teacher effectiveness and
achievement gains or value added gains on standardized tests. Ferguson (2011) used
student measures of the Seven Cs (caring about students controlling behavior,
clarifying lessons, challenging students, captivating students, conferring with students
and consolidating knowledge) to predict achievement gains in a variety of settings. It
was found that classroom control was the strongest predictor of gains, cut the other six
Cs were also important to controlling behavior. Caring was one of the six other Cs
that predicted achievement growth, but all of the seven Cs were inter-related.
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The research studies examined here have shown that a teachers relationship
with his/her students is related to various types of student outcomes. Other studies
have had more of a focus on how relationships and student achievement are related.
The relationship between teacher and student relationships and achievement in some
instances does not seem to be direct such as those found in the Hughes et al. (2008)
study. Mediators such as motivation or student engagement are at work in the process
(Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Wentzel, 1998). Furrer and Skinner (2003) found that
relationships were significant predictors of engagement in elementary school age
children which then mediated academic performance. Wentzels (1998) study of 167
sixth-grade students revealed that teacher support was positively related to school
interest and that the effect partly explained classroom grades one year later.
Research on Teacher Attitudes, Expectations and Achievement
Teachers attitudes and expectations are reflected in their relationships with
students and can affect student achievement. For example, in Wenzels 2002 study,
about 450 middle school students from two schools completed self-report
questionnaires that assessed the connections between student motivation, social
behavior, and classroom performance with teachers expectations, fairness,
nurturance, and teacher modeling of motivation. Study findings revealed that terms
referred to as teaching dimensions (fairness, teacher motivation, rule setting, negative
feedback, high expectations) were predictive of students goal pursuit, interest in class,
24


and a mastery of goals orientation. Independently, high expectations were a positive
predictor of student goal pursuance, interest in class, and mastery of goals orientation.
Additional analyses also indicated high expectations were a positive predictor of
classroom grades.
Several studies have associated teacher attitudes, expectations, and differential
treatment of students with student achievement. For example, the seminal research of
Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) found teachers beliefs were subtly communicated to
students and influenced their achievement. Brophy and Good (1974) found teachers
were more likely to have higher quality relationships with high-achieving students
than with low-achieving students. High-achieving students were more likely to
receive praise and support, while low-achieving students were more likely to receive
criticism and punishment. In addition, physical attractiveness of students has also
been related to teacher attitudes and interaction patterns, thus affecting the quality of
interactions and relationships. Brophy (1995) also found that students who are
perceived as introverted or shy engaged in less interaction with teachers and received
less attention from their teachers than did other students. These dynamics may play an
important role in how Native American students experience school (Plank, 1994).
Teachers attitudes and expectations of students can vary by a students
ethnicity. More recently, Tenenbaum and Ruck (2007) examined teachers
expectations and speech toward ethnic minority students. They found teachers had the
25


highest expectations for Asian students. Additionally, teachers held higher
expectations of, and engaged in more positive speech with European American
students than with Latino or African American students. Saft and Pianta (2001) found
student age, ethnicity, and gender predicted teacher perceptions of classroom
adjustment for very young children. The findings of Tenenbaum and Ruck (2007) and
Saft and Pianta (2001) suggest that ethnicity plays an important factor in relationship
development and student outcomes.
Relationships, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom
Some in the field of multicultural education have reported that the
development of a good relationship between each student and his/her teacher can be
important for non-dominant group students and can be a central element in closing the
achievement gap. Bell (2002/2003) reported that caring is a factor essential to closing
the achievement gap teacher and student relationships. In successful schools, teachers
form a good caring relationship with each of their students. According to Bell, Kids
dont care how much we know until they know how much we care (p. 34).
McKinley (2003) studied 29 teachers and their African American students who
performed at or above state standards. Study findings indicated that teacher social
interactions, classroom management, and climate were key to their effectiveness as
teachers. They often extended their positive caring relationships with students beyond
the classroom. Similarly, a study of nine high-performing middle schools that served
26


high-poverty Latino students found that high-quality teacher and student relationships
were consistently present (Jesse, 2001).
Other studies have reported positive outcomes for non-dominant groups of
students. In a study of 44 at-risk African American students, student ratings of quality
teacher and student relationships were associated with positive student engagement
and academic outcomes (Decker, Dona, & Christenson, 2007). Buriels (1983) study
of teacher and student relationships with 40 Anglo-American and 59 Mexican-
American students from low socioeconomic backgrounds indicated that Mexican-
American students benefited academically from positive relationships with their
teachers.
Both teacher and student perceptions about relationships can vary based on
ethnicity and have academic consequences. Hughes and Kwok (2007) found African
American students were less likely to have supportive relationships with their
teachers. Saft and Pianta (2001) studied 197 teachers and the perceptions they had of
their relationships with their students. When the teacher and the student were of the
same ethnicity, the teacher was more likely to rate the child positively. This was
especially true with Hispanic students. Teachers made different decisions for minority
students than for Caucasian students with regard to grade promotion, retention, and
placement in special education (Saft & Pianta, 2001). In a review of literature studies
on teacher and student relationships in multicultural classrooms, den Brok and Levy
27


(2005) found treatment of students was associated with ethnicity, race, and gender.
They also found evidence that students perceptions of teacher interpersonal behavior
was related to student outcomes that varied for different student ethnic groups.
Teachers knowledge about the ethnic background of their students is
important for relationships building. In a study of two large elementary schools in a
low-income Latino community, findings suggested that relationships between minority
students and their teachers are often strained due to a lack of teacher knowledge about
students culture and language (Monzo and Rueda, 2001). In a study of elementary
school children, the same behavior displayed by both African American students and
Caucasian students was interpreted differently by teachers (Entwistle & Alexander,
1988).
Parent, administrator, and student perceptions about the effect of teacher and
student relationships upon student achievement were not in alignment with teachers
perceptions. Bishop, Berryman, and Richardson (2002) interviewed parents, students,
principals, and teachers in New Zealand and asked about minority students and their
educational achievement. Parents, students, and principals indicated that the greatest
influence on students educational achievement was their teachers. In contrast, the
teachers said the greatest influences on student achievement were the students
themselves, their home experiences, and the school structure, thereby suggesting that
they operated from a deficit model of minority student achievement.
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Degrees of teacher caring behavior can go unnoticed by students and parents.
Van Galen (1996) identified inequitable patterns of teacher caring behavior across
student gender, race, or social class through a qualitative study of high school teachers
and students. Although students and parents alike identified teaching staff as caring
people who would extend themselves in the interest of students, they did not realize
that the attention was not equitable. One way teachers demonstrated familiarity and
interest in students was through joking with them in class. The researchers notes
indicated about two thirds of the joking communication was directed toward males.
The content of the discourse also differed by ethnicity. Communication topics with
white males ranged from their cars to academic records or plans for the future,
whereas the conversations with African American males concerned their performance
in recent athletic events. Joking communication with females was considerably less
frequent and even rarer with African American females.
A teachers knowledge and respect for cultural differences affects their
relationships with students. Ladson-Billings (1994) noted the importance of teacher
caring and respect for addressing cultural differences. Students were excited about
learning when teachers exhibited acts of kindness and respect within and outside the
classroom. These teachers were familiar with cultural differences and how to show
respect through interactions with students.
29


In summary, the cited studies suggest that ethnicity is related to the quality of
teacher and student relationships in complex ways. Teachers react differentially to
students ethnic background and also to the gender and race of their students. Some
students may experience either more supportive or less supportive relationships based
these characteristics. Teachers may not even be aware of the differences in treatment
of or relationship quality with students. Teachers and students speech and behavior
can be interpreted differently based on culture or traditions. The differential treatment
from teachers can be due to a lack of knowledge about students culture or language.
Ultimately, the differential degrees of relationship quality can affect student academic
achievement.
Teachers vs. Students Perceptions of Relationships
The research reported thus far has included student perceptions and other times
includes teacher perceptions about teacher and student relationships. Most commonly
in the literature, teacher perceptions of relationships are collected. However, the
collection of student perceptions provides important information and often revealing
patterns in the research. Studies that include student perceptions of teacher and
student relationships have indicated that teachers who are characterized as directive,
authoritative, and tolerant are associated with higher student achievement (Wubbels &
Brekelmans, 2005). Rey et al. (2007) examined both teacher and student relationship
perceptions. Their study iiyvolved third-grade through sixth-grade African American
30


children who used the 10-item Perceived Teacher Support Subscale of the Survey of
Childrens Social Support. Survey items assessed whether students felt loved, cared
for, valued, and esteemed by teachers. The findings indicated a significant
relationship between student reports of quality positive relationships and their school
functioning. Student support ratings predicted levels of compliance to classroom
rules, interest in school, school connectedness, and school involvement. This study
also indicated a significant relationship between teacher perceptions of students and
student perceptions of teacher and student relationships. It was suggested that both
teachers and students perceived these relationships similarly. A study conducted by
Safi: and Pianta (2001) found that students perceptions about teacher and student
relationships with regard to conflict and closeness appeared to be stable across
teachers and across grade levels.
The interpretation of teacher caring behavior is important to consider. Adler
(2002) examined the interactive and interpretive characteristics of caring. A teacher
may communicate a caring behavior or an attitude toward a student. It would be
expected that a student will interpret the teachers behavior as caring. A problem
exists when the perceived reality of the one being cared for (the student) and the one
caring (the teacher) are not in congruence. A student may not interpret the behavior as
caring although the teacher thought that he or she was communicating caring behavior.
Such mismatches may occur when a teacher crosses the boundary into a cultural
31


context different from his or her own (Webb-Dempsey, Wilson, Corbett, & Mordecai-
Phillips, 1996). Cues can be misinterpreted and lead to generalizations about cultural
backgrounds. Differences in cultural backgrounds can be found in students ways of
responding to questions or in attention-getting strategies (Coballes-Vega, 1992). For
example, misunderstanding of student behavior in response to teacher attention is
prevalent in school settings with Native American students. The silence of Native
American students has been misinterpreted as disinterest, avoidance, or shyness on the
part of the student (Plank, 1994), when in fact, these students might be communicating
respect. The link between culture and relationships between teachers and students is
complex and important.
The present dissertation research study focuses on building a deeper
understanding of the interaction and interpretation of teacher and student relationships
from both teacher and student perspectives. Quality teacher and student relationships
as well as caring relationships have different meanings to different people. The
dissertation study examines what caring and quality relationships mean to students
who represent minority ethnic groups and how these perceptions influence
engagement and achievement.
32


Relationships and Grade Levels
Much of the research on teacher and student relationships has focused on
elementary school age students and their teachers and has shown that relationships
between teachers and students are closer with younger students than with older ones.
It is known that relationship patterns change with the advance in grade level (Lynch
and Cicchetti, 1997). Little research has been conducted with middle school and
seemingly even less with high school age students. Middle school age children
experience great changes in their intellectual, physical, emotional development. They
are subject to seeking more independence from adults and are less engaged in
relationships with teachers (Lynch & Cicchetti, 1997). As students transition into
middle school, they rely on relationships especially with peers to establish positive
self-concepts (Wentzel, 1998). In addition, they perceive teachers as less caring than
do younger children. Proponents of the middle school philosophy have expressed the
need for a caring relationship for adolescents during this time period (Carnegie
Council on Adolescent Development, 1989).
As students transition into high school, the importance of quality teacher and
student relationships is even greater especially with regard to school attendance and
school dropout rates even though it may not seem to be as important to students.
When questioning high school students as to why some students graduate and others
drop out, Hill (2009) found that graduates frequently mentioned significant
33


relationships with an adult at school. Mentoring, or a one-to-one caring and
supportive relationship was one of the basic core strategies in preventing students
from dropping out of high school as suggested by research conducted by the National
Dropout Prevention Center (Smink, 2008). In the past several years, there has been an
increased focus on high school reform and high school completion. Some promising
high school reform measures have focused on creating smaller learning community
settings that have been connected to higher student achievement, higher attendance
rates, and lower dropout rates (Rodriguez, 2008). Little is known about how smaller
school settings affected student outcomes, although it is possible that it may be easier
to build high quality relationships in smaller schools setting. Rodriguez approached
the problem through an in-depth case study of two small urban high schools and found
that personalized relationships with school adults positively and significantly affected
students school experience. Personalized experiences were described as involving
respect, encouragement, and support.
Students who trusted their teacher had fewer discipline problems. Gregory and
Ripski (2008) investigated high school students relationships with their teachers with
a focus on student behavior and classroom discipline. Since behavior problems are
related to suspensions, low achievement, and dropping out of school, positive
relationship formation between students and teachers is an important strategy for at-
risk students.
34


The research studies reported here reveal the importance of quality
relationships between teachers and students across grade levels. Students in
elementary, middle, and high schools have shown benefits from quality and caring
relationships with teachers, although the nature of these relationships differs across
grade levels. Developing a further understanding of relationships is one of the
purposes of this study.
Additional Studies Associated with Teacher and Student Relationships
Teacher and student relationships emerge as an important variable across
several research domains. Based on the synthesis of years of research in teaching and
learning, the American Psychological Association (1993) identified a set of 12
psychological principles to guide educators toward effective school reform. The 12
principles were categorized within five general areas:
1. Meta-cognitive and cognitive factors;
2. Affective factors;
3. Developmental factors;
4. Personal and social factors; and
5. Individual differences.
Teacher and student relationships or interactions were categorized within the personal
and social factors. Quality relationships that involve care, trust, and respect were
identified as important to learning and establishing self-respect and self-esteem.
35


Research based on these principles had suggested that positive interpersonal
relationships and classroom climate are the most consistent predictors of student
achievement and motivation (McCombs, 2003).
Teacher and student relationships have emerged as an important component of
learning. In an analysis of over 50 years of research on factors with the greatest
influence on student learning, findings suggested that teacher and student social
interaction was relatively high on the list (Wang, Haertel, and Walberg, 1993). The
review included content analysis of handbook chapters and reviews, research
syntheses, and a survey of educational researchers. Findings were summarized into a
28 category conceptual framework by calculating an average score or mean effect for
each category using the average of meta-analyses, expert ratings, and content ratings
that linked variables to school learning. Teacher and student social interactions were
fifth on the list, preceded only by classroom management, meta-cognitive processes,
cognitive processes, and home environment/parental support. Factors that ranked
below teacher and student interactions included social/behavioral attributes,
motivational and affective attributes, peer group relations, quantity of instruction, and
classroom instructional variables.
Theoretical Frameworks That Address Teacher and Student Interactions
In order to understand relationships between teachers and students and how
teacher perceptions, behaviors, and attitudes interact with student perceptions,
36


attitudes, and behaviors to affect learning, two categories of theories form the
structural foundation for this research. Ecological models are described first, followed
by an integration of developmental models.
Ecological Model
The present study is based in part on Bronfenbrenners (1979) ecological
model for understanding human development. The focus of the model is described as
development-in-context. Bronfenbrenner recognized the importance of
development and learning within the context of the persons environment. The
ecological model proposed that human development involves a dynamic interaction
between a human and the settings in which the person resides. Throughout his or her
life, the person restructures his or her perceptions through ongoing interactions with
the environment. The person influences the environment and the environment
influences the person in such ways that the interactions require mutual
accommodation. Additionally, the developmental environment goes beyond the
immediate environmental settings and includes the interconnections between
immediate settings and the larger surroundings with external influences.
The ecological approach to understanding human behavior consists of multiple
levels that are inter-connected. How individuals perceive their environment turns out
to be important. Bronfenbrenner (1979) described four levels or systems that
influence development and can be envisioned as concentric or nested circles. The
37


individual is at the center circle. The systems of interactions that have the most direct
effect on the individual are positioned closer to the center of the circle, with those
interactional systems that have more indirect effects being farther away from the
center.
The innermost circle or system of interactions in Bronfenbrenners (1979)
model is called the microsystem level. The microsystem level is the pattern of
interactions, activities, or roles that take place on a face-to-face basis. Examples of
these interactions include those between the person and others at home, such as
between mother and child, or at school between student and teacher. The interactions
at this level have the most profound effect in the psychological growth of the person
because they also include not only the actual interactions but the experience or
perceptions of the interactions. The next level emanating from the microsystem is the
mesosystem. The mesosytem is comprised of the relationships between two or more
settings in which the person in an active participant. For a child, relationships
between home and school or home and neighborhood peer group would be included in
this level. The exosystem level is comprised of one or more settings that do not
involve the person as an active participant, but either affects or are affected by the
person. An example of an exosystem level relationship would be that between a child
and the parents work or a child and the school board. The outermost level of the
ecological model is the macrosystem. Macrosystem relationships include those
38


relationships that refer to consistencies between the content or form of a lower-level
system such as the consistencies between home and school relationships in the United
States and in Canada. The relationships described within the four levels or systems
are interactive and reactive as life experiences and transitions bring about changes in
relationships.
For Bronfenbrenner (1979), transitions occur as a person alters his or her role
or setting. When a child enters school, a transition occurs. Every ecological transition
within a persons ecological environment brings about change to the person either as a
recipient or as an instigator. Changes and transitions are natural characteristics of a
developing person and include mutual accommodations between the developing
person and his or her environmental settings. Transitions and changes occur in
context. For example, as relationships between teachers and students develop, there
may be a shift in the balance of power toward the student and away from the teacher
(p. 59).
Bronfenbrenners theory (1979) relates to both cognitive and social
development, and he theorized that interactions and relationships between settings
affect both types of development. The interactions and relationships at the
microsystem are of prime importance since they have the potential to support or
impede a childs cognitive and social development.
39


The developmental impact of both observational learning and joint
activity will be enhanced if either takes place in the content of a
primary dyad characterized by mutuality of positive feeling (one learns
more from a teacher with whom one has a close relationship).
Conversely, mutual antagonism occurring in the context of a primary
dyad is especially disruptive of joint activity and interferes with
observation learning, (p. 60)
It is also important to keep in mind that interactions that do not involve the child
directly and that involve observational learning can also influence a childs
development. For example, watching interactions or actions between parents and
teachers can affect a child through observational learning. It can be concluded from
Bronfenbrenners work that the quality of teacher and student relationships can
influence the impact of observational learning and the complexity of learning in
school settings.
Developmental Model
Bronfenbrenners work has influenced other researchers. Pianta extended the
work of Bronfenbrenner and examined how supportive relationships between teachers
and at-risk students can be a protective factor to prevent failure in school or life
(Pianta & Steinberg. 1992; Pianta & Walsh, 1996). The model is comprised of various
systems or contexts that affect development. The various systems lie in a series of
concentric circles much like the Bronfenbrenner model (1979). The innermost circle
includes the child and the childs behavioral and biological systems. The childs
system is an organization of motor, cognitive, social, and emotional developmental
40


domains. Each of these domains functions as interdependent and integrated entities.
Educational practices usually focus on the cognitive domain in isolation to the
interconnected and integrated emotional and social domains. By not addressing the
social and emotional domains in educational practices, schools are not meeting the
needs of the child as a system.
A childs biological system interacts with the cognitive and behavior systems
and environment. Relationship building between the child and teacher is also a means
to address the social and emotional domains (Pianta, 1999). Although some learning
and attention problems are related to biological problems, there remains a need to
view the biological problems within the contextual environment. Again, the
relationships between teacher and student might act as a buffer for biologically based
problems.
Extending outward from Piantas (1999) child system are the dyadic systems.
These systems include the interpersonal relationships between: child and parent, peer
and peer, parent and parent, and teacher and child. Each of these relationships plays
an important part in the regulation of the childs behavior. The relationships develop
over time, and through repeated interactions the child learns what to expect from the
interactions and how to adapt or act in response to the interactions. A warm, loving,
and supportive relationship between a child and teacher can influence the childs
behavior and learning experiences in different ways than an uncaring or cold
41


relationship. Verbal cues, nonverbal cues, and interactions with a teacher can
influence the childs behavior. Interaction between other players within the dyadic
system can impact or influence the behavior of the child in a like manner as well.
As we move further outward from the center of the circle, we come across
Piantas (1999) small social group system. The small social group system includes
families, peer groups, and classrooms. The small groups can be viewed as having
codes or rules of behavior that may or may not be in line with the larger community or
social structure. The group codes influence a childs behavior in compromising and
sometimes, competitive manners. Family codes may or may not agree with peer group
codes, which may or not agree with classroom codes, particularly when students come
from diverse backgrounds. Classroom codes and regulations can be viewed as
providing constraints on how the teacher interacts with students. For example,
classroom discipline regulations might restrict the one-to-one positive interactions
between students and teachers, but only on a conditional basis. That is, good behavior
is reinforced with positive responses from the teacher, but the teacher may be forced to
use negative responses for bad behavior. Thus, children with behavioral problems
may never be awarded the benefits from positive interactions with their teachers and
only experience the negative ones.
The outer edge of the circle is viewed as the culture and community system
(Pianta, 1999). The entities within this system include school, neighborhood, and
42


church. Even though the entities within this system are at a greater distance from the
child than the dyadic or small social group systems, the entities provide an influence
on the development and behavior of the child. The culture and community system
provides the cultural and community codes for the development of children based on
culture and/or community timetables, expectations, and beliefs. The codes are usually
set according to chronological age rather than the developmental level of the child.
For example, the codes and regulations of the school may have a code that a child
learns to read by the first grade, which may not agree with the developmental level of
the child. The code influences the teachers codes and behaviors in the classroom,
which then influence the child.
In reviewing Piantas (1999) theory on systems and interactions, the
interactions among systems and the entities within those systems are complex. As we
move toward the outer edges of the system, the effects on the child at any given
moment are less direct. The direct influences emerge as one-to-one interaction
between a child and an adult or a child and other children. The codes or regulations
that influence the interactions at the one-to-one level are more controllable and
changeable by those who are involved in the interactions. The interactions between
teacher and student again can be the focus of change efforts; changes that can benefit
or buffer the effects or outcomes associated with being at-risk of school failure.
Positive student and teacher interactions can make a difference in school success.
43


An application of the developmental model and its theoretical framework has
been used for the development of instrument used to assess interactions between
students and teachers in classrooms (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008). This
instrument known as The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) views
classroom quality around three domains including emotional support, classroom
organization, and instruction support. Of particular interest is the emotional support
domain that focuses on students social and emotional functioning in the classroom. A
teachers ability to support students social and emotional is said to be key to effective
practice in the classroom. In part, the emotional aspect is demonstrated through
respect and enjoyment between teachers and students in the classroom as well as the
teachers responsiveness to students, emotional and academic concerns.
Both Bronfenbrenners (1997) ecological model and Piantas developmental
model (1999) provide a valid framework for examining teacher and student
relationships and their affect on student academic engagement and achievement.
Bronfenbrenners microsystem and Piantas dyadic systems relates to the face-to-face
interactions between teachers and students in classrooms. The interactions can
directly effect students perceptions about their ability to learn and the learning
process. As students proceed through ecological transitions both within and between
school environments, students experiences with their relationships with their teachers
continue to influence and shape their perceptions about themselves and about the
44


importance of schooling. When classrooms consist of students representing multiple
cultures and ethnic backgrounds, Bronfenbrenners macrosystem comes into play.
The system can be related to the customs and values of students background as they
interact with teachers values and preconceptions about student backgrounds that can
then affect the quality of teacher and student relationships (den Brok & Levy, 2005;
Saft & Pianta, 2001). As one focuses on high school students, Piantas (1999) theory
about the relationships and their protective factors in preventing failure can be applied
the value of quality teacher and student relationships and school dropouts. The
emotional and social support provided by quality relationships between teacher and
students can affect the cognitive domain and students engagement and academic
achievement in school. The support acts as a buffer to the stresses of the educational
life of students and helps to regulate their behavior.
Dimensions of Teacher and Student Relationships
The review of the literature to this point illustrates how important teacher and
student relationships are to student outcomes and the context in which they occur. The
concept of teacher and student relationships is multidimensional. Pianta et al. (2008)
identified three dimensions when developing the CLASS Assessment Scoring Systems
which is used to assess classroom interactions through classroom observations. Those
dimensions or domains included Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and
Instructional Support. Another instrument used to assess teacher and student
45


relationships is the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS) (Pianta, 2001). This
instrument is based on child attachment theory and assesses quality relationships
between teachers and students in early childhood educational settings. Three factors
are assessed by the STRS including Relationship Closeness, Relationship
Dependency, and Conflict within the relationship.
Ang (2005) validated three dimensions or measures of teacher and student
relationships when developing the Teacher-Student Relationship Inventory (TSRI), an
instrument used to assess teacher and student relationships with middle school level
students. Her exploratory factor analysis with middle school students that was
grounded in theory revealed that three factors emerged: Satisfaction, Instrumental
Help, and Conflict. Subsequent confirmatory factor analysis tested these factors by
utilizing three subscales to measure these three factors. Internal consistencies were
high and the three factors were predictive of middle school students academic
achievement scores.
The three dimensions can be described by their subscale items. Items that
measure Satisfaction include whether a teacher enjoys having a particular student in
class, whether a teacher describes his/her relationship with a particular student as
positive, whether the teacher misses a particular student when he or she is absent, if
the teacher is happy with his/her relationship with a student, and whether the teacher
likes a particular student. Instrumental Help refers to whether the student asks for help
46


from the teacher with problems at home, whether the student shares things about
his/her personal life with the teacher, whether the student is likely to ask for help from
the teacher related to problems at school, whether the student turns to the teacher for a
listening ear or sympathy, and whether the student depends on the teacher for advice
or help. Conflict is measured by items that address whether a particular student
frustrates a teacher more than other students in the class, whether the teacher cannot
wait until the school year is over so they do not need to teach the student any longer,
whether a teacher is relieved if a particular student is absent, and whether a teacher is
able to enjoy a class more if a particular student is not in their class (Ang, 2005, p. 63).
The factors identified by Ang appear to be in alignment with the
developmental theory described by Pianta and Steinberg (1992) and are similar to
components of the Emotional Support domain of the CLASS assessment instrument.
The CLASS assessment tool and the TSRI assume relationships occur in a classroom
context where relationships develop and evolve. Both instruments describe
relationships with various degrees of relationship satisfaction (respect and enjoyment)
and various degrees of teacher support (instrument help, teachers attending to
students emotional and academic concerns). The third dimension common to both
instruments is the extent of conflict or negative climate in the relationships.
47


The Importance of Academic Engagement
It has been established that academic engagement is a prominent element in
learning and for success in school so it is important to measure it when studying
student outcomes. It has been identified as a psychological process that involves
student effort, attention, and interest (Marks, 2000). Higher levels of engagement are
associated with higher levels of academic performance while disengagement is a
predictor of dropping out of school (Voelkl, 1995; Wlodkowski & Jaynes, 1990;
Kelly, 1989). It has been found that student engagement can predict whether a student
will drop out even when academic achievement and socioeconomic class were
controlled for statistically (Goldschmidt & Wang, 1999; Swanson & Schneider, 1999).
Student engagement is associated with school climate such that students tend to reach
higher levels of achievement in schools that make high demands of them and are
supportive of them (Pellerin, 2000; Stipek, 1988; Brophy, 1987). It follows that those
students who have teacher and student relationships built on high expectations and
support show higher degrees of engagement and ultimately affect their academic
performance (Skinner, 1993; Marks, 2000).
What We Know and What We Need to Know
What we do know is that too many young people are failing academically and
there are significant numbers of other young people who are at risk of experiencing
failure during their educational careers. We also know that educational researchers
48


have been examining and evaluating strategies and efforts to improve educational
systems across the country. We have found through meta-analyses and synthesis of
research that some practices in the classroom appear to be more successful than others
(Hattie, 2009; Wang et al., 1993). Although there are consistent indications that
quality teacher and student relationships are related to student engagement, learning,
and achievement, additional research is needed to increase our understanding of how
they are related. The emphasis of much of the research in the field has not been on the
integration of the cognitive and social development that takes place during teacher and
student interactions (Pianta, 1999). There is a need to know how student level
measures of Satisfaction, Instrumental Help, and Conflict work for predicting
engagement and achievement with older students in nontraditional settings who are at
risk of dropping out of school. We do know that there are findings that indicate
consistent relationships between engagement and achievement. Through the work of
Pianta (1999) and other researchers, such as Bronfenbrenner (1979), Davis (2006), and
Ladson-Billings (1994), we are offered theories, frameworks, and definitions to guide
future research on the topic.
It is important that further investigation of teacher and student relations ensure
that both teacher and student perspectives are captured and compared to increase the
reliability of findings (Pianta, 1999). It is also useful to understand how these
49


perspectives contribute to our understanding of the experiences older students have in
nontraditional settings.
The research design and methodologies used to investigate the following two
research questions are discussed in chapter 3:
1. What is the nature of the perceived relationships between teachers and
their students in nontraditional high schools designed to serve non-
dominant groups of students? How are those relationships developed?
2. How are perceptions about teacher and student relationships related to
student academic engagement and ultimately achievement?
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CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
Overview
The study used mixed methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative, to
answer the two research questions:
1. What is the nature of the perceived relationships between teachers and
their students in nontraditional high schools designed to serve non-
dominant groups of students? How are those relationships developed?
2. How are perceptions about teacher and student relationships related to
student academic engagement and ultimately achievement?
A sample of students and teachers enrolled in math and English classes in
three urban nontraditional high schools participated in the study. To address the first
qualitative research question, student perceptions of teacher-student relationships
were collected by means of (a) questionnaires measuring perceptions of teacher-
student relationship completed by both students and teachers, and (b) interviews with
teachers and a subset of their students who had completed questionnaires, and (c)
classroom observations. To address the second quantitative research question,
statistical analyses of student questionnaires and teacher questionnaires matched to a
subset of the student questionnaires were conducted.
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Participants
Description of the Schools
Initially, high schools in several urban school districts were identified as
possible research sites. District administrators were contacted in order to explore
their interest in being a part of the present research study. An administrator in charge
of three high schools expressed an interest. A short presentation was conducted
before school board members from the three sites and permission was obtained by the
researcher to contact school principals. Principals were initially contacted by e-mail
and then by telephone. The study was described to the school principals and all three
principals expressed an interest in the study. Written approval was obtained from the
three principals that allowed the researcher to recruit teachers and collect data from
students and staff on their campuses. The researcher submitted the research proposal
to the University of Colorado Denvers Institutional Review Board for their approval
and permission to initiate the research. The approval is in the Appendix along with
instrumentation used in this study.
The three schools recruited for the study are located in outlying areas of a
major metropolitan city in the western United States. The schools serve primarily
nontraditional students in which the majority is minority and/or low income students
as seen in Table 3.1. Pseudonyms are used to denote the three schools. The majority
of minority students in all three schools are Hispanic. In addition, many of the
students in the three schools are students whose primary language is not English.
52


Many of the students enrolled in one of the three schools because they were unable to
be successful in other high schools they had attended. Angler High School has the
highest enrollment followed by Starland High School and Lakeshore High School.
Student enrollment fluctuates widely in the three schools during the school year.
Table 3.1 Schools demographics in 2009-2010
School Number of Students % Eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch %Minority
Angler HS 569 78.21 97
Lakeshore HS 251 60.96 96
Starland HS 476 25.73 78
State level student achievement data pertaining to the three schools are
presented in Table 3.2. A little less than 50% of the students who took the state
assessment test in 2009 were below partially proficient in all three schools on the
combined reading, writing, and mathematics scores.
Table 3.2. Student proficiency on state assessment test 2009
School Grade Level N % Partially Proficient % Proficient or Above
Angler HS 9 60 28 8
10 66 36 15
Lakeshore HS 9 22 32 9
10 24 38 4
Starland HS 9 24 42 8
10 36 31 3
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Selection of Teachers
In spring 2010, six language arts and mathematic teachers from the three high
schools were recruited to participate in the study. Recruitment concentrated on
teachers who taught language arts or math since MAP interim assessments were
available for those subject areas and then data would be used as the measurement of
student achievement. Students rated their fourth period or their ninth period teachers
on the quality of their relationship with their teachers as a part of a classroom climate
survey given to students in the three schools as part of annual evaluation efforts.
Based on these student survey ratings of relationship items, math and language arts
teachers were categorized as either high or low on overall teacher and student
relationship quality. The researchers advisor conducted the categorization process
and several lists were created from the names of math and language arts teachers.
Each list provided names of teachers that represented both high and low ratings. As
the researcher exhausted one contact list, additional math and science teacher names
were provided. The researcher recruited teachers by e-mail and followed up by
telephone. Teachers were provided with an overview of the study and participant
consent forms. Teachers were told that their participation was voluntary, and all
attempts would be made to preserve anonymity. They were also informed that
teacher names would not be used in any report of study findings.
Teachers who taught either math or language arts classes and had students
who completed classroom climate surveys during one of their class periods were
54


invited to participate in the research study. A total of six teachers across the three
schools showed interest and were recruited to participate in the investigation. Four of
the teachers were from Angler High School, one was from Starland High School, and
one was from Lakeshore High School. Four of the teachers taught mathematics and
two taught language arts. Their teacher experience ranged from 4 years to 40 years in
the classroom. After initial involvement, one teacher withdrew from the study. Each
of the six teachers signed a consent form and agreed to participate in a 45-minute
interview, to complete a survey about multiculturalism in their classroom, to allow
the researcher to observe their class, and to complete surveys that characterized their
relationship with individual students in their classes.
Student Participants
Participants were selected from a pool of 5521 students who completed
classroom climate surveys in classrooms of 40 teachers in the three schools. Again,
each student was asked to complete this classroom climate survey during their fourth
period class or ninth period class in the fall of 2010. The researcher then screened the
data for only those students who had completed the survey either in a language arts
class or math class. Data from a total of 72 students in 11 language arts classrooms
and 31 students in 5 math classrooms were used in the present study. As seen in
Table 3.3, slightly more of the respondents were female, over half were in the grade
12, and most had English as a second language.
1 The survey data from all 552 students was used to report the reliability of the classroom climate
subscales.
55


Table 3.3. Student classroom climate survey respondents
N Percent
Grade Level (N = 103)
9 6 5.8
10 24 23.3
11 21 20.4
12 52 50.5
Gender (N= 103)
Male 48 46.6
Female 55 53.4
Ethnicity (N = 103)
Hispanic 89 86.4
Non-Hispanic 14 13.6
English Language Learner Status (N = 103)
FEP, LEP, or NEP 86 83.5
Other 17 16.5
Note: FEP = Fluent English Proficient LEP = Limited English Proficient,
and NEP = Not English Proficient. Other included Native/Exited and other
respondents.
A subset of 18 of these 103 students also participated in in-depth interviews.
Indicators of Student-Teacher Relationships
Teacher Surveys
Reliable and valid instruments were used to collect quantitative data on
teacher and student relationships. An adaptation of the Teacher-Student Relationship
Inventory (TSRI) was used to collect teachers perspectives on teacher and student
relationships (Ang, 2005). This 14 item self-report instrument measures teacher
perceptions about the quality of teacher-student relationships with individual students.
This instrument was developed to be used with older students since previous
56


measures were created to be used with young children such as the Student-Teacher
Relationship Scale (Pianta, 2001) that is a widely used instrument. The TSRI was
based on a review of the literature that concerned the dimensions of teacher and
student relationships that are associated to the academic and behavioral outcomes of
older students.
Three dimensions are identified in the TSRI, including Instrumental Help,
relationship Satisfaction, and Conflict within the teacher-student relationship (Ang,
2005). Instrumental Help was described as when a teacher provides extra help, aid,
advice, or encouragement to students. Teachers who provided instrumental help or
support were those with a caring attitude toward students and who showed an interest
in engaging in interpersonal interactions with their students. Angs review of the
literature revealed that students with supportive teacher-student relationships
demonstrated more emotional and behavior engagement in school. Related to these
supportive relationships, other positive effects were that students were more goal
oriented toward goals valued by teachers such as learning goals and good behavior.
The second dimension, relationship Satisfaction, involves the development of positive
and satisfactory relationships between teachers and students. This dimension was
associated with a students academic and behavioral adjustment in school. The third
dimension, Conflict, was described in terms of the absence of nurturing, and negative
and critical feedback that negatively effects students classroom engagement.
57


The 14 items of the TSRI are distributed among the three dimension subscales
as follows: five items were included in the Instrumental Help subscale; another five
items were included in the Satisfaction subscale; and four items make up the Conflict
subscale. Example items include I enjoy having this student in my class and I would
describe my relationship with this student as positive. Items were rated on a 5-point
Likert-type scale. The constructs were originally validated using ratings of 227 Asian
students in grades 4 through 9 in a first study and ratings of 428 Asian students in a
second study. Scores from the three dimensions or construct subscales showed
reasonable levels of convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity (Ang, 2005).
Table 3.4 shows the internal reliability of the three teacher subscales from the
present investigation. Items were rated on a 5-point Likert-type
agreement/disagreement scale. The internal reliability of all three subscales is in the
acceptable range.
Table 3.4. Internal reliabilities for teacher subscales
Subscale N Number of Items Range Mean SD Internal Reliability
Teacher Measures
Satisfaction 62 5 1-5 4.26 .769 .918
Instrumental Help 62 5 1-5 2.63 1.085 .902
Teacher Conflict 62 4 1-5 1.33 .578 .773
Note. Teacher Satisfaction is items 1, 3, 5.13 and 14. Teacher Instrumental Help is items 2, 6, 9, 10
and 12. Teacher Conflict is items 4, 7, 8 and 11. Teacher conflict is negatively scored.
Each of the six teachers were asked to complete a teacher version of a teacher
and student relationship survey for each individual student in their classes. Again, the
58


classes would be the same classes who took the classroom climate survey during this
teachers math or language arts classroom periods. The survey had similar items
about student and teacher relationship as those found on the student classroom
climate survey. These teachers were also asked to participate in an interview that
solicited their opinions about quality relationships with students and relationship
development with students. Finally, the teachers consented to classroom
observations.
In addition to measuring teacher and student relationships, the Teacher
Multicultural Attitude Survey (TMAS) was used to assess teacher attitudes about
teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students (Cronbachs alpha coefficient =
.86). The TMAS has been found to discriminate between high and low multicultural
awareness (Ponterotto, Baluch, Greig, & Rivera, 1998). The 20-item survey uses a 5-
point Likert-type scale and includes items such as: in order to be an effective teacher,
one needs to be aware of cultural differences present in the classroom and when
dealing with bilingual students, some teachers may misinterpret different
communication styles as behavior problems. The findings from this instrument were
used to examine the relationship between teachers attitudes about multiculturalism
and their relationship with students. In the present investigation, the TMAS was
further divided into two subscales that address positive multicultural attitudes and
negative multicultural attitudes.
59


Teacher Interviews
Interview protocols were developed that probed teacher views and opinions on
topics associated with relationship satisfaction, support, and academic engagement.
Teachers were specifically asked to define and describe quality relationships between
teachers and students, school engagement, and multiculturalism. Teachers were
asked interview questions about their definitions of quality or caring relationships
with students, descriptions of instances when they had quality relationships with
students, and if they believed they could have a quality relationship with all students.
Student Surveys
The fall 2009 student survey of classroom climate was administered to
students as a part of normal data collection procedures within the schools as noted
before. All students present in class on their survey administration day took the
survey sometime during late November into early December. The school
administrators agreed to allow the researcher access to the classroom climate survey
data file. These survey file contained student ID numbers that were assigned to
individual student data. The file also contained teacher ID numbers of teachers. ID
numbers were used to protect the identities of students and teachers.
Student perceptions of their relationships with teachers were assessed through
the self-report classroom climate survey that was already in use at the three
participating high schools. The survey contains 12 items that address the quality of
students relationships with their teachers. The relationship items are similar to the
60


items on the TSRI teacher survey and were organized into the three dimensions found
on the TSRI including relationship Satisfaction, Instrumental Help, and relationship
Conflict. Examples of satisfaction items include: I enjoy being in this class and My
relationship with my teacher in this class is positive. Examples of Instrumental Help
items include: If I have a problem outside of school, I am likely to ask my teacher in
this class for help and I can depend on my teacher in this class for advice or help.
Lack of conflict items include: If my teacher in this class is absent, lam
disappointed and The teacher in this class encourages me.
The internal reliability of the three subscales used in this study are found in
Table 3.5. and indicate that all three subscale had high reliability based on
Cronbachs alpha where an alpha of .7 or higher is at an acceptable level.
Table 3.5. Internal reliabilities for student subscales
Subscale N Number of Items Range Mean SD Cronbachs Alpha
Satisfaction 549 4 1-5 3.94 .860 .790
Instrumental Help 548 5 1-5 3.38 .986 .819
Lack of Conflict 548 3 1-5 3.47 1.055 .779
Engagement 549 5 1-5 4.22 .754 .816
Note. Student Satisfaction is items 2, 5, 13 and 24. Instrumental Help is items 9, 11,18, 20, and 23.
Lack of Conflict is items 16, 17, and 22. Engagement is items 4, 6, 10, 12, and 21.
Student Interviews
A set of interview protocols were developed that inquired about student
opinions and views on topics related to relationship satisfaction, support, and
academic engagement. Similar to teacher interviews, students were specifically asked
61


to describe and define quality relationships between students and teachers, school
engagement, and issues related to multiculturalism. Student interviews began by
asking How would you describe a situation when you had a good relationship with a
teacher? followed by, When I say caring, what do you think about? This enabled
the researcher to understand the students perspectives on quality teacher and student
relationships (Ferreira & Bosworth, 2001). Keeping the interview items similar
allowed for comparison and contrast of teacher and students answers to interview
questions.
Classroom Observations
Field notes were taken by the researcher while observing classrooms that
focused on the interaction patterns between students and their teachers. The support
and assistance given to students through asking questions and providing answers to
student questions was noted. The tone of voice used with students and student
reactions were noted as were teacher casual conversations with students before class
and during breaks.
Measure of Academic Engagement
The data collected from the fall classroom climate survey provided a five item
measure of student engagement from the students perspective. Sample items
included, Ipay attention in this class, I turn in my homework in this class, I take pride
in my work in this class, and I want to learn as much as I can in this class. The items
62


were rated on a 5-point Likert-type agreement/disagreement scale. The internal
reliability of the subscale, found in Table 3.5, had high reliability with an alpha of .8.
Measure of Achievement
Student achievement was assessed using student the Northwest Evaluation
Association Measurement of Academic Progress (MAP) scores. The MAP is a
computerized interim assessment program and also referred to as an adaptive test that
provides students with questions at a difficulty level based on their answers to
previous questions. The test is designed to identify student performance in a
particular subject or for a particular concept. Each MAP test takes students about one
hour to complete. This study used the mathematics and reading score measures.
Findings from the MAP are presented using Rausch Unit RIT Scales. RIT Scales are
characteristically equal interval and achievement scales that have the same meaning
regardless of the grade or age of students. They can also be used to help measure
gains over time and assist teachers in identifying student strengths and weaknesses.
Students at the three high schools took MAP tests three times during the school year:
fall 2009, winter 2010, and spring 2010.
Data Collection
Teacher Surveys
Once teachers had been recruited, the researcher went to the three schools to
meet with the six teachers and review their involvement. During this initial meeting,
the researcher gave the recruited teachers paper copies of the adaptation of the TSRI
63


survey, which they were asked to complete about their students, and the TMAS
survey on multiculturalism. Some of the teachers asked to have the copes of surveys
in electronic formats. The researcher responded by e-mailing those teachers
electronic files. The researcher instructed the teachers how to complete the TMAS
surveys and how the TSRI surveys should be completed for students who were in
their fourth or ninth period class during the fall 2009 semester. The students in either
their fourth or ninth period class would also be the same students who had completed
the classroom climate surveys and responding to teacher and student relationship
items about these particular teachers. Each adapted TSRI survey required about five
minutes to complete and the TMAS required about 5-7 minutes of the teachers time.
Five of the six teachers returned the completed surveys to the researcher. The sixth
teacher, who withdrew from the study, chose not to complete the surveys. The
completed survey data from teachers were matched to student survey data using
student ID numbers.
Since there were some changes in students enrolled in their classrooms from
fall to spring semester, teachers were asked to complete individual surveys on
students who were in their fall semester class. It was important that teachers
characterized their relationships with the same students who had completed student
surveys on the teachers. A total of 62 surveys were completed by teachers about
students. Each of the five teachers who continued to participate also completed a
survey about multiculturalism in their classrooms.
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Teacher Interviews
The researcher set up dates with the six participating teachers to observe their
classrooms, participate in interviews, and conduct interviews with their students. The
observations and interviews were conducted in May 2010 and approximately two
weeks before the end of school. Generally, the teacher interview, the classroom
observations, and the student interviews were completed during several visits to each
teachers classroom. Teacher interviews were conducted first either during the
teachers planning time, lunch time, or after school and were in a room where
teachers could talk confidentially and free from distraction. Interviews were
conducted using the teacher interview protocol and were tape recorded to ensure
accuracy. Interviews lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on
how much the teachers wanted to share with the researcher or the time they had
available. Five of the six teachers participated in the interview process. The sixth
teacher chose to end participation in the study prior to participation in the interview
process.
Student Surveys
The teacher and student relationships items on the classroom climate survey
were stated so that students referred to their relationship with the teacher of the class
in which they completed the survey. Only student survey data from students who
completed the survey in either a math or language arts class were examined for this
study. Since math and language arts were content areas where achievement data were
65


collected from all students several times during the school year, students and teachers
from math and science classes became the focus in the present study.
Student Interviews
Student interviews were also conducted as a part of the study. A total of 18
students were recruited to participate in student interviews. The students were
recruited from the classes of the six teachers. Interview questions used for student
interviews were similar to those interview questions used with teacher interviews.
Students directly participated in the study through these student interviews.
To arrive at the sample of students who would participate in the student interviews,
teachers agreed to distribute active parent consent forms to students in their fourth or
ninth hour class asking for permission to interview their child about teacher and
student relationships and student engagement. The consent form informed parents
and students about the purpose of the study, the data to be collected from students, the
voluntary nature of participation in the study, and the steps taken to protect
confidentiality of data collected from students. Parents from students under the age
of 18 had to sign and return the permission form in order for their child to participate
in individual interviews with the researcher. Those students who were 18 years of
age or older could sign their own consent forms. The students who provided a
completed permission slip became the sample of students who were interviewed.
Arrangements were made with teachers to interview students during class
time. Upon arrival at the classroom, the teacher identified students whose parents had
66


signed permission slips for the researcher, and in the case of students over the age of
18, those students who had read the permission forms and were interested in
participating. Students were told that during the interview, they would be asked to
describe what they thought about quality teacher and student relationships, their
thoughts about their relationship with teachers, their motivation to leam, and
academic achievement. Students were told that their participation was voluntary and
that their own consent was necessary in order to participate. A total of 18 students
from the six classes participated in interviews. There were slightly more female
participants than males (10 males and 8 females). Students were interviewed
individually using the interview protocol in a quiet hallway when other students were
in class so the interviews could be confidential. The researcher took notes during the
interviews. Interview lasted from 15 minutes to 20 minutes.
Classroom Observations
Classroom observations were conducted in order to permit the researcher to
study teacher and student relationship processes in a naturalistic setting and to
provide a third source of data from which to make inferences and triangulate the data.
Classroom observations were primarily conducted following the teacher interview.
Teachers provided the researcher with dates when the researcher could visit their
classrooms. On the agreed upon date, the researcher started the observational process
at the start of the class and continued observing the interactions between the teacher
and students for approximately 35 minutes per classroom. All six classrooms of
67


participating teachers were observed. In three of the classrooms, whole group
instruction was delivered and in three classrooms, individual assistance was being
provided to students in preparation for end of school year assessments. During the
observations, the researcher was unobtrusively seated in the rear of the classroom and
took notes on interaction patterns. Notes taken by the researcher focused on how the
teacher addressed students and on student reactions to the teachers. The tone of voice
teachers used in talking with students and how supportive teachers were to students in
answering questions about concepts of information that students did not understand
was noted. Notes were taken as to whether or not teachers addressed the needs of all
students, whether teachers tended to concentrate on select students, and the nature of
student engagement when completing class assignments. The focus used in the
collection of observational data aligned with the focus of the data observation system
used with the Teacher-Pupil Interaction Scale (Goodwin & Coates, 1977).
Student Achievement Data
The Director of Assessment from the three schools provided student MAP
scores in reading and math to the researcher. The achievement data provided to the
researcher contained only student ID numbers in order to protect student anonymity.
The MAP scores from fall 2009, winter 2010, and spring 2010 were requested for
students who had completed the fall 2009 classroom climate survey. The data file
provided included the RIT scores for both content areas for the three points in time.
68


Data Analysis
Data from teacher surveys, teacher interviews, student surveys, student
interviews, and classroom observations were triangulated to develop a clear
understanding about teacher and student relationships and their connection to student
engagement and student achievement for teachers and students in these three schools.
Table 3.6 summarizes the research questions by research methodologies.
Table 3.6. Research methodologies by research questions
Research Questions Student Surveys Teacher Surveys Student Interviews Teacher Interviews Classroom Observations Achievement Data Interim Assessments
What is the nature of the perceived relationships between teachers and their students in non-traditional high schools designed to serve non- dominant groups of students? How are those relationships developed? X X X
How are perceptions about teacher and student relationships related to student academic engagement and ultimately achievement? X X X
69


Qualitative Analysis
Teacher Interview and Student Interview Data Analyses
Teacher interview data were transcribed from audio tapes and then reviewed
and coded for common themes. The same process was used for the student interview
data with the except that student interviews were not tape recorded. Data were
summarized and themes across the data sources were compared and contrasted. The
qualitative data were used to support or contrast results found in the quantitative data.
Classroom Observation Data Analyses
Similar to interview data, observation data were reviewed and common
themes were identified and coded. Data were then summarized and used to support
or contrast interview data and survey data.
Quantitative Analysis
To address the second research question, correlational methods including
hierarchical multiple regression and path analysis were employed to examine the
relationships among three dimensions of student-teacher relationships (Satisfaction,
Instrumental Help, and Conflict), student engagement, and student achievement in
math and reading as measured by periodic formative tests. Pearson correlations were
calculated and two-tailed tests were also performed as part of additional analyses that
followed up on the analyses just described. These analyses were conducted
separately for both reading and math scores.
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Data Transformations
Three groups of students completed surveys: students in language arts classes,
students in math classes, and students in other classes. After calculation of reliability
coefficients, students in other classes were dropped from further analyses, and
separate language arts and math analyses were conducted as appropriate.
Student survey data and student achievement MAP scores were provided to
the researcher as Excel files. Both sets of data used student ID numbers as identifiers
and data sets were matched by analysis purposes using those ID numbers. The Excel
files were then converted into SPSS files for data analyses. Teacher survey data
about students and teacher surveys on multiculturalism in the classroom were directly
entered into an SPSS file. The student survey data, MAP data, and teacher survey
data were then merged into one SPSS file using student ID numbers and teacher ID
numbers as key variables for analyses.
After confirming the internal consistency reliability of the scales, the teacher
and student relationship items from the student classroom climate survey were
aggregated into the three subscales (relationship satisfaction, instrumental help, and
lack of conflict in relationships). A fourth academic engagement subscale was also
formed from student survey items.
Multiple Imputation of Missing Values
Since resulting sample sizes were so small for fall 2009 reading (N = 72) and
math (N = 31) achievement results, multiple imputation was used. This is a statistical
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technique that is commonly used to create unbiased estimates of what students with
certain characteristics would have scored if they took the assessments. Separate
variance estimates are made to conduct unbiased statistical tests. Multiple imputation
using NORM, Version 2.03 (Schafer, 1997; Schafer & Olsen, 1999) for Windows
was conducted upon the 103 cases in the study. Student age, gender, grade, ethnicity,
attendance for quarters 1 through 4, and spring 2010 RIT reading and math scores
were used as auxiliary variables to impute missing fall and winter reading and math
RIT scores. Table 3.7 displays descriptive statistics for each of the variables used in
the imputation. Using the 40% missing rule of thumb as a guide (Graham, 2009), it is
acceptable to use imputed RIT Reading and Math scores for fall and winter.
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Table 3.7. Descriptive statistics for variables used in maximum likelihood
multiple imputation
Variable N Mean Standard Deviation Percent Missing
Age 103 18.258 1.831 0.00
Gender 103 0.466 0.501 0.00
Grade 10 103 0.233 0.424 0.00
Grade 11 103 0.204 0.405 0.00
Grade 12 103 0.505 0.502 0.00
Black 103 0.058 0.235 0.00
Hispanic 103 0.864 0.344 0.00
1st Quarter Absent 103 7.590 6.636 0.00
2nd Quarter Absent 103 10.495 6.998 0.00
3,d Quarter Absent 96 10.291 7.083 6.80
4th Quarter Absent 79 9.316 6.471 23.30
RIT Reading Fall 2009 103 200.388 18.909 0.00
RIT Reading Winter 2010 67 207.269 16.953 34.95
RIT Reading Spring 2010 55 212.418 14.047 46.60
RIT Math Fall 2009 76 203.368 14.304 26.61
RIT Math Winter 2010 64 219.609 16.393 37.86
RIT Math Spring 2010 47 220.170 14.840 54.37
Note. Gender, Grades 10-12, Black and Hispanic were coded as dummy variables using values of 0
and 1.
To conduct the analysis in NORM, all parameters were saved at every cycle,
starting with k=l. The Maximum Likelihood method was used to conduct EM
(expectation-maximization) imputation, which converged normally in 94 iterations.
Imputation was done at every 94th iteration after the protocol of Graham (2009;
2010). A total of 40 imputations were needed, so 3,760 iterations were completed.
An examination of series plots for means and covariances revealed no anomalous
patterns.
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NORM produced an initial imputation file and 40 additional separate
imputation files. The initial imputation file was used to calculate means, standard
deviations, and standardized regression coefficients through hierarchical multiple
regression after the file was split according to whether students were in language arts
classes or math classes. Table A.2 displays the resulting imputed values for fall and
winter reading and math scores, extracted from the initial imputation file. Separate
means and standard deviations were calculated for students of language arts teachers
and math teachers.
Results from the 40 imputations calculated in NORM were entered into the
Automation Utility (Graham, 2010) to create SPSS files for further analyses. Pooled
regression parameters and statistical significance tests were calculated using Rubins
rules after the protocol of Schafer and Olsen (1998).
Multiple Regression
Separate analyses of reading and math scores were conducted using the
original imputed data set to obtain coefficients, and analysis of the 40 imputed data
sets to obtain statistical significance (Graham, 2009; Graham, 2010; Graham, 2006;
Schafer & Graham, 2007; Graham, Cumsille & Elek-Fisk, 2003). Since Graham
advises against using R-square changes in imputation analyses, they were reported
but not interpreted.
A hierarchical multiple regression was conducted to determine whether
satisfaction, instrumental help and lack of conflict were still able to predict a
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significant amount of variance in winter achievement after fall achievement and
engagement were controlled for statistically. This was a four-step hierarchical
regression process, repeated for reading and math results. First, Fall RIT scores were
used to predict winter RIT scores. Then, Fall RIT and Engagement scores were used
to predict winter RIT scores. Third, Fall RIT scores, engagement, satisfaction,
instrumental help and lack of conflict were used to predict winter RIT scores. Fourth,
satisfaction, instrumental help and lack of conflict were used to predict engagement.
Path Analysis
To conduct path analyses, multiple regression analyses were conducted using
the teacher survey relationship subscale measures (independent variables) as
predictors of the dependent student achievement measures. This approach was used
to examine how much variance each of the subscale measures explained on the
dependent student achievement measures.
Hierarchical multiple regression results were used to arrive at the path
coefficients reported in Chapter 4. Overall impact of variables upon outcomes were
calculated after the protocol of Lea (1997). Path coefficients were calculated in SPSS
using hierarchical regression techniques described by Garbin (2009).
Error terms for each component of the model were calculated by taking the
square root of 1 minus R-squared for each component of the model. The final step
was to calculate the total effect of each of the variables on the winter RIT outcome by
adding direct effects to multiplied indirect effects (Bryman & Cramer, 1977).
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Correlation Analyses
Fourteen items on the adapted TSRI survey were aggregated into three
subscales related to satisfaction with the relationship with an individual student, the
instrumental help given to individual students, and the conflict in the relationship
with individual students. The scores from survey items on the TMAS were
aggregated into two subscales; those items related to positive feelings about
multiculturalism and equity in the classroom and those that were stated negatively
and related to negative feelings toward multiculturalism and equity in the classroom.
The subscale values for the students from the teacher surveys were matched with
those students who completed the classroom climate survey. The ratings were
compared between the two groups. The subscale values for the TMAS from
individual teachers were replicated for each teachers student in the student data file.
A correlation matrix was produced using teacher perceived student and teacher
relationship subscale measures, student perceived student and teacher relationship
subscale measures, the measures from the multiculturalism survey, and achievement
data. The matrix indicates levels of significance and direction of relationships
between the variables.
Findings from the analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data sources
will be examined and discussed in chapter 4.
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CHAPTER 4
RESULTS
Chapter 4 presents study findings. Presented first are qualitative results from
interviews and observations that provide insight into answering the research question
about the nature of perceived relationships between teachers and their students in non-
traditional high schools designed to served non-dominant student groups. Interview
data related to relationship development follows. Quantitative findings from student
and teacher surveys are reported next. These findings are concerned with the second
research question about how perceptions about teacher and student relationships are
related to student engagement and achievement. Teacher attitudes about
multiculturalism are also reviewed.
Interviews with Teachers and Students
Quality Relationships and Caring Teachers.
Based on interviews with five teachers and 18 students, both groups were
asked to identify characteristics of quality relationships between teachers and students
and more specifically, they were first asked to identify characteristics of caring
teachers. When asked, students were eager to share their opinions and were generally
positive as they shared their answers. As seen in Table 4.1, most frequently students
reported two themes about caring: a caring teacher motivates them to come to class or
school, and a caring teacher wants them to succeed and helps them to be successful.
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Teachers who want their students to be successful took the time to make sure students
understood the content and checked in with them individually for understanding.
They took the time to answer students questions during class.
Table 4.1 Students descriptions of a caring teacher
Student Comment Number of Respondents
Makes me want to come to class/motivates me 13
Wants me to be successful/makes sure I understand what is being taught/gives me their time/checks in with me to see if I need help 13
Helpful/answers my questions 9
Understanding/understands my personal life 7
Fnendly/befriends me 7
Tries to get to know me/knows when I need help/knows who we are and how we learn 6
Kind/nice/cool 6
Trusting/respectful 6
Tries to connect with students/makes students comfortable around them/can talk to them when they have problems 6
Lets me be myself 4
Able to get along with students 4
Shows/tells me that they care/greets me when I come into the classroom 4
Fun/tells jokes 3
Prepares me for the future 2
Gives me positive feedback 2
A second set of student answers focused on a teachers willingness to get to
know students as people, understand their lives and situations that arise, and who were
willingness to be there to talk to students when needed. Caring teachers were said to
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know their students personality and needs well enough to know when they need help
based on their behaviors or expressions. Students liked teachers who were trusting,
respectful, and were caring toward all students, not just the favorites. Several students
shared thoughts about how caring teachers did not label them as problem students or
gang members, but took the time to get to know them as people. These teachers were
reported to create an atmosphere in their classrooms where students were valued both
by the teacher and by other students.
Some students shared opinions about uncaring teachers and generally used
negative terms in their descriptions. Students characterized uncaring teachers as just
there for the money, disrespectful, rude, boring, and having a tendency to ignore
students.
Teacher responses mirrored student comments, but were a little more detailed.
When teachers were asked about the attributes of a caring teacher, some of the
characteristics mentioned included: being empathetic, being there for students,
understanding and encouraging to students, helping students to be themselves, helping
students build self-confidence, allowing students to make their own choices, and
providing individual help for students. Some teachers focused more on academic
connections in discussing relationships. They connected with students through goal
setting and then helped students to meet their goals. Some teachers commented that if
they helped students to be successful in class, then student would likely be more
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successful in life. Classrooms were described as places where students learned how to
learn, solve problems, and make decisions. One teacher added that students should
not take advantage of their relationships with a caring teacher by, for example,
expecting special benefits such as easier grading or expecting the teacher to overlook
class rules or regulations for them. Several teachers refrained from listing attributes of
a caring teacher and instead talked about the types of students with whom they could
connect. These teachers reported they could develop relationships with students who
felt comfortable around them and would talk with them.
To summarize, both teachers and students provided thoughtful descriptions of
a caring teacher. Students provided more detailed and emotionally based responses.
Teachers paralleled some student responses by identifying some affective components,
but were more often academically oriented, mentioning such things as goal setting and
helping students reach goals.
Building Relationships with Students
Teachers were asked to extend their thinking and discuss how they go about
building quality relationships with students. Teachers reported that sometimes it was
important to share a little bit of themselves with students in order for students to
become more comfortable in talking with them. These teachers emphasized the
importance of treating students with respect and dignity, and listening carefully to
students as they begin to share stories about their lives, families or cultures.
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Some of these relationship building strategies were observed by the researcher.
The attention that teachers gave to students was caring and supportive. Students
seemed comfortable enough with their teachers to ask questions about things that they
did not understand during class. Students showed respect for teachers and teachers
were considerate of students. Two of the teachers interacted with their students before
class asking them about what they had done the night before and took an interest in
their lives outside of school. The informal conversations with students seemed to be
something that the teachers regularly conducted with students based on student
reactions to teacher questions.
Some teachers talked about building relationships based on common interests.
These teachers tended to describe caring teachers as goal oriented. However, some
teachers reported that finding common interests or setting common goals was just not
possible with some students.
When asked if it was possible for teachers to have good relationships with all
students in their classes, responses were mixed. Teachers reported it was possible to
have some sort of relationship with students but the relationships were at different
levels. In some instances, no matter how hard they tried, it was not possible to get
through to some students. Teachers reported that relationship development took time
and commitment, but the resulting relationships were worth the effort. Some students
were reported to have had bad experiences with teachers in the past so it took more
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time to break through to these students. Teachers expressed the need to talk about
what students want to talk about and eventually this set the stage for a connection or
relationship to emerge.
Teachers commented about the complexity of building relationships with
students at the beginning of the school year. The classes tended to be large which
made it harder to connect with all students. Class sizes became smaller as the school
year progressed and relationship development was easier for teachers.
In describing the connection between a caring teacher and an effective teacher,
all five teachers interviewed believed that teachers need to have caring relationships
with their students in order to be effective. The caring teachers build respect and trust
with their students. They are given the opportunity to change students attitudes about
learning. Students began to believe they can learn and be successful in skills areas
where they were previously unsuccessful. When there is trust between students and
teachers, students are not embarrassed to share their thoughts and ideas.
Again, some of these strategies and teacher behaviors were observed. In one
classroom, students were solving problems. Several students were asked to show and
talk about their work at the board. Students were treated with kindness and care as
they explained their answers or asked questions of the teacher. When needed, the
teacher took the time to explain how to solve problems and persisted with explanations
until students demonstrated an understanding. In another classroom, students were
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working on group projects. The teacher interacted with these groups of students in a
very cordial manner. The teacher asked students if they needed help and, when
needed, help was given in a caring and sincere way. In other situations, teachers were
working individually with students and assisting students when they asked for help
and checking in with the other students who were not asking for help. It was observed
that all students in three of the classrooms received individualized attention. These
class sizes were small enabling the teacher to attend to all students. The attention
given to students was characteristic of caring and supportive teacher behavior.
Students were diligently engaged in their work and showed concern when they did not
understand concepts.
A caring teacher was said to explore a students disengagement with learning
in an attempt to assist the student toward becoming more engaged. Setting common
goals with students was a way to work toward greater student engagement. Teachers
believed that both math and language arts were content areas that set the ground for
making connections between teachers and students. Writing provided teachers with
insight into students thoughts and concerns and, in math classes, teachers were able to
set up problem solving situations that students could relate to and transfer to their
lives. Knowing about a students culture and beliefs was considered to be a facilitator
of relationship building. Sometimes it was reported that telling a joke, sharing
experiences, or just a pat on the back were important strategies for relationship
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development. This teacher behavior was observed in one classroom when the teacher
joked around with students before beginning instruction. Student response was varied.
Some seemed to enjoy the joking around while other students seemed to ignore the
teacher and would continue doing what they were doing before informal joking was
initiated.
Several teachers commented that the teachers who have caring relationships
with their students are not necessarily effective teachers. For example, teachers talked
about situations where they can get swept away in the drama of connecting with
students to the point of enabling student behavior. Teachers sometimes needed to
remind themselves and their students that the primary purpose of their relationships
was to help students learn and be successful in life rather than to be a students best
friend.
When asked to describe instances when they had a quality relationship with a
student or students, one teacher commented that it was easiest to build relationships
with students who have positive attitudes toward learning. These students were more
prone to having deeper and more honest conversations about their performance in
school. Another teacher mentioned that it was important to listen to students, be
respectful, and acknowledge their life situations. It was noted that teachers must not
say things to embarrass or hurt students because the damage can result in a students
unwillingness to learn. Student interviews revealed that it was common for students
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who had experienced failure to have diminished desire to engage in learning. Failure
had earned these students labels which were hard to change. Their current school
setting had given them another chance to prove to others that the label did not describe
them. School staff seemed to hold low expectations of students and especially with
regard to students continuing on to college. These low expectations were apparent to
students. Some teachers just wanted students to show up in class which was then
perceived as an accomplishment. Several students mentioned that they had thoughts
and dreams about having a professional job in their future, but possibility of going on
to college had not been discussed with them.
According to teachers, an important facet to building connections was taking
time to converse with students to discover their interests and what motivates them.
Sometimes it required a lot of time and perseverance to build relationships. Several
teachers reported that their perseverance had to be adjusted according to students
comfort level and also according to students cultural background. Teachers said they
must know that a silent period for some students is not a lack of respect or an
indication that the student does not know the answer. Teachers found that they needed
to ask a lot of questions in order to find out when they were up against cultural barriers
with students. Students liked it when teachers talked with them about their cultural
background. It was validating to students that teachers found it important to become
acquainted with them and knowledgeable their culture and life. In some instances,
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teachers reported that they used class time as part of the days lesson to examine
cultural influences on relationships. Students might be in conflict with other students
based on cultural differences or peer groupings such as gangs. The conflicts were
addressed openly and honestly with their students. These discussions added to the
teachers understanding of students behavior and relationship building. The
discussions also eased tensions in the classroom as students became aware of other
students opinions and perceptions.
Observations confirmed several of the points made by teachers. In one
classroom, students were discussing a story that about race and culture. The teacher
showed caring and thoughtfulness by questioning students and discussing student
responses with the class. The students showed respect for each other when giving
their point of view and also in responding to their peers. In another classroom
situation, a student was asked about taking something from the teachers desk. The
student in question did not admitting to stealing the item. Class members encouraged
the student to admit to his wrongdoing and apologize to the teacher. All ended well
with students supporting each other and the student in question. The teacher received
the apology that was requested of the student and the student was not ostracized by
classmates. Students also seemed to be very caring in this situation. This sense of
caring among peers was also evident in another classroom where students were
showing concern about the well-being of a classmate who had experienced great
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hardship in his life. Compounding the situation was the fact that within this classroom
were rival gang members. The teachers expectations and concerns for students were
carried over to student expectations of concern for their peers. Ultimately, student
caring took precedence over gang membership.
In order to develop good relationships with students, the teachers emphasized
that they needed to leave their judgments at home. Students were skilled observers of
adult behavior. As a result, teachers needed to be genuine and comfortable with their
own feelings about themselves in order to understand the thoughts and behaviors of
students. Some staff talked about the lowered expectations for students enrolled in the
three schools. It was mentioned that students were made aware of community college
and what it could do for them. Students were given information about community
college if they showed an interest.
Teacher Behavior and Student Engagement in Learning
All five teachers thought they influenced students engagement in learning to
some extent. Students were reported to react to teachers enthusiastic behaviors in the
classroom. One teacher was very firm in his convictions that teachers affected
students attitude and said that shaping student motivation was his life. If the teacher
was perceived by students as being excited about the content area, the enthusiasm was
reportedly spread to their students. Students who stayed in school through the spring
semester were characterized as being the more engaged students. They were there to
87