Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Diane Truscott, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gary Bingham, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Thomas Crisp, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Roach, Ph.D.


The current study applies qualitative methodologies to the analysis of teacher and student perspectives of teacher-student relationships (TSRs) in the elementary grades. A review of extant research on TSRs was used to underscore the importance of incorporating a common conceptual framework into TSR research. Challenges related to the conceptualization, definition, and measurement of TSRs as presented in existing research literature are discussed. The importance of interpreting results and discussing implications in relation to a consistent TSR framework is highlighted, along with the need to incorporate both teacher and student views into TSR re-search. Areas in need of further research are also presented. Following the review, a qualitative inquiry investigates teacher and student perspectives of TSRs within an ecological framework, guided by attribution theory and ethics of care. Teacher and student perceptions of TSRs are explored through semi-structured interviews and focus groups with elementary grade teachers, and semi-structured interviews with students from a southeastern suburban school with positive school climate rating. Qualitative methods were applied for analysis of interview and focus group transcriptions. Findings suggest two separate yet overlapping ‘types’ of TSRs existing along a continuum from instructional to interpersonal. Teachers appear to move between the two TSR orientations from moment-to-moment, depending on individual characteristics, contextual factors, and perceived needs of the student. Three categories of factors influencing the TSR are identified: Knowing the Student, Time and Expectations for Teachers, and Teacher and Student Characteristics. Student descriptions of TSRs are considered in relation to teacher descriptions, with similarities and differences discussed. Findings are interpreted in relation to the ways in which TSRs have previously been defined and measured. Implications for educational research and teacher practice are presented, and directions for future research are discussed.