Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

David E Houchins

Second Advisor

Kris Varjas

Third Advisor

Debra McKeown

Fourth Advisor

Eliseo Jimenez


In Chapter One, a systematic literature review was conducted to analyze intervention studies that measured student- teacher relationships (STR). STR are important for all students (Burchinal, Peisner-Feinberg, Pianta, & Howes, 2002; Hughes, Luo, Kwok, & Loyd, 2008; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Students who have positive relationships that include high levels of closeness with their teachers have better academic, behavioral, and social emotional outcomes (Mihalas, Morse, Allsopp, & McHatton, 2009; Roorda, Koomen, Spilt & Oort, 2011). In addition, students who have relationships with their teacher that are high in conflict are more likely to demonstrate negative behavior, social skills and academic achievement (Murray & Greenberg, 2001; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Fourteen intervention studies were synthesized in this systematic literature review to identify strategies that can be used in the classroom to improve STR. Ten strategies were represented in two or more studies that had a positive impact on STR: (a) specific praise and positive feedback, (b) direct student intervention, (c) de-escalation by ignoring or redirecting, (d) increased one-to-one time, (e) helping students change their representational models, (f) adjusting the teachers representational models, (g) tangible reinforcement, (I) parent involvement, and (j) morning meetings. One intervention in Chapter One that improved STR was dialogue journaling (DJ). DJ is an ongoing, personal, and interactive written conversation between the teacher and student. Previous research suggests that DJ has the potential to help students and teachers improve their relationships as they develop a personal connection that is mutually respectful. DJ also has the potential to reduce students’ disruptive behavior, improve their interactions with the teacher, and enhance their writing skills.

In Chapter Two, a multiple baseline across participants single-case design study was conducted to examine the relationship between DJ and disruptive behavior, teacher praise, writing length, writing quality, and STR with four middle school students with emotional and behavior disorders in a therapeutic school. Students responded to journal prompts or wrote to a topic of their choosing during baseline and maintenance. During intervention, students and teachers corresponded in writing through the dialogue journals. A functional relation was found between DJ and disruptive behavior, but not between DJ and teacher praise, STR or writing skills. However, there was an effect demonstrated between DJ and writing length for two students. In addition, three of the four students reported an increased perception of teacher-student relationships. Students and teachers expressed satisfaction with the intervention. Limitations and future directions are discussed.