Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version


Document Type



A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Teaching, Curriculum, & Learning), Under the Supervision of Professor Delwyn L. Harnisch. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Christopher M. Knoell


The intent of this mixed methods study was to develop a more holistic understanding of the student-teacher relationship from the perspective of the fifth graders in two mid-western elementary schools on either end of the poverty spectrum. Quantitative data was gathered through the ClassMaps Survey (CMS) and analyzed for correlations with growth in student achievement data as measured by the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP). In the qualitative follow-up, the CMS data was further explored through semi-structured interviews. The qualitative data sources were analyzed for themes so as to provide a more in-depth understanding of the dynamics and importance of the student-teacher relationship in the lives of the fifth grade students in both schools.

Results showed students attending both types of schools could have similar, favorable perceptions of their relationships with their teachers and that it is the individual teacher which has an effect on student's perceptions of those relationships. Quantitative analysis revealed a greater number of significant correlations between student performance (MAP) and student perceptions of the student-teacher relationship (CMS) in the more affluent school. Also, a greater number of students in the affluent school felt their teachers had an effect on them and their lives outside of school than students attending the poverty school. The most important findings came from theme-analysis of the student interviews, which produced a list of teacher characteristics most-valued by students in both schools. These themes/characteristics included: a sense of humor; consistent help (with high expectations); active listening; value for the group as well as the individual; the inclusion of games for learning; and the use of spoken and written encouragement. In other words, students appreciated when their teachers actively listened and encouraged them, as well as provided a fun and supportive, yet challenging environment where the entire class could learn. Additionally, students seemed to be much more concerned with the behaviors and treatment from their teachers than with the physical appearance of their teachers. In addition to providing goals for teachers, these themes may also serve to assist administrators in hiring positions to more effectively choose teachers.

Advisor: Delwyn L. Harnisch