A qualitative study of relationship building between alternative high school students and their teachers
Cordell, Robert C.
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The purpose of this phenomenological, narratological, heuristic study is to understand the phenomenon of relationship building between teachers and students at an alternative high school. For this study, the phenomenon of relationship building is generally defined as the language, information, ideas, and feelings between a teacher and student that affect perception, understanding, and value between teachers and students. Areas explored in this study include understanding how teachers in an alternative high school build positive relationships with students who had previously experienced little success at school and often felt marginalized, and understanding how that relationship becomes the tool to allow students to experience success in the classroom. Not all students share the experience of a successful high school career of academics and extra-curricular activities, friendships, or the culture of a traditional school setting. Over half a million students drop out of school each year (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). There are some students who drop out of school due to the lack of experienced success, ownership of the school, or a non-acclimation to the setting (Jessor, Turbin, & Costa, 1998). Being deficient in course credits and not feeling connected to a caring adult at the school may lead some students to develop a sense of hopelessness (National Research Council, 2004). Thus, alternative schools fill a void and provide students a valuable option for their high school education. Research questions that guided this study include: What do students and teachers perceive are characteristics that teachers, within an alternative high school setting, need to have to promote positive relationships with students? How do students and teachers perceive that program elements, within an alternative school setting, impact the relationship between teachers and students and their connection to school? Qualitative research was chosen for the purpose of capturing the lived experiences of the teachers in building relationships with students in an alternative high school. Qualitative research was selected because it would serve as the best tool for gathering students' and teachers' voices, lived experiences, and individual reflection on the goal of gaining access to human experiences. Patton states, a phenomenological study is one that focuses on descriptions of what people experience and how it is that they experience what they experience. Heuristics is a form of phenomenological inquiry that brings to the fore the personal experience and insights of the researcher. (Patton, 2002, p. 107) In the findings of the study, students and teachers emphasize that caring adults in a school are the vehicle to defining student success, through relationship building. The students and teachers identified the various program elements as positively impacting their learning and relationships with teachers. The findings in this study, centered on teachers building relationships with their students in an alternative high school, revealed three overarching themes: (a) adults relating to their students on a human level with interactions that have relevance, (b) adults being advocates for academic and behavior expectations, (c) engagement of students with opportunities provided by the school. This research expands the existing research on teacher-student relationships positively impacting students' learning and success at school.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Review of literature -- Methodology -- Results and discussion -- Success with students through relationship building -- Appendix A. Letters of approval and consent/assent forms -- Appendix B. Survey questions: student/teachers, data collected from student surveys, data collected from teacher surveys -- Appendix C. Teacher focus group questions and transcript