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A Case Study: Observing the Impact of a Male Primary Teacher on the Academic Success of Father-Absent Male Students

Module by: Jannah Nerren. E-mail the author

Summary: This case study research project examined the impact of the relationship between three father-absent male third grade students and their male teacher on their overall school success during the 2007-2008 academic year. The purpose of the study was to determine if the influence of the male teacher affected the overall school success of students who did not have the influence of a father or other significant male role model in their home.

A Case Study: Observing the Impact of a Male Primary Teacher on the Academic Success of Father-Absent Male Students

Statement of the Problem

It is not known if relationships formed between male primary teachers and their father-absent male students contribute to the school success of the students. The objective of this study was to gain insight into the relationships between three father-absent male students and their male primary teacher and to identify indicators (or lack of) for school success.

Background of the Study

Children from homes where no father is present make up a significant population in Texas schools (2000 Census). In addition, elementary schools are taught primarily by females, and male early childhood teachers are a rarity (National Education Agency, 2006). Recent research suggests the importance of increasing the amount of male influence on father-absent boys by utilizing more male teachers (Napolitano, 2006).

Foundational to this study is the premise that authentic data can be obtained through naturalistic observation (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) or observation in which nothing is controlled or manipulated by the observer (Fraenkel & Wallen, 2006). Therefore, a case study design was utilized to provide useful and meaningful insight into the observed relationships.

For the purpose of this study, school success is operationally defined as an overall positive adjustment to school as signified through social interaction with peers and adults, satisfactory grades, and emotional well-being. The social and emotional aspects of learning have garnered increasing attention, and they are shown to have an impact on academic learning (Zins, 2004). The three areas; social adjustment, emotional well-being, and academic achievement are all interrelated, and are treated as such in this evaluation.

Methods and Procedures

A qualitative exploration into the relationships of one male primary teacher and his three father-absent male students in a rural east Texas public school through a multiple case-study approach was conducted during the 2007-2008 academic year. The study provides insight into how the students’ academic success was affected by their relationship with their male primary teacher. Data analysis utilizing NVivo7 software revealed increased student success influenced by several key characteristics of the male teacher.

The instruments used in this study implemented a triangulation process. Classroom observations, open-ended interviews, and face-to-face interviews with focus groups were all conducted. According to Yin (1984), the use of multiple sources of evidence encourages convergent lines of inquiry and increases construct validity of case studies.

Results and Conclusions

The findings indicated the boys’ academic success was positively influenced by their male teacher. Indicators of a positive relationship with the teacher in all three cases appear. In one case in particular, the factors surrounding the evidence appear to suggest that the relationship between the student and teacher influenced his success. In the other cases, evidence seems to suggest that the relationship between the teacher and students influenced success, but not as strongly as in one case. Several confounding factors such as student personality, student motivation, and other student support make it impossible to determine the extent to which the relationship affected school success.

Also revealed were characteristics of the case study teacher that appears to have assisted in the forming of the relationships. Repeatedly, references from the data revealed statements indicating characteristics perceived by interviewees as influential in the student-teacher relationships. These characteristics were identified as themes revealed through the data collection process. These identified characteristics appear to have enhanced the forming of student-teacher relationships, strengthening the learning process and academic success of the boys.

Educational Importance of the Study

It is not the intention of the research to say that the results can be generalized. However, the success experienced by the students and subsequently reported in the study suggests that a male primary teacher does have an opportunity and the capability of having a positive impact on the academic success of father-absent students.

The interview transcripts from the data collected also imply that in this study, the relationships were seen as beneficial by several sources. Many of the students, parents, and faculty saw the relationships as beneficial to the students. Therefore, a practical outcome of the study was the identification of perceptions of the potential impact of male primary teachers by those who are stakeholders in the educational outcomes of father-absent boys.


Cresswell, J. (2002). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Newbury, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Fraenkel, J., & Wallen, N. (2006). How to design and evaluate research in education. NY: McGraw Hill Publishing.

Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Napolitan, S. (2006). Men who teach young children: A phenomenological study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Denver.

National Education Agency. (2006). Washington, DC: Retrieved September 21, 2007 from

Texas State Data Center and Office of the State Demographer. 2000 census of population and housing, San Antonio, TX: Texas State Data Center and Office of the State Demographer, Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Retrieved August 2, 2007 from

Yin, R. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods. (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage Publications Inc.

Zins, J. (2004). Building academic success on social and emotional learning: What does the research say? NY: Teachers College Press.

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