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Student-Teacher relationships and self-concept

Module by: mark wilson. E-mail the author

Summary: This paper is a summary of a literature review of teacher-student relationships and how they can affect student concept and achievement. It is being researched as a possible dissertation topic.

Teacher-Student Relationships and Their

Relation To Student Self-Concept and Achievement

EDLD 712

Dr. Berry

EMU Livonia

Mark Wilson


This paper is a summary of a possible topic selection in preparation for a doctoral dissertation. It covers the possible topics that were considered and the literature review that accompanied the possible topic selection. The final topic selected was related to Teacher-Student Relationships and student self-concept and achievement. This topic was viewed though the Schmuck and Schmuck Seven Step Problem analysis model. This topic was chosen in regards to the idea that there is a body of research in regards to this topic, but it is mainly concerned with primary school age children and the author wants to research this topic with high school age students. It seems to be a chance to do original research and a topic that the author is passionate about.

Teacher-Student Relationships and Their

Relation To Student Self-Concept and Achievement

In trying to develop a possible topic for a dissertation in Educational Leadership, several challenges have emerged. One of the major challenges had been the realization that the topic that was originally chosen was overly broad. Another challenge was finding a topic that adds to the knowledge base and is original in its content and not just a review of literature of previous studies. The final challenge that was encountered was the evolution of the problem that was finally chosen. The evolution of the problem was that the topic originally chosen concerned the overrepresentation of African-American students in Special Education settings. After coming to EDLD 712 and breaking into groups to discuss the topics that students had chosen to research it was pointed out by a group member, who after listening to the topic presentation said,”You are really talking about relationships.” This was an eye-opener and a jarring realization that she was correct. So the evolution of the research problem cam down to: Do effective Student-Teacher relationships lead to increased self-concept in high school students and higher achievement?

After finally arriving at a problem that seemed to be researchable, a literature review was undertaken of previous studies that related to teacher-student relationships. Of course this literature review was undertaken after already completing a previous review of literature concerning the overrepresentation of African-American students in Special Education settings. The literature review for teacher-student relationships was somewhat overwhelming at times. The database of Halle Library of Eastern Michigan University was accessed electronically to search for materials relating to teacher-student relationships. It is suggested that a search for teacher-student relationships not be performed on Google. While there are listings for scholarly studies concerning teacher-student relationships, there is a lot more information about teacher-student relationships that come from a totally different conceptual framework. Relationship that will get you five to twenty years at a state correctional facility. The ERIC, J-Store, and Psych-Info databases were the most useful to find sources related to the topic. It was almost to easy to find ten articles to use to frame the problem that the assignment called for. The articles that I found most helpful to frame the problem were: Longitudinal effects of Teacher and Student Perceptions of Teacher-Student Relationship Qualities on Academic Adjustment, by J.N. Hughes, The Effect of Teachers’ Inferred Self-Concept upon Student Achievement, by D.N. Aspy and J.H. Buhler, and Examining Teacher-Child Relationships and Achievement as Part of an Ecological Model of Development, by E. O’Connor and K. McCartney. J.N Hughes article was most helpful in helping to choose the topic study and in helping to better understand theoretical framework. She mentions several studies that used theoretical frameworks such as attachment theory, social support theory and self-system models of motivation. But she says that, “Despite the diversity of theoretical frameworks, teacher-report measures of teacher-student relationship quality consistently identify a supportive dimension (i.e, close, warm, accepting) and a conflict dimension, with some measures identifying a a third dimension of dependency or intimacy. The dependency and intimacy dimensions are not consistently predictive of child outcomes.” (Hughes, pg.40 2011.) This helped the author to begin to develop a theoretical framework that posits the supportive dimension, while accounting for the conflict dimension.

It was decided to use the Schmuck and Schmuck Seven-Step Problem Analysis Method to frame the problem for this paper. The Schmuck and Schmuck model was used in the following ways. Specifying the problem here was relatively easy. The class was asked to identify a problem that a literature review could be performed on and possibly become developed into a doctoral dissertation topic. As stated before the problem that was originally chosen was along the lines of the overrepresentation of African-American students in Special Education settings. It was thought that the theoretical framework that would be used to frame this topic was one that would account for the racial demographics of the school these students attended, as well as the teaching staff. After consultation with Dr. Berry, it was pointed out that this topic has already had an overwhelming amount of research done in this area. After further consultation with class members in EDLD 712, it was brought to the authors attention that what was really appealing was the idea of student-teacher relationships and their impact on student self-concept and achievement. This is the area that became the problem to be researched and hopefully through the narrowing down of the funnel of further research, a doctoral dissertation subject.

In using the second step of the Schmuck and Schmuck method, the limiting forces that foreseen are finding students, teachers, and schools to access to research the problem. Developing a theoretical framework and research tool to research the problem is also seen as limiting in the short-term. By this it is meant that developing the research tool and the style to be used are going to be a developing process. A good example for research was outlined in the study performed by E. O’Connor and K. McCartney in their study. Their study used a process to examine, “Associations between quality of teacher-child relationships from preschool through third grade and third grade achievement were examined in hierarchical multiple regression models with variables representing systems in the Contextual Systems Model. These analyses allowed for examination in of the influence of teacher-child relationship quality on achievement with the contexts of children’s lives.” (O’Connor & McCartney, pg. 345, 2007) They also investigated four questions: “Does the quality of teacher-child relationships change from preschool through third grade and do differences exist among children in patterns of change?, Does the quality of teacher-child relationships from preschool through third grade predict children’s achievement when examined as part of an ecological model of development?, Does the effect of quality of teacher-child relationships on achievement vary as a function of other child, family, or cultural characteristics?, Is the effect of quality of the third-grade teacher-child relationship on achievement mediated through teacher and/or child behaviors in the classroom?” (O’Connor & McCartney, pg. 345-346, 2007) These ideas helped to better understand the idea of theoretical framework, but a conversation from EDLD 712 was recalled, where Dr. Berry advised the class to let the problem drive the style, do not go into researching the problem with a research style already chosen. Having recalled that and looking at O’Connor and McCartney’s research it is believed that a research tool is going to have to be developed along the lines of the questions they asked and that a qualitative approach will probably be used. Positive forces that are supposed are that the research will add to the knowledge of teacher-student relationships and their influence on student self-concept and achievement. This will be a positive factor in that it may help teachers foster these relationships if it benefits student achievement. It has been said that the old 3-R’s of education were reading, riting, and rithmetic, and that the new 3-R’s are rigor, relevancy, and relationships. The author has always believed in the power of relationships to affect student achievement so this is a topic that is passionate for him.

In generating multiple solutions to the problem it is thought that approaching the problem by developing a research tool, such as a questionnaire or survey as used by previous researchers will help. The development of the research tool is thought to be a major task and will need repeated revisions to account for the questions that are foreseen to be asked by the researcher. In regards to the problem, it is thought that the ideas of O’Connor and McCartney will give a direction to start the task of developing a tool to assess the effects of teacher-student relationships on the achievement of high school aged students. It is thought that this meets what Schmuck and Schmuck defined as using experts who have worked through similar problems. This drawing on of previous research and the historical data contained will be useful in both guiding the research and as of recording previous findings.

Designing a plan for action has been accomplished by performing a literature review. This was done twice as the original problem was deemed insufficient for possible development into a dissertation topic. The problem of teacher-student relationships is one that the author is truly interested in learning about and adding to the knowledge base of. Much of the literature review information was designed around students that were mainly primary school students. For the purposes of this possible dissertation topic, the research is going to be conducted with high school students. The input of the high school principal at Lincoln Consolidated Schools was sought as to the practibility or doability to conduct research in high school settings. The principal is currently a Doctoral student at Wayne State University, which may have colored her perceptions. It is also supposed that obtaining permission from high schools that are located around a University community would be easier as they are accustomed to research requests.

The consequences of intended actions of implementing the research for this possible dissertation topic is presumed to be positive. As this type of research that will be undertaken, it is uncertain that negative effects can be foreseen. While there will be a human element involved with the research, there will be no physical of psychological experimentation taking place. I tis hoped that the information that will be gained from the research will be beneficial to teachers classroom style and will be embraced if it is shown to enhance student achievement. Possible problems or consequences would be teachers, students, or schools, unwilling to help conduct the research.

The taking action step of the Schmuck and Schmuck model has already taken place with the literature review and the process of trying to develop this problem into a possible dissertation topic. Further possible steps to be taken is to begin the process of narrowing down the topic to a researchable problem and seeking permission to use it as a dissertation topic.

It is not really possible to complete the final step of the model as it is evaluation. It is possible to evaluate the steps taken up till now and it is imagined that this is a topic that may be able to be developed into a possible dissertation topic. There is a already a body of research available for review and direction, but there does not seem to be a lot of research in the area of this topic and how it relates to high school students. The body of research that is available has also been done from the viewpoint of multiple theoretical frameworks, so it possible to see how others have viewed it and approached it.

The author is thankful for the fellow student in this Doctoral Cohort for the help in directing him toward an area of interest. It was believed at first, that looking at the area of overrepresentation of African-American students in Special Education populations was a subject that would truly interest the author enough to develop into a dissertation project. But after consultation with fellow students and their listening to the explanation of the problem, and the way it was being viewed, teacher-student relationships was arrived at as THE topic. Quite honestly it was like being clubbed with stick. It left a moment that can only be described as a moment of insight that left one saying, “Of course that is the topic. Why did you need help to realize that?” As one of the students in EDLD 712 has self-described as finding a topic that keeps them up reading information in the middle of the night, it is believed that this is the topic to be passionate about. This is a topic that is found to be truly interesting and that more is wanted to be learned about. This is the subject to become an expert about and add to the knowledge base of. The final study that was found most interesting was D.N.Aspy and J.H. Buhler’s study of teachers’ inferred self concept upon student achievement. They found that, “this study supports the general hypothesis that there is positive relationship between the levels of teacher self-concept and the cognitive growth of students.” (D.N. Aspy & J.H. Buhler, pg. 389, 1975) If a teacher that has a higher level of self-concept leads to higher student achievement, than how can increased self-concept of students that is fostered by teacher-student relationships not lead to higher levels of achievement in students?


Anderson, L.E., & Cart-Falsa, J. (2002) Factors That Make Faculty and Student Relationships Effective. College Teaching, 50,(4), 134-138

Aspy, D.N. & Buhler, J.H. (1975) The Effect of Teachers’ Inferred Self Concept upon Student Achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 68,(10), 386-389

Baker, J.A. (1999)Teacher-Student Interaction in Urban At-Risk Classrooms: Differential Behavior, Relationship Quality, and Student Satisfaction with School. The Elementary School Journal, 100,(1), 57-70

Haslett, B.J. (1976) Attitudes toward Teachers as a function of Student Academic Self-Concept. Research in Higher Education, 4,(1), 41-58

Hughes, J.N. (2011) Longitudinal Effects of Teacher and Student Perceptions of Teacher-Student Relationship Qualities on Academic Adjustment. The Elementary School Journal. 112,(1), 38-60

Loadman, W.E., & Mahan, J.M. (1987) Attitudes toward Education and Effectiveness of the Classroom Teacher-Student Teacher Relationship. The Journal of Experimental Education, 55,(2), 103-107

Love, A. & Kruger, A.C. (2005) Teacher Beliefs and Student Achievement in Urban Schools Serving African-American Students. The Journal of Educational Research, 99,(2), 87-98

Nye, B., Konstantopoulos, S., & Hedges, L.V. (2004) How Large Are Teacher Effects? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26,(3), 237-257

O’Connor, E., & McCartney, K. (2007) Examining Teacher-Child Relationships and Achievement as Part of an Ecological Model of Development. American Educational Research Journal, 44,(2) 340-369

Payne, R.S. (1994) The Relationship Between Teachers’ Beliefs and Sense of Efficacy and Their Significance to Urban LSES Minority Students. The Journal of Negro Education, 63,(2) 181-196

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