Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Dr. David Falvo


The challenge of transitioning into high school is associated with social anxiety, decreased grades, increased absences, and overall motivation to learn. Based on anecdotal evidence from 9th grade teachers in the Ohio School District, teachers had poor rapport with some of their students, and 9th graders were being retained more often than were students in any other grade. Grounded in Noddings's care theory, the purpose of this mixed methods sequential case study was to explore perceptions of rapport between 9th graders and their teachers. Guiding research questions were used to discover student and teacher perceptions about their relationship as it relates to care, respect, and communication. Archived data from Gallop Poll surveys given to 9th grade students at 3 schools (n = 163) demonstrated student perceptions of their relationships with teachers. Additionally, 15 teachers were randomly selected for a focus group interview about rapport with students. The interview transcripts were coded for emergent themes related to the guiding questions. The analysis of the Gallup Poll data included calculation of the mean, standard deviation, median, item score range, mode, and raw-data frequencies/percent for responses to answer the respective research questions. Responses on the survey showed that students perceived a moderate level of bonding with teachers, while the interview data showed that there were issues related to communication with students, administrative support of teachers, and sincerity of teacher care for students. The project outcome is a professional development about communication amongst teacher and students, teachers and teachers, and teachers and administration to improve rapport and reduce the prevalence and impact of adverse events such as dropout and other forms of disengagement.