Date of Award

Fall 2003

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas H Schram


The purpose of this research is to examine the sources of teachers' motivations to engage with students. I have chosen care theory upon which to build the conceptual framework for this phenomenological study, and I consider both natural and ethical care as seen by Nel Noddings. I have also drawn upon the work of Jane Roland Martin and The Schoolhome (1992), and that of Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot in Respect (2000). Finally, I examine the Japanese notion of amae, or interdependence, and note its parallels to the ethics of care.

Through the use of in-depth interviews, I interviewed 15 American teachers and 15 Japanese teachers in two sister schools. My analysis of the interviews revealed common sources of motivation for engagement: the influences of former or current teachers, love and affection for students, and an obligation to care for students. Another essential belief among the participants was that the relationship between a teacher and students was established upon mutual trust. This was explained as amae, in Japanese; a reliance that permits one who needs care to depend upon another to meet that need.

In a second part of the research, I employed Cross-Cultural, Comparative, Reflective Interviews (CCCRI), a research tool designed by Spindler and Spindler (1987), which permitted me to identify pivotal concerns regarding student posture and behavior. American and Japanese teachers were alert to the positioning of the teacher in the classroom. I concluded that teachers in both schools were committed to encounter, motivated to care for their students, and had entered the profession as a result of having been influenced by a model teacher. CCCRI data pointed to cultural concerns regarding student behaviors and assumptions about the physical positioning of the teacher.

Implications I have drawn from this study indicated a need for schools to be places which model, foster, and sustain caring encounter. Further, this comparison of the ethics of care with amae pointed to a potential for further conceptual development among experts in Western and Eastern philosophy. I also considered the potential use of CCCRI as a tool for opening and sustaining dialogue within a single culture.