Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Suzanne E. Graham

Second Advisor

Emilie M. Reagan

Third Advisor

Anita R. Tucker


Schools often provide students their first and most frequented public environments that require them to learn and exercise important social skills. Teachers, crucial and central people in these environments, play many roles in supporting students although their vital support is often overlooked when the contribution is non-cognitively related. In recent years, there has been more research and focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) but relatively few studies that investigate caring relationships between students and teachers. Yet when students perceive that their teachers care for them, the little research we have suggests that students cognitive and non-cognitive performance in school improves. To more thoroughly understand care in educational contexts, this three-manuscript dissertation has undertaken to: (1) investigate and evaluate care definitions in educational research, (2) conduct a methodological review and critique of current empirical research on caring in educational contexts, and (3) develop two survey instruments to measure care from both students’ and teachers’ perspectives.

Caring, an important aspect of schooling, is a concept not clearly conceptualized by educational researchers. Using a literature review, article one discusses the three most used definitions of care, those put forward by Milton Mayeroff (1971), Carol Gilligan (1982), and Nel Noddings (1984, 2003). Gerring’s (1999) criteria for evaluating concept adequacy for empirical research is used to critique the three definitions of care. Through the evaluative analysis, we see that Noddings (1984, 2003) provides a useful and concise definition of care particularly in

educational settings (Diller, 1988).

Using Noddings’ definition of care to establish a theoretical framework to explore how care is studied and measured in current educational literature, article two presents a critical methodological review of recent literature on student-teacher caring relationships with a focus on how researchers measure caring. My evaluative review reveals that quantitative researchers studying student-teacher caring relationships generally do not present a clear conceptual definition of care and do not adequately discuss psychometric properties of the instruments employed. My critique of current research then leads to the core of this dissertation—development of survey instruments focusing on the perceptions of both students and teachers based on a clear definition of care.

In the third article, the Caring Relationship Survey (CRS)—a Student Version and Teacher Version of the survey is developed. These surveys specifically assess different aspects of Noddings’ complex account of care, with four sub-constructs of care: Engrossment, Motivational Displacement, Reciprocity, and Attribution of Best Motive Consonant with Reality. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) were conducted to investigate factor structure patterns and identify the model that best represents the factor structure. The results of EFA reveal a fifth sub-construct in the data—Non-Traditional Roles. CFA result showed a better fitted model includes the newly emerged sub-construct identified in EFA for both student and teacher data. The reliability test for the students’ survey yields estimated Cronbach’s Alphas between 0.71~0.81; for the teachers’ survey, the reliability estimates are between 0.67~0.78 for the five sub-constructs. Internal consistency of the items for each sub-construct are at the reasonable range. The analysis showed both surveys have reasonably sound psychometric properties based on the results of the analyses, suggesting that these surveys might better serve as a basis for empirical quantitative study of care in schools.