School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


James L Zabloski


Approachability, Self-Advocacy, Self-Awareness, Self-Efficacy


Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Leadership | Educational Psychology | Other Education


The purpose of this grounded theory study was to investigate how middle school student perceptions of teacher approachability influenced their interactions with teachers. The fourteen participants were sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade general education middle school students from three school models (public, private, and Christian) in the metro area of a city in the southeastern United States. The Approach-Avoidance Theory, first proposed by Kurt Lewin, (1935) provided the theoretical framework for this study. The central research question that shaped this grounded theory study was: How do general education middle school students’ perceptions of teacher approachability influence the students’ interactions with their teachers? The three subquestions investigated whether or not social constructs in school, home environment, and student-teacher relationships had any impact on students’ perceptions of teacher approachability. Data collection incorporated an initial single-question screening questionnaire, a demographic questionnaire, individual and focus group interviews, and journaling/blogging. Data analysis included open, axial, and selective coding through transcription of participants’ responses to interview questions. Three major themes emerged through the data analysis: awareness (self- and other-), communication, and relationship, which were all influenced by social constructs in school, home environment, and student-teacher relationships. Trustworthiness and ethical considerations of data collection and analysis were addressed and implemented. Recommendations for future research included: student connectedness to teachers, creating environments that foster approachability, teaching self-advocacy skills to students, and students’ approach-avoidance tendencies according to personality.