School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


James Zabloski


At-risk, Caring, Experiences, Positive Relationships


Education | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of teachers who form positive relationships with at-risk students in Title I middle schools. The theory guiding this study was Nel Nodding’s ethic of care as it relates to the teacher as a caregiver interested in the expressed needs of the students. Using a qualitative transcendental phenomenological design, 15 southeastern Title I middle school teachers were selected to participate in the study. The central question guiding this research was: How do teachers describe their experiences of forming positive relationships with at-risk students in Title I middle schools? Sub-questions to further refine the central question were: (a) What perceptions do teachers have about the factors that contribute to building and maintaining positive relationships with at-risk students? (b) How does modeling an ethic of care impact teachers’ relationships with at-risk students? (c) When modeling of an ethic of care, what do teachers perceive as the specific behaviors that help create a sense of security or belonging for at-risk students? Data collection included face to face interviews, a questionnaire, photo narratives, and a focus group. Data analysis used the Moustakas (1994) method for transcendental phenomenological research. This included the epoche, listing significant statements, writing a textural description, structural description, and composite description.