School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


James Swezey


Student-teacher Relationships, Student Motivation


Education | Elementary Education


The purpose of this multiple case study was to develop an in-depth understanding of how student-teacher relationships are connected to student motivation within the upper elementary, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, classroom for students at Small Rural Elementary School (SRES; pseudonym) in southeastern Pennsylvania. The theory guiding this study is Maslow’s hierarchy of need as it explains the effects human needs have on motivation, confirming the significance of students having their basic needs met in the classroom by their teacher in order to be motivated to achieve greater outcomes in the classroom. The study was guided by a central research question: how are student-teacher relationships connected to student motivation in the upper elementary classroom? The multiple case study utilized three data collection methods: surveys, interviews, and a focus group. Data were then coded to find common themes on how student-teacher relationships are created through the meeting of physical, physiological, mental, and emotional needs of students and examine the impact these relationships have on student motivation in the upper elementary classroom at SRES. The findings of this research suggested SRES upper elementary teachers are able to build authentic relationships with their students through simple acts in the classroom that meet the student physical, physiological, mental, and emotional needs, and in turn students are more motivated within the classrooms of teachers they have genuine relationships with, where trust has become the foundation.