Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Jennifer Jacobs, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Sarah M. Kiefer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Vonzell Agosto, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jolyn Blank, Ph.D.


cultural responsiveness, motivational beliefs, need supportive, urban


As elementary teachers may serve as the initial advocates for students’ safety, basic needs, and emotional well-being, research has pointed to teacher-student relationships as a means of increasing successful experiences within the school setting (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Cook et al., 2018; Pianta, 1999; Schafer & Barker, 2018). However, urban schools continue to be disproportionately identified as contexts that serve as a nexus toward lack of opportunity for student success, but a focus on teachers’ beliefs and practices for building teacher-student relationships urban, Title I schools can dispel misconceptions (Delale-O’Connor et al., 2017; Hornstra et al., 2015; Milner, 2018; Nieto, 2017; Schmid, 2018). This qualitative research study provided an in-depth examination of three, White third through fifth-grade teachers’ beliefs and practices for building relationships with students in urban, Title I elementary schools. An integrated theoretical framework, centered on culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP; Gay, 2000, 2002, 2010) and motivation beliefs based on self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan,1985, 2000) and need supportive teaching practices (NST; Stroet et al., 2013) was used to answer the following research questions: (1) What informs teachers’ beliefs about building teacher-student relationships in urban, Title I elementary schools, and (2) How do teachers build teacher-student relationships in urban, Title I elementary schools? Data collection included a three-series interview process, with teacher-selected artifacts, as findings centered on teachers’ experiences in an asset-based teacher preparation program, school-wide collaborative engagement with colleagues, and responsiveness to students in the classroom for building relationships with students. This study has several implications for practice for urban, Title I elementary school educators and teacher preparation programs. This study provided teachers with the opportunity to share their experiences which is needed to clarify and expand the story of urban schools (Schaffer et al., 2018). Highlighting teachers’ beliefs and practices for building teacher-student relationships also served as a counter-narrative to deficit-based perceptions regarding urban schools. From this study, the teachers benefitted from their experience by being able to identify, examine, and reflect upon their teaching beliefs as well as their practices in building teacher-student relationships that help to build the foundation for student success in urban, Title I elementary schools.