Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2005


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Sarah Peterson

Committee Member

Richard Domencic

Committee Member

Rick R. McCown


middle school, student perceptions, teacher beliefs


The purpose of this study was three-fold: to examine the behaviors middle school teachers use and believe communicate caring and students' perceptions of their caring behaviors; to determine if a discrepancy exists between the two; and to identify the nature of any discrepancies. Participants included 16 eighth grade teachers and 184 eighth grade students. Data were collected through the use of a teacher questionnaire and an anonymous student writing assignment. Teacher and student responses were grouped into emerging themes of caring. The methodology used in this study to analyze the results included calculating and comparing the percentage of teacher and student respondents in each theme of caring, computing the deviation scores between teacher beliefs and student perceptions in each theme, and using the mean of the absolute value of the deviation scores for each theme and teacher to identify discrepancies. Point bi-serial correlations were computed to determine the relationship between teacher beliefs and student perceptions. Students' negative comments were also considered. In addition, the two middle school teachers demonstrating the greatest discrepancy between their beliefs and their students' perceptions about their caring behavior, along with the two teachers who had the least amount of discrepancy between the two variables were more closely examined to assist in identifying the nature of any discrepancies. Findings indicated that some discrepancy exists between teacher beliefs about the behaviors they use to communicate caring and their students' perceptions of their caring behaviors in several of the 16 themes of caring that emerged in the present study. The themes of caring that demonstrate the greatest discrepancies are discussed at length.