Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wilkins, Elizabeth A.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


High school students are experiencing increasing numbers of social and emotional stressors in their lives. While Illinois and other states have adopted state standards to address social and emotional development in the classroom, care theorists posit that the answer may lie in positive relationships between caring teachers and their students. This study explores the perspectives of six teachers from a Midwest high school who were nominated by their students as being caring teachers. After a series of three 45-minute interviews and two to three 45-minute observations, data were analyzed within the framework of Noddings’ Theory of Care (1984) and the construct of SEL development to reveal ways that these high school teachers described care in their classroom practice and promoted social and emotional development in their students. Findings included many qualities of a caring teacher such as meeting the academic needs, pushing students outside of their comfort zones, and showing personal interest in the students’ lives. Findings also revealed that the caring teachers promoted SEL development both inside and outside of their planned curriculum and instruction. This included being approachable and accessible while also utilizing teachable moments in the classroom in order to meet the various social and emotional needs of their students.

Furthermore, based on the findings, recommendations for the field of education and for future research were described. Recommendations for the field of education involve including content regarding teacher care and SEL development in teacher preparation program and professional development curriculum while also pairing teachers with caring mentors as models. Additionally, recommendations include providing opportunities for teachers to spend extra time with students outside of traditional classes and also encouraging teachers to guide students through challenging content while promoting excellence as ways to show care. Recommendations for future research include repeating the current study in various locations with focus in inner-city or more diverse settings and with attention to how other factors influence care (i.e. gender, experience levels, ages, educational backgrounds, etc.). Also, it is recommended to study teacher care and SEL development in high school students from the perspectives of the high school students themselves, parents, administrators, or other school personnel.


194 pages




Northern Illinois University

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