Connection with a caring adult in the school setting contributes to healthy youth development, yet little is known about the nuanced patterns and processes leading to student-staff connectedness (SSC). The purpose of this constructivist grounded theory study was to explore the process through which school staff members connect with students in middle school settings and identify the factors influencing that process. Data was collected and analyzed over a nearly two-year period using semi-structured interviews and observations with 24 staff members in varying roles from two middle schools situated within a large, metropolitan school district in the Midwest. Line-by-line, focused and theoretically-sensitive axial coding, constant comparison, theoretical sampling, extensive memoing and reflexive journaling were used to analyze data. The integrative theory of Creating Space is the core, overarching process within which the SSC process takes place. Creating Space and the SSC process describe what staff members do. The how is characterized by (a) the higher-level awareness process of seeing within, beyond and between; (b) two translational processes described as embracing our shared humanness, and equilibrating with empathy; and (c) a praxis-level process of demonstrating relational artistry. The multi-dimensional space that is created by school staff members offers numerous potential connection-catalysts that may spark a students-staff connection. Nurses, teachers and other allied staff working with adolescents in schools have an opportunity to encourage healthy youth development, promote human thriving, and contribute to equity and social justice by Creating Space within which meaningful connections can flourish.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.January 2019. Major: Nursing. Advisors: Carolyn Porta, Renee Sieving. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 197 pages.
Cultivating Student-Staff Connections in Middle School: An Integrative Theory of Creating Space as a Holistic Approach to Promoting Adolescent Health and Wellbeing.
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