Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Abigail Kurtz



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology & Research

Committee Chair

Yeh Hsueh

Committee Member

Susan Nordstrom

Committee Member

Julie Lasley

Committee Member

Denise Winsor


Teacher-student relationships are fundamental to teaching and learning and therefore must be understood, valued, developed, and nurtured. Guided by both hermeneutic phenomenology and relational pedagogy, my primary goal with this study was to achieve in-depth, interpretive understanding of the teacher-student relationship as experienced by sonography students. Through hermeneutic phenomenological interviews with eight recent graduates from a diagnostic medical sonography program, I explored participants’ perceptions of the teacher-student relationship (Research Question 1) and whether and how those relationships provided them with emotional and cognitive support (Research Questions 2 and 3). Hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of the data led to identification of the following interpretive themes: a) stumbling through the darkness, b) shutting down and shutting up, c) surviving and thriving, and d) falling in love with sonography. To bring these thematic findings to life, I combined data from multiple interview transcripts to create two composite narratives, both written from the perspective of a composite character student who is representative of all participants in this study. These composite narratives revealed the relational nature of sonography education, with teachers and students existing in ways that are profoundly connected. Participants thrived and excelled in their learning when they experienced meaningful, positive, caring teacher-student relationships, whereas they experienced obstacles and setbacks to their learning when they did not experience these types of relationships. This study highlights the centrality of educational relations to teaching and learning in sonography education. As the findings indicate, sonography educators can improve the teaching and learning process through a relational pedagogical approach—through a focus on building and maintaining meaningful, positive, caring teacher-student relationships that support students both emotionally and cognitively. Sonography students need to feel supported in their learning if they are to reach their full potential as competent and caring entry-level sonographers equipped to provide quality care to their patients. Keywords: teacher-student relationship, sonography education, hermeneutic phenomenology, relational pedagogy, care ethics, patient care, composite narrative, relational ethics, insider research


Data is provided by the student.”

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access