Teacher Identity and the Role of Relational Coaching

Mindy R Ehmer, Purdue University


The purpose of this study was to identify specific strategies that principals use when coaching teachers who struggle to develop positive relationships with students. Using a qualitative case study design, six principals were identified through the use of a demographic survey. The principals were interviewed about their experiences. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and coded for data analysis. The principals’ narratives, emerging themes and sub themes provide insight into their experiences with both relational and non-relational teachers. The emerging themes are: (a) relationship building for teachers and students; (b) coaching strategies; (c) roadblocks and deficiencies; and (d) identity and belief systems. Dilts Nested Levels of Learning provide the conceptual framework for this study. There were four Dilts areas that emerged as themes throughout the principals responses: (a) behavior; (b) capabilities; (c) belief systems; and (d) identity. Principal narratives provide evidence for how the nested levels coincide with the formation of identity. Three assertions serve as the foundation to provide specific coaching strategies to teachers who struggle in the area of building positive relationships with students: (a) In order for teachers to even consider working on relationship building with students, they must first have a trusting, positive, respectful and supportive relationship with their principal; (b) Teachers can be classified as “relationship teachers” or “instructional/content teachers.” A master teacher has both the ability to master both of these areas effectively. An instructional teacher can become more relational through coaching if they are open and willing to make changes; (c) While coaching and working with teachers, a principal must often “dance” between providing support as well as being more directive with teachers. The researcher created two theories based on the assertions. EDIRS provides a model of teachers ability to be instructional, relational, or both. Ehmer’s theory of the dance represents principals’ skill to dance between providing supportive and directive approaches.




Hirth, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Educational leadership|Educational administration|Teacher education

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